I think every region and country is probably at least somewhat guilty of being self-absorbed, but the sheer amount of it that I see from the United States amazes me. I’m not bashing my country – I love the US and most of the people in it (at least until I get to know them, ha). Yet I see way too often an incredible level of a the-world-revolves-around-us mentality.
Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about, and maybe not.
I had a conversation in college with a few people about accents – as in how we pronounce words. One of these people is from New Zealand, another from somewhere in the eastern United States, another also probably from the eastern US and myself. People I met in college often expressed surprised at how little of the “Minnesotan” accent came through when I spoke*. We were discussing this and the New Zealand accent, and one of the people from the eastern US said, “I don’t have an accent.” The other three of us were at a loss when it came to explaining that there is no such thing as no accent. It’s basically impossible unless you invent a language, and even then it’d probably be labeled as an original or classic accent.
No one speaking English in the world today lacks an accent. You could speak American Broadcast English and you still have an accent – albeit one that is considered the most eloquent and easy to understand in the US. It is not possible to not have an accent. Even if your regional accent is barely perceptible, if you grew up in the US speaking English you’ll have an American accent. Enough about accents – my point is that it takes an incredible level of self-centered attitude to think you could possibly not have an accent.
The general attitude of our news sources seems to favor that self-centered attitude as do our politicians and some of our small-business owners. In general it’s as if people here forget that the rest of the world exists and has people in it. We behave like everyone should emulate us. I don’t think it’s as conscious as thinking everyone should live like we do so much as we tend to forget that most people do not live as we do – whether that means our access to clean water or how many miles the average person travels by car in a year.
We even have the audacity to call ourselves Americans (and everyone else abides by this, perhaps because the entire world is too lazy to come up with a better label). America is a large land mass divided into three parts (two continents) – North, Central and South, yet this nation of roughly 310 million people lay claim to a term that should describe every person on the two continents.
I do wonder if other countries are as self-involved. I know the general attitude, probably not intentional, in the US is that people all over the world pay a lot of attention to what goes on here (not just what affects other countries, like our economic policies).
Again, I’m not bashing my country. I just wish more people would take a step back and try to think more globally.
*Scare quotes because the accent, though not uncommon, is by no means limited to Minnesota and also isn’t very strong in our most populated areas. Speak to an average person in Minneapolis, for example, and you may notice a few words, but you won’t hear the accent from Fargo.