Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Narcissism in America?

  1. May 30, 2007 #1
    I have been an immigrant to the US for a while now.... and I've realized one big problem in America: self-centered-ness.

    First of all, I am not talking about all the people in America, nor am I trying to be racist or anything... just some things that I have observed.

    from many different angles, a lot of the people here are narcissist, and often, somewhat ignorant from the following observations:

    1. many people think that they are the smartest, the best... just look at american Idol and grade inflations. (I used to be like that when I was in highschool... Even today, I still have these kinds of ignorant thoughts).

    2. all the school killing, people beating others for no reason. For instance, in the Virginia tech shooting, the whole thing seems to be a show off of one individual.

    3. people always trying to argue, to be the correct one, to be the winner. (I specially hate God/no God and Evolution/ no Evolution debates... jeeze, just let people think whatever they want).

    4. materialism. People tend to focus on their own financial well-being and/or emotional well-being. Even charity sometimes seems to be a show off instead of true altruism
    (just look at the American Idol gives back show).

    5. not trying to condemn religions here, but I dislike the Christian aspect of trying to convert "barbarians" into "spiritually enhanced being". The major religions in US have this aspect.

    well. that's about it. I am not trying to be the right one or anything (the above are my opinions solely and nothing more than that). And certainly, I may be very biased, wrong or ignorant. I am not trying to argue anything here, but rather, trying to raise an issue in the society. I would like to see other people's comments and thoughts on this matter.
    Last edited: May 30, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2007 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Having traveled around the world a bit, I can say people are the same in any industrialzed/Western country.
  4. May 30, 2007 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree with Evo, it's just a part of human nature, so it is a problem in the US, but it's also a problem everywhere else too.

    I was actually surprised a bit when watching a show about the Bumlap tribe that has resisted Westernization and being converted by the missionaries. Even though they resist all of that and live by their traditions and don't use money, they STILL did things to gain status and climb the social ladder in their society (literally...the chief had this big feast to move even further up in status even though he was already chief, and part of the ceremony was that he actually climbed up stairs made of sticks and leaves), so instead of trading money, they traded goods. Others in the tribe contributed pigs to the feast, and that apparently helped them move up in status too. People really are the same everywhere.
  5. May 30, 2007 #4


    User Avatar


    That's also human nature

    I agree with you about that, however I wouldn't say it is an American thing.

    I don't know why you are attributing these things to being bad about America. If you don't like America, then you can go to France, or Kazakhstan, or some place else.
  6. May 30, 2007 #5
    Maybe you need to work with some charities, to understand fully how many thousands of people give freely of there time and money. After you have done a few years of free work for the red cross or local hospice, or even the local library reading program, then come back and tell us how little it ment.
    Be thankful for the show off's who raise big bucks, there are so many people who need it.
  7. May 30, 2007 #6

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Every now and then I read the comments below a Youtube video that is mildly suggestive of a minor controversy regarding "Americanism." I'm always struck by the attitudes of people from other countries displaying exactly the same traits that they are criticizing in their diatribes against "Americans." (specifically, ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, arrogance).
  8. May 30, 2007 #7
    Unfortunately, I've never been to other countries other than my mother land--China, and America. Yes, I am probably wrong, these things might not be exclusive to America, but my I've never been to other places so I can't comment on that.

    to be honest, I've heard of killings in China (in fact, countlessly many), but most of the time, it was about money, robbing, or gangs revenging, but never about school shooting. And killing was never about some guy trying to get media attention (Pardon my ignorance, but I've never heard of big school shootings other than in America). Okay, the Chinese might be hiding the news, but from what I know, those things don't happen.

    The learning environment is America is also very different form those in China. In China, a classroom is very quiet. When a teacher asks a question, students rarely respond. A teacher is like a commander in a classroom, and the student merely listens.

    In America, this is different, the learning environment is much more interactive. Students tend to respond to what the teachers ask (that is a good thing in my opinion). However, sometimes it seems that the motivation for doing so is to "show off" to peers. When I came to America, I began to have a feeling that I am incredible smart (I have knowledge beyond many of my classmates) and almost invincible, and have a false sense that I am a genius of some sort (in reality, I'm merely slightly above average). And I've met many others who think the same as well. Humility seems to be lacking in a lot of people that I've met.

