We live in a Me culture.
Americans have always been about the best Me-I-Can-Be. It goes by different proud names — rugged individualism, initiative, free enterprise, capitalism — and it has resulted in enormous national achievements — economically, academically, militarily. There has always been a kind of swagger to Americans, winning us the envy as well as the resentment of the world.
It all starts in the home. Parents raise their kids to be all-they-can-be. If they can afford it, good schools, good tutors, good summer camps, good colleges. We admire and lionize those few individuals who reach the top in their fields. Behold the parade of programs and publications devoted to them: ‘Access Hollywood,’ ‘American Idol,’ ‘People,’ ‘Sports Illustrated,’ ‘Us,’ ‘See.’
Now shift your focus. From the Me to the We.
Think of all those places and times where the Me becomes lost in the collective We. Where our brave-new-world of individualism is consumed in the vortex of the world’s great collectivism. Those anonymous moments in the crowded commuter train…the rows of the 747…the greeting line at the funeral…the waiting room in the doctor’s office…standing muster in the military. These are the places and times when all the Me of us seems awash in the We of us. When, like it or not, we come into sudden grips with the stark reality that we are all the same two eyes, two ears, two legs, and one nervous ego.
No one loves their hard earned Me more than successful Americans. And yet, no one dares travel the world believing their Me outlasts their We. Until we come to terms with this stubborn existential reality, our personal reality will remain the same warped reality of the quarterback who keeps stepping out of the pocket, the mountain climber who insists on cutting his survival line, or the general who fails to see if his army is still following him.
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