By Winston Wu (Founder of HappierAbroad.com)
I've often wondered about something:
Why is it that on TV and in movies, people are so open, friendly, sociable, communicative, easily invite you into their cliques, take you out for fun and introduce you to others? They act so warm, passionate, full of life and feeling, and are easy to get involved with. And in romance/drama films of old (less so nowadays) people were so passionate and full of feeling in their eyes and expression, as though they were fully aware and conscious.
But in real life, people are generally uptight, closed, cliquish, paranoid, anti-social outside their clique, difficult to meet, don't talk to you unless its business related, and basically ignore you and expect you to mind your own business while they mind theirs. People are in a bubble and there is an "ice barrier" between strangers. They seem like zombies/automatons who are totally unaware and oblivious to others around them, as though they were not fully conscious. They are always in a rush to get through their daily routine. They seem totally uninterested and unconcerned with human connection. And if you are not like that too, you stick out like a sore thumb, like you are in a sort of Twilight Zone - in a different reality from everyone else!
Why is there such a HUGE difference that no one ever talks about?! It's so bizarre, like the Twilight Zone!
My friend and cultural advisor made the same observation in my forum:
"I think generally, the biggest culture shock that people experience in the US is not between their country and the US but between what they thought the US would be and what it actually is. Books and movies about America make the place appear very free and exciting and happening and the people are so interesting and emotional. There is sex and fun and romance going on. When they arrive, the place looks very conservative and the people appear robotic and quiet. Sex is subdued and hard to come by. The people are not open at all, they look closed and mistrustful. Everybody is just working and looking tired and apathetic. Talking to strangers is taboo. There are thousands of little rules and laws and social mores that seem as dogmatic and strict as those in a Muslim society. And every time you are at risk of breaking yet another law and facing very dire consequences. That is the biggest culture shock of all."
This is so very obvious, yet no one talks about it. To do so would make you look like a loser, so no one dares to. It's like an "Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome. Either that, or people don't see it due to the cognitive dissonance of their programming.
There is also an unspoken social law that says that anywhere you go, you MUST say that people are very friendly and wonderful, or you say nothing at all. Or you can blame yourself. But you are NOT allowed to say that people are anti-social. That is a big taboo and No-No.
But the truth is that in Anglo countries (e.g. USA, Canada) and Oriental East Asian cultures (e.g. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, etc.) only middle aged people and little kids are open and casually talk with anyone who is friendly. But people in between are a different breed (especially females). They are closed, uptight, cliquish, paranoid and go about minding their own business and expect others to do the same. You have to play complicated tricky mind games to try to get into their cliques, and then MAYBE you will get in.
This difference between old people, children and young adults (especially females) is as obvious as 2+2=4 in Anglo and Oriental cultures, and is the norm and easily demonstratable. Yet NO ONE talks about it except me for some reason. Why?! It's as if it were "hidden in plain sight" from everybody, or the truth is forbidden!
In reality, Anglo and Oriental cultures are workaholic, robotic, cliquish, non-social, slave cultures built purely for business and productivity. They are devoid of passion, soul and romance. Everything in these cultures is geared for business, not passion, human connection, or expression. (though America has fake versions of these in its Hollywood culture) People are treated and groomed as economic resources and defined by their economic functions (e.g. workers, tax payers, consumers, etc). They live highly materialistic and segregated lifestyle devoid of human connection.
As a result, they become machines, stiff and repressed, devoid of romance and passion. The regimented socializing that does take place in such cultures is usually fake, artificial, uptight, pretentious and a cliche rather than a truly flowing interactive experience.
But you wouldn't notice all this if you've only spent time in Anglo/Oriental cultures for you'd have nothing to compare them to. You'd have to live in cultures that are the opposite to truly know the difference.
On the other hand, in countries that are poorer with large peasant classes or have more open and passionate cultures (e.g. Latin America, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Holland, Philippines, etc.), meeting people happens as easily as blowing in the wind! Literally! The difference is astounding, like a BILLION PERCENT, but one has to experience it firsthand to truly see it. Why is there such a huge difference?
