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Globalizing Americana: Part 3

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Social Norms and Diversity

As mentioned earlier, norms govern actions and justify judgments of proper or improper actions based on the relationship between the norms and corresponding actions. Actions that conform to the norm are acceptable social actions; actions that do not conform to the norm are unacceptable social actions.

Then, I discussed the notion of a melting pot, wherein it was argued that America is a melting pot of diversity. This concept, however, was called into question because there is a logical inability to verify such a fusion of the population’s demography, which led to a rejection of the notion as such.

If the conception of the melting pot, however faulty it may be, is to account for the diversity of the American experiences, one need not cling to the conception of the melting pot to account for such diversity. Moreover, if the nature of the discussion is one of investigating diversity within America and also accounting for the role of social norms, then one must simultaneously account for both norms and diversity.

The importance of this point should not be overlooked. This claim is not a disjunctive claim; that is, it is not sufficient to simply talk about norms and their function or diversity and its statistical representation within census data, as the American experience is one of both diversity and the social norms that govern a diverse population. Thus, the claim is a conjunctive rather than disjunctive claim.

The diversity of America’s population is, quite obviously, representative of a wider human experience. Rather than fusing these experiences into one common or shared experience, the American experience is largely one of growing tolerance.

Granted, there is no denying the fact that the United States has participated in the exploitation of those less fortunate, namely Native Americans, African slaves, women’s rights, or the internment of Japanese-Americans. These are only a few examples in a sea of exploitative and abusive practices.

The fact remains, however, that despite its troubled past, America is a country continually becoming more inclusive. It is a country with an ever-expanding tolerance for difference and a willingness to accommodate the diverse spectrum of human experiences. This willingness — to accommodate such a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, disabilities, and the myriad of possible experiences throughout Americana — is uniquely American.

It is certainly true that one should never forget the past. To do so jeopardizes repeating similar mistakes, but it is equally dangerous to become fixated on the past, especially the atrocities committed by the United States in the name of freedom and democracy. We may now find ourselves repeating mistakes that we should have long since learned from, though, it may be proven in a court of law that the United States government participated in the willing torture of prisoners, which would be entirely inexcusable. The United States will and has progressed in tolerance.

President Obama has said that he is the “eternal optimist,” a claim that is surely informed by his profound sense of history. We are currently in a state of great economic and social crises, but it is, after all, momentary.

In accounting for both diversity and the norms that govern the American experience, one must acknowledge the perpetual increase of tolerance throughout the population. This is not, however, to suggest that there aren’t pockets within American society that cling to the nostalgia of a discriminatory past. Such a claim would be clearly false.

It is undeniable, nonetheless, that America, though brutal at times it may be, is a nation of increasing tolerance. Thus, in assessing an ability to accommodate disaffected and “fringe” groups of society, we have time and again arrived at inclusion because of our collective willingness to listen to their plight.

In resolving any conflict, be they domestic or international, governmental or familial, the best tool in mitigating violence and war is the ability to listen. To acknowledge the diversity of America’s population without also trying to enforce a standard of being American, where assimilation is imposed, or in allowing marginalized groups to voice their concerns and peacefully protest and exercise their freedom of speech, one offers a platform for effective listening.

The power of American democracy is rooted not in the might of its economic prowess, but in the tolerance inherent within our freedom of speech. Despite arguments to the contrary, the norms governing the economic and social successes of Americana is derived from a progression, though reluctant it may be, by the people and our representative government to gradually acknowledge the concerns of others.

In continually seeking to accommodate the concerns of the population, boundaries must be drawn. Norms must enforce taboos and socially destructive behaviors, as it is impossible that every concern or every desire will be accommodated. For example, the desire to overthrow the government is not a desire that the government can accommodate. Though, surprisingly, the government will provide the platform wherein such objections can be voiced.

Though these objections may potentially present a very real threat to the government, it is unlikely that they will ever truly usurp governmental power because American government is founded and has a proven track record of accommodating the diversity of its people. It is a slow process however. It is a generational process. Accommodating the African-American experience took centuries and there are still accommodations to be had, but to argue or even suggest that America has made no such effort is both ridiculous and unsupported by historical fact.

