Last week, I saw a fascinating interview with Max Richtman, of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security, on PBS. He explained why race stratification is alive and well regarding the Republican’s push to raise the Medicare and Social Security eligibility requirements. In recent years, the average lifespan of blacks has increase a couple of years and the average lifespan of whites has increased a bit, but whites still live an average of 3-5 years longer than blacks. This means that more blacks who spend their working life paying into Social Security and Medicare often die before getting to receive or die early on in receiving these benefits. By raising the age eligibility, it rigs the system (institutional discrimination) against blacks, just as they were getting closer to an even playing field regarding lifespan with whites. President Obama stated at one point that he was open to this discussion, but now that he is pushing for the 2% tax increase for the rich, he has taken that off the table until the Republicans give in to that.
I ran across this fascinating article about the distinctions between Eastern and Western cultures regarding optimism and pessimism and how each integrates these attitudes into their cultures. In Western culture, the emphasis is on self improvement for the benefit of the self, whereas in Eastern culture the emphasis is on the improvement of the group via the sacrifice of the self. The article mentions that in Eastern culture, self-criticism is an important element of maintaining and supporting the group. This self-critical behavior fosters a more pessimistic view of expectations in one’s life. In Western culture, the emphasis on individualism and self achievement gives rise to a more optimistic view of one’s own expectations, and thus gives rise to ultimate success of the group.
As I read this article, I thought about the problems plaguing the world, and how various cultures have reacted to their governments. I have wondered why Americans are not rioting in the streets as much as other cultures. Certainly there are many in this country who are angry with our government. Based on this article, explaining the connection of self striving and optimism, I find that it is in our nature as a culture to take a really bad situation and find the guts to dig out of it, instead of freaking out and rioting. I find that it is our optimism as a culture that keeps us searching for a solution. We believe that we do have a culture that is worth preserving and we need to work together to fix the problems. This sense of individualism that our Western culture subscribes to is to our advantage, because it encourages self-enhancement (as the article states), which then fosters optimism.