In social environments, there is an unspoken social law that says you are allowed to say statements such as the following:
1) Everyone or most people are so friendly and wonderful! (which most travel sites and travel programs say about people everywhere)
2) I am very busy with work and have no time to meet people.
3) I lack social skills and am not very outgoing.
Or you say nothing at all. Thus you are only allowed to praise the majority or blame yourself. These are the "norms" and boundaries of what you can and cannot say, and as you grow up, you learn them gradually. Truth is not the highest value in society, and the saying "Honesty is the best policy" is not followed. Therefore, to say something like the following would be a big taboo:
"I have trouble meeting people here. I am very open and friendly, but people here are so closed, stuck up, anti-social, cliquish, non-inclusive, and don't want to meet me. They don't talk to strangers unless it's business-related. They just mind their own business and expect me to do the same. So I find it hard to meet people here."
No matter how TRUE and justified it is, you are NOT ALLOWED to say that! It's like truth itself has become a taboo, which is the sign of a sick society.
In fact, in any culture, it is taboo to say that the people there are anti-social, even if it's true. Thus, you will not find such statements in any book in the largest public library or in any news publications. It is totally forbidden, no matter how true or justified.
In fact, if you say the unacceptable statement above, not only is it taboo and politically incorrect, but it is freakish and disturbing to people because it VIOLATES their paradigm of reality, which holds the false assumption and fallacy that:
1) The majority of people are right, normal, sane, friendly and sociable.
2) Misfits and people who don't follow the herd are crazy, insane and weird. They are the problem and to blame for any incompatibility with others.
However, many great thinkers and intellectuals with deep insight, from ages ago to recent times, have seen through this fallacy, and realized that the reverse was true. Here are some quotes from them:
“The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” - Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
"The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth." - H. L. Mencken
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” - Gandhi
"Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." - Frederich Nietzsche
"Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools, and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion." - Thornton Wilder
"Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong." — Oscar Wilde
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Frederich Nietzsche
"Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone." - Ayn Rand
"Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue..." - Billy Joel, in his hit song "Honesty"
"The sick individual finds himself at home with all other similarly sick individuals. The whole culture is geared to this kind of pathology. The result is that the average individual does not experience the separateness and isolation the fully schizophrenic person feels. He feels at ease among those who suffer from the same deformation; in fact, it is the fully sane person who feels isolated in the insane society — and he may suffer so much from the incapacity to communicate that it is he who may become psychotic." - Eric Fromm (The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness)
(Fromm's statement above perhaps explains why the majority do not see the obvious social realities I described.)
This parable illustrates the truth that Fromm described very well:
"The parable of the poisoned well
There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast city. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now in the heart of the city, there was a well whose waters were pure and crystalline from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, an enemy entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. And he said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.
All the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, "The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned."
The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. So one evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason."
Thus it is sad and no wonder that we live in an upside down world, as Michael Ellner describes in this profound statement:
"Just look at us. Everything is backwards. Everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the major media destroy information, and religion destroys spirituality."
What all this means is that if you are even aware of the social realities described above, you will have the hardest time breaking into cliques in Anglo/Oriental countries, because cliques and groups in rich cultures are full of fakeness and conformity, and one has to be on a similar vibration with the social clique to even have a chance at breaking in (besides playing the tricky social games too). This means that if you are on a "truth vibration" and see things the way they are, you will not be compatible with most cliques, thus if you recognize the reality above, you are already a misfit. This is the sad reality. Also, people who always tell the truth tend to have few friends and won't fit into large cliques.
So the question we must ask is: What is the value and price of truth, freedom and liberation of mind? And is the price worth it?
Most people though, prefer the practical benefits of conformity, rather than the truth or the value of owning oneself.
For more of my freethinking articles, visit http://www.happierabroad.com/articles.php