To truly threaten to overthrow the government’s power is to jeopardize the only system in existence that continually seeks to accommodate as many concerns as it can. This is as good as it gets, and rather than bemoan how bad it may be at times, we ought to refine the system, as best we can, and seek to improve our own levels of tolerance. Thus, it is only through tolerance that power — both economic and social — be actualized.

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About Jason J. Campbell

  • Cindy D


    This last part of your article frustrates me. It’s something that appeals to me to argue with. I can’t (yet) produce a coherent argument. So, I will put fragmented ideas instead.

    In continually seeking to accommodate the concerns of the population, boundaries must be drawn. Norms must enforce taboos and socially destructive behaviors, as it is impossible that every concern or every desire will be accommodated.

    Is that the only thing norms are doing?

    You started out with a basically neutral definition of norms. The idea of conformity to the norm being seen as good and not conformity being seen as bad.

    But, in the end you seem to imply that norms have an intrinsically positive value–as if norms spring solely (or even largely) from some something that is positive.

  • Mar(k E)den

    Jason, have you taken a look at the Zapatista’s nascent attempts to achieve accommodation? This might not be ‘as good as it gets’.

  • Cindy and Mark,

    I think as the argument progress you will recognize a more sinister trend to the role of cultural norms so your discomfort is well founded. Probably the main weakness of my argument will be that I’m essentially doing a lot of housekeeping. Rather than attempting to redefine Americana or arguing for more revolutionary accounts of social protest, I’m trying to perfect the system as good as it could potentially become…regarding Mark’s point about the Zapatista movement, I’ve been reading about the movement over the last 6 or so months. Not too familiar with it. Mark maybe right that there are better systems out there like barter economics or egalitarianism but as a pacifist I can’t see switching systems without violence, so I wanna perfect what we already have. I don’t wanna give too much away, but allow capitalism to flourish, acknowledge the markets and the power of capital but also allow for a more peaceful coexistance. So to Marks question, I’m reading now but I have a ways to go before I better understand the movement.

  • Cindy D


    Capitalism creates norms that make teenage girls think they need liposuction and breast implants. It creates norms that value misogyny. Look at rap. There is a diversity. Look at what is promoted and why. bell hooks has a 10 minute video on this. She is one of the most brilliant women speaking to the public today.

    Capitalism creates norms based on profit. Anti-human norms.

  • She was just at USF, University of South Florida, where I go to school and I almost got a picture with her. to say she’s brilliant is an understatement. Heterosexual normativity, normative whiteness, patriarchal normativity and so on are all horrible consequence of Americana, our culture, but I don’t believe, though I may be wrong, that that level of exploitation is a necessary feature of capitalism. There’s no denying that it is, but I’m going to ask the bigger question, “must it be?” Can’t you preserve capital and profits without exploitation or is exploitation a necessary feature of capitalism. I’m working my way through it now. To be honest I don’t know the answer to the question yet. I’m hoping that I can articulate a means in which the system can be preserves, that is, for profit but without such emphasis on war, violence and exploitation. I hope I don’t fail because if I can’t figure it out I’ll become a skeptic for sure…I hope there is hope…

  • Cindy D


    I am the aunt of a two teenagers. We have all been teenagers. I will quote this:

    It is natural in the formation of a person’s identity, especially among children, for them to seek to confirm their identity in archetypes. If these archetypes cannot adequately accommodate the specificities of their identity, then rather than attempting the near impossible feat of changing the archetype, the young girl attempts to change her personal identity to conform to that of the dominant archetype.

    The young girl may look in the mirror and look at her princess doll. She may look at the color and texture of the doll’s hair and she will immediately recognize that she is different from the princess. She is other than a princess. Finally, she is not a princess at all. As a father of a young Black girl, I have cried for my daughter and her struggles to relate who she is with what she sees in the world.

    Disney and no other Capitalist advertisement will allow anyone (but maybe the few–I can’t even say they are “lucky”–to conform to the presented archetype.