    I'm not talking about Americans, I'm talking about a mode of thoughts that seems to exist in America. From personal experience, I feel that I become much more concerned about myself after I came here.
    Last edited: May 30, 2007
  9. May 30, 2007 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    America, along with much of the West, does emphasize individuality. This is perhaps a remnant of frontier times, as well as a side effect of capitalism. The attitude has actually served the country quite well in many respects, particularly as regards invention, culture, and science, but it also has its problems. I personally prefer it to the rigid collective nature of many Eastern countries, but then I'm obviously biased, being American.
  10. May 30, 2007 #9
    And I'm sure wearing black and putting your hair over one eye while shopping at hot topic makes you just as 'original' as every other american teenager, right?
  11. May 31, 2007 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Um...yes? No? What does this have to do with the topic? My post concerns individuality, not originality. Most humans feel the need to belong to some sort of group, but cultures differ in the level of freedom they give their kids in this choice. If I were a teenager and wanted to wear black and put hair over my eye, it would probably be a form of self-expression.
  12. May 31, 2007 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    If you've recognized only one big problem here, you're not looking hard enough. Honestly, you have two countries under your belt that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

    If this topic bugs you enough (you did create a thread about it, so it must) I would highly recommend doing some traveling and experiencing things instead of relying on what you see on TV. How much of the US have you really seen with your own eyes?
  13. May 31, 2007 #12
    i think this might have a lot to do with cultural differences among students from china and america. the chinese students i have spoken to have much more respect and almost admiration for elders/superiors and large institutions, whereas american and western youth have less respect for these things (not to say they have no respect, but just less). this makes for more adventurous western youth with competition centered more around their peers, whereas the chinese seem to center their competitiveness around the expectations of themselves. these self expectations are usually instilled up by institutions/elders

    i think everyone can agree though that americans and many westerners try to pursue fame (as per tv and mass audiences) more then the average chinese. same thing with religious conversions. i have never had a chinamen try to convert me, unlike the mormon from texas or the believer in the bible i met over the internet whom tried to show me the light.

    the characteristics you talk about tim_lou are not strictly american, but in my experience there is a noticeable contrast between chinese and americans in these areas
  14. May 31, 2007 #13
    I agree with FredGarvin.

    TV paints a picture of Americans as grabby narcissistic jerks. These type of people make interesting television, especially in shows like American Idol, where the contestants want to be noticed. Most Americans will see them the same way, but do not aspire to be like them.

    Our society does nurture individuality, it is a biproduct of a free society where we are guaranteed freedom to express ourselves. We are taught that each person is created equal, that any citizen can become a leader in our country, can own a business, can do anything we can imagine within the boundaries of our laws, etc.

    I agree that we should not consider ourselves as better than others, as I said, we are taught that each person is equal.
    Last edited: May 31, 2007
  15. Jun 22, 2007 #14
    I think some countries contain cultures and individuals that are more narcissitic than others, but every country has some degree of narcissim among its people.
  16. Jun 22, 2007 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I would like to echo what Fred and Artman have pointed out. This is one reason that I really don't like my young-teenage son and daughter watching a lot of the MTV-type television shows. Those shows emphasize and exaggerate the selfish nature and back-stabbing, negative aspects of people, and I consider them to be bad examples.

    I do a LOT of volunteer work, and I associate with several groups of people who tend to be pretty considerate, forgiving, helpful, positive, constructive, and generally good people to be around. These would include people that live more out in the country (I grew up in a pretty rural area of Northern California), and people who are out camping and hiking and hunting and fishing, off-road dirtbikers and 4-wheelers, people in Fire and Police and EMS, and so on. These are generally people who have to prepare for what they are doing, and understand what it means to be stuck sometimes and need some help, so it comes naturally for them to help others that they see could use some help. When I come across somebody on the trail or track that looks like they might need some help, I pull over and offer what I can. When I see a confused elderly person wandering unfamiliar streets, I stop and ask if I can be of help. I understand that some people are not like that, but it's how I was raised, and how most of the people in the groups that I associate with think and behave as well.

    And to the extent that you seek out others with good qualities like I mentioned, and to the extent that you become more of a positive leader yourself, you are helping to steer others away from self-centered selfishness and negative behaviors. And that's a good thing, IMO. o:)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook