American Culture: Diversity and Unity
American culture began to develop even before the United States became a nation. Its early formation was influenced by British culture due to the colonial ties with the British, who spread the English language, de jure (legal) system and other cultural inheritance. Also, it was strongly influenced by the other European countries, from which a large number of immigrants come. This is Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Italy.
The USA has been traditionally known as a melting pot of cultures, but a recent academic opinion tends to cultural diversity and not confusing. Within American culture, there are many adapted but unique subcultures. That is the American culture – a variety of different cultures.
The belonging of a man to a particular culture depends on the social class, political orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Because the United States in some way can be called the world in one country, and the city of New York is even called the capital of the world to identify purely American culture, let us consider whether there is a general culture, which would, however, would be independent of any from one of the existing cultures of the world.
The possibility of existence of such an independent culture actually exists in the U.S., and as in any other country, the traditional national culture is hegemonic and forces to serve it from childhood. Some specific elements of culture that emerged centuries ago are deified and duplicated, in fact repeating the same thing and therefore not creating anything new (Joseph & Nye 2002).
To identify the pure objective of American culture, it is necessary to filter out all manifestations of pure national cultures as well as fictitious business culture.
Americans often say that they do not have culture, because they often perceive culture as a set of mandatory practices that are present only in the other countries. If they are asked about “American culture”, they will hardly be able to say something, or would deny the existence of the American culture.
In the “white noise” conditions when all the official society is focused on “gold devil”, there is quite an objective purely American national independent culture in which “pure spirit” is directly opposed to society as a whole. Thus, in the conditions of American society, full perpendicularity of “spiritual” and “material” finds its highest expression (Segal 2004).
You can try to say that in fact the main real ideology of the United States is the worship of the “golden devil”, atheistic materialism, or saying it in a more romantic tone, “the great American dream”. According to this “dream”, the happiness inevitably comes to a person after he/she gets a house, a white car and a family with a bunch of kids. On the one hand, such an approach quite satisfies the condition of objectivity and therefore independence of any particular traditions and outlooks, and then, of course, can be called truly American.
On the other hand, the modern American society has reached the level of economic development that the conditions of the implementation of the great American dream is nothing complicated and presents nothing special. Upon reaching it, the average American loses immediately that dream and again finds oneself face to face with the question of the national American philosophy.
One of the distinctive featres of American culture is that after graduation, neither children nor parents help each other. After high school, most children begin to live separately from their parents and lead an independent life.
Social class probably has the greatest cultural impact on people in the United States. Almost all of the cultural relations between the people and the behavior of consumers in the United States are defined by the location of people within the social class of the country.
Religious landscape of the United States is bizarre and contradictory. Religious freedom and the lack of “state religion” formed a unique religious market not inferior to the exotic bazaars. The U.S. is different by sectarian religious orientation and religious individualism. And among the sects, spread across the state, there are exotic as Amish “Protestant Old Believers”.
Amish sect by its unacceptance of the world (which for them is the devil’s playground) and the core values of American culture (individualism, the spirit of competition, self-reliance) certainly causes concern. Retreat, refusal from the benefits of civilization, progress, teamwork and mutual support, and, most importantly, constant observation of the soul, all restrictions to achieve the ideal of humility, modesty, obedience to God – this is the goal of life of ordinary people of the Amish.
Of their choice, dictated by faith, the Amish were primarily agricultural community, abandoning modern technology.
In contrast to the evangelical church congregations, Charismatic and Baptist, a member of which is open to any man if he would come and stay and wish to join, membership in Amish congregations is related to the place of residence. Members of a congregation of the Amish are, as a rule, neighbors whose houses and land plots are adjacent to each other and are within the territorial boundaries of a particular congregation. Each congregation is made up of 25-30 neighboring farms, or related families, each of which can only be a member of one of the congregations, in the territory of which they are resident. There is no “church hopping” from one church to another as in the modern Protestant churches, long-term relationships are assumed. Since the long-term good-neighborly relations, often hereditary membership for generations, are the norm, the effects have a significant impact on human relationships. Conflict resolution, gossip, resentment and envy, the neighborhood, all efforts to strengthen relationships – all is immensely different from that of the social and mobile Protestant churches culture (Mackall 2007).
Amish sect is an extremely conservative Christian group, it has its origins in the movement of Anabaptists of Europe of the 16th century.
Like other Anabaptists, the Amish hold pacifist beliefs and refuse to pass any kind of military service as well as other violence to defense. Even the treatment of the Amish to court to protect their rights is rare. In the past, the refusal of military service led to harassment of the Amish by the authorities and served as one of the reasons for their mass emigration from Europe to America. Currently in the U.S. and in Canada, where most of the Amish live, compulsory military conscription is abolished, and the army became fully professional. But encountered rejection and misunderstanding of the Amish by their neighbors, who are not Amish, and the larger society as a whole, is leading sometimes to act against the Amish, such as stoning their horse carts (Kraybill & Hostetter 2001).
Since the creation of their community, the Amish experienced considerable pressure from the modern world around them. For example, the U.S. law on child labor threatened the time-honored way of life and raised many questions about the treatment of children in Amish families as well as the views of the Amish in the psychological and medical support. Modern society does not stress much importance to the strong emotional and spiritual ties between the people of the mutual support and mutual aid that exist in families and communities of the Amish. Instead, there is dominance of negative perception of what the Amish in some cases take the state of health as the will of God rather than to go through all the possible treatments in modern hospitals and clinics. While many of the Amish community have public phones, you can call for help in an emergency. Amish children often follow the traditions of their faith from an early age and learn to work at home, or on the family farm, or communal land. Children are brought up in the traditions of their parents or close relatives until adolescence when, during some period (rumspringa), they are given the opportunity to see the world and compare it to what they were taught at home. Viewed as a respected and long-term group of people, Amish cause disputes in modern society about their methods of education of young children, who are very different from non-Amish (Kraybill 2001).
Returning to American culture and considering the basic differences of American culture in general and culture of Amish, it should be noted that the most important thing to understand about Americans is their “worship” individualism. They are brought up from childhood so that they perceive themselves as separate independent people responsible for their actions, situations in life and for their future. Among the things that are important for Americans are also privacy and personal space. Americans provide that every person needs personal time and personal space, everyone needs to “stay alone with oneself”, have something to think about or restore psychological energy.
In addition, Americans are convinced that, in general, all the people (or at least all Americans) are equal, no one is born “above” someone else, and everyone is responsible for his/her own life.
A very important feature is the fact that Americans are less focused on the history and traditions than people from the other countries. “History does not matter”, say many of them, “the future – that’s what’s important”. They look only forward.
Naturally, for the era of globalization and people participating in the march of the consumer society with banners of slogans of postmodern culture “relativity of all things”, the first reaction to the Amish way of life is the rejection, misunderstanding and irony.
How in the 21st century in one of the most advanced countries, which aggressively, culturally and in value swallowed the world where wealth and individual success are the goal of life, there are people who completely deny, oppose and, at the same time, do not resist evil and these values both on moral and everyday level?
America is the realm of surprises and paradoxes in a moment destroying any stereotypes and, at the same time, confirming their firmness. Very large ultramodern cities are located in the vicinity of vast areas around desolate, arid, wasteland extinct. America is a kaleidoscope, or rather a construction set, whose unique cultures, such as the Amish culture, are a unique and important elements that determine the country’s breathtaking originality.