Happiness


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Posted by ZihuaRob on Sunday, December 16, 2001 at 14:47:21 :

In Reply to: Re: Trip Report posted by Linda on Sunday, December 16, 2001 at 14:46:38 :

Happiness is a state of mind, but so elusive in certain cultures due to the demands and expectations of one's peers.

Material wealth has absolutely nothing to do with happiness. Christina Onassis was a shining example of that truism.

One aspect of Mexican culture I find in contrast with American culture is in our day to day dealings with people. Mexicans are less antagonistic and competitive with each other than we Americans are brought up to be. This is more true in smaller towns than cities, but still prevalent even in Mexico City. People treat each other with a deeper understanding and compassion than in other countries and cultures. We greet each other in friendly manners and tones as if we were all family and friends. This has countless implications and benefits.

In the U.S. we are reared to compete with each other for everything, including attention. We often demand undue attention and unwarranted respect, maybe unknowingly, usually based on our opinions of ourselves. We resolve differences by being aggressive and combative. We often assume airs that satisfy our egos at the expense of alienating others. And some people just plain try to pretend they are something they aren't.

Many of these aspects of my own culture used to cause quite a bit of anxiety in me. I come from an old American family rich in American history, often a very combative one, from the colonization through the American Revolution through the Civil War to modern times. I am very proud of that heritage, so it was with quite a bit of inner conflict that I began to see myself and the world through the eyes of Mexican culture.

One thing that Mexicans have learned from their history is to avoid conflict at all costs. They know how it rarely settles anything and usually worsens the problem, leading to more conflict. Mexicans nowadays are very diplomatic when it comes to resolving conflicts, often frustratingly so. But the peaceful resolution of conflict has become paramount in modern Mexican culture. They have suffered enough bloodshed and violence and will do whatever it takes within reason avoid it.

This is not to say all Mexicans are peaceful folk. Or that all conflicts are peacefully resolved. Of course they aren't. It is a generalization about their modern, mostly rural culture and society based on their principles.

A typical American usually starts demanding this and that when dealing with an unresponsive bureaucrat or provider of a service, for example. Mexicans will usually appeal to the human nature, often talking as if to a friend or family member in an attempt to relate on a human level to avoid conflict. But I feel that we Americans have made our society too impersonal and cold, almost robotic. You do your job and no more. Rare is the person who goes beyond the call of duty to help someone. Oh, yes we have many warm and wonderful people, but I think you will agree they often seem the exception rather than the rule. Whereas here in Mexico, as you noted, almost everyone seems warm and friendly (your experience in Petatlán notwithstanding) and willing to help a perfect stranger. This is the lesson many visitors here take home with them, and through a sort of cultural osmosis, make their own world a little warmer and friendlier place.

And therein lies the hope for a better world in our future, through the blending of cultures. America needs to remember who she was founded and populated by, instead of trying so hard to forget and shut out the would-be newcomers bringing their cultural traditions with them from other countries. Our melting-pot culture is in conflict with the demands on conformity nowadays. Time to go back to our roots and once again be a part of the community of nations, as we are learning from the events of Sept. 11. America can still be the greatest nation that ever was, we just don't need to crow about it so loudly and so much. Time to blend in a bit with our neighbors and take a few lessons from them.

So, I am still one very proud American, but an even prouder citizen of the world! ;~)



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