    I feel overwhelmed for the moment. (And Roger tells me that isn’t conducive to communication.) So, I will just pose this…


    Why do the black women in the dominant (promoted) rap videos have light skin and straight hair?

  • STM

    This is the true story of how America globalises

    I blame Sesame Street, of course. Here’s one for Pablo … I reckon Kermit is a representation of the US president, and Oscar (which my kid pronounced “Arsker”) the Grouch is supposed to an ingrate south American dictator. Miss Piggy is obviously Britain under Maggie Thatcher, Bert is Canadian and Ernie Australian, Elmo is the American public, etc and it was all funded by the CIA as an exercise in subliminal child-mentoring to turn non-Americans around to the American way of life.

    It might not be obvious to Americans how all this works, but when you live somewhere else, it’s rather obvious.

    Especially when, as I do, you live in “Little America”. But hey, there’s worse things than your children sounding like little Yanks!

    We would like our ZED back, though, thanks …

  • Wow!! wow…i don’t know what to say. And I certainly wasn’t expecting the passage you cited. You caught me off guard with that. It’s horrible. They all want to to be that archetype, rap women, but though they don’t have a means of challenging the archetype I do. I know the system, well to be modest, I’m learning the system and I’m in the business of changing archetypes. But not through violent means. Cause God knows I aint movin’ my little girl aint’ movin, we’re not assimilating to some exec’s idea of what we should be. But I’ve paid a toll for my defiance. I’m addicted to beating the machine. My dissertation is on evil and violence, genocide and mass murder because it seems to be assumed that its good for business. In studying market conditions I always ended up reading about a war or some violence or a genocide so i decided to specialize in that. The rabbit hole gets deep really deep, but the fundamental assumption is that capitalism is necessarily exploitative. I’m going to do my best to conceptualize a means wherein that claim is false. If I succeed cool. If I fail, then it’s back to the drawing board, cause I’m not going to assimilate, my little girl is more militant than some militants but I’m also not going to advocate overthrowing the gov. So I have to be able to speak their language better than they can speak it. I have to understand their archetypes better than they do. There’s gotta be a way to make it work without social revolt. But if there isn’t someone else will have to revolt ’cause that’s not my role.

  • STM

    Sorry, I was trying to post this link so you can get the real picture on American “globalisation” but it didn’t work.

    Here is is again:

    Altered States – how America really achieves global domination

  • Thanks for the link…I’ll read it tonight… and we all know the Count was the mastermind of Sesame Street…

  • STM,

    ah, now I get your comment! Jamaicans say zed too. I had never heard the phrase “Little America,” but I would imagine that Australians take offense to it.

    LOL your Sesame Street comment is even more diabolical in that regard because zee becomes the right way to pronounce the letter. I’m mean after all qrs-tuv-wx-yzee has to rhyme with “next time won’t you sing with me?” I’m joking of course.

    On a serious note though STM what you’ll see in the next few sections is that Americana becomes the norm. Rather than looking to norms to justify actions, America functions as if it were the norm, it appeals only to itself (dogmatic) I call it American-normativity, but I’m jumping the gun…The little America idea or the 51st state idea only serves to demonstrate the corruption in globalizing americana, which the previous administration was eager to do. I’ll make sure I link the article in one of the upcoming pieces on globalizing americana. Thanks for the link!

  • Cindy


    They all want to to be that archetype, rap women, but though they don’t have a means of challenging the archetype I do.

    Yes, many women come to want to be the norm. But, rap women, black women…didn’t make those videos. They were cast…for a reason.

    In that video I posted, bell hooks discussed her views. I think she is dead on. I hope you check it out.

    …the fundamental assumption is that capitalism is necessarily exploitative. I’m going to do my best to conceptualize a means wherein that claim is false. If I succeed cool. If I fail, then it’s back to the drawing board…

    Okay. We’ll be keeping you honest then. Right Mark?

    Gotta love your little “militant” daughter! Strong women wooohooo!!! 🙂

  • Cindy

    Oh, one more thing. Of course, I only chose women as an example. I did not mean to leave out men.

    Here are two posters that subvert norms:

    Gender Subversion Poster Kit
    Beauty Subversion Poster Kit