Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Sleeping American Beauty

11 December 2015

USA

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Yesterday I received a remarkable comment from an American friend: “The people living here are so blind. I think people are so into themselves they care about nothing, and one day they will wake up but it will be too late”. The words which my American friend then added by and large confirm the European view on our main ally: “If you really look at it, that is just what is going to happen!! Americans are selfish, greedy, uncaring people, they think about themselves and what will benefit them, they don’t seem to ever look ahead”.

After those comments, the first image that came to my mind was Sleeping Beauty (IMDb). Then another image popped up: American Beauty (IMDb). After visiting the USA for some 10 times, I consider it a country of immense natural beauty. I am stunned how American solidarity has been replaced by self absorbedness. This inward focus resulted in a loss of touch with the outside world. Hence, Sleeping American Beauty.

The awakening of Sleeping Beauty has several versions, some more brutal than others (source). 9/11 could have been the brutal awakening but it wasn’t – with hindsight. It has only further increased the nation’s dividedness and polarisation. It is hard to see who or what will “kiss” America awake from her sleep or “sleepwalking”.  

We may just witness another example in the rise and fall of nations. As already mentioned in my 11 April 2015 blog, the USA is just a mere 100 years in 5,000 years of (global) superpowers. For the majority of the past 5,000 years, Europe has been the leading region on Earth (my blog). In this context, a special note should be made to the mid-American Maya culture which reigned for some 2,500 years. The Black Death (1400-1500) wiped out the then ruling nations in each region.

We should also not forget however that the 2,500 year Maya culture represented native “Americans” whereas the current USA is largely based upon European immigrants / refugees. In 1664, The Netherlands sold New Amsterdam to the Brits who renamed it into New York. Essentially, the USA was a British colony until its independence in 1776. The historical animosity between England and France most likely played a vital role in the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783.  

To some extent, I feel that these European immigrants / refugees took something essential to the USA: drive, determination, passion and risk taking. What Europe lacks, the US has too much. The reason for this may be hidden in a recent Harvard Business Review leadership study: “Surprisingly, the most effective leaders did not have the highest level of self-awareness. Indeed, the more they underrated themselves, the more highly they were perceived as leaders. We assume this is caused by a combination of humility, high personal standards, and a continual striving to be better”.

Calling yourself the “greatest (or most powerful) nation in the world” is the opposite of humility. It is sign of overrating and vanity. Vanity and compassion do not seem to mix well. Compassion seems to fit well in leaders who underrate themselves such as the 2015 TIME Person of the Year: Mrs Angela Merkel. The USA used to have great, humble and serving leaders. Those times are long gone but could come back once humility and high personal standards are seen as virtues rather than vices.

The only reason why I will remain optimistic about the future potential of the USA is its unrivaled resilience which is rooted in its drive, determination, passion and risk taking.

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