“America Against the World,” a recent book based on comprehensive polling data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, makes the point that our exceptionalism is not exceptional with particular force. While a robust 60 percent of Americans agree with the proposition that “our culture is superior to others,” such self-confidence pales next to that of South Korea and Indonesia, where some 90 percent of the population assents to the idea. The book’s authors, Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes, also note that “poll after poll finds the Japanese to be the most pessimistic of people, expressing far less satisfaction with their lot in life than might be expected given their relatively high per capita incomes. Yet, compared to other Asians, the Japanese are, like Americans, highly self-reliant and distrustful of government and, like Europeans, secular. It is the Japanese public, not the American public, that is most exceptional in the world.”
2 thoughts on “Who is more exceptional?”
Most obvious point – the Pew people asked Japan the wrong question. Of course Japanese people aren’t going to say their culture is “superior”. Try “incomprehensible” “special” “unique” and you might get somewhere.
These surveys are meaningless. Americans, no matter what they think, are always wide-eyed optimists. What is it… something like 97% of all Americans think they are “above average.” Ha!
In Japan, people are rarely optimistic about themselves or their culture to others. It’s just the way they are. To do otherwise would be to boast and conceited. One reason Japan is such a great place is because they’re always looking outwards at how the rest of the world does things and importing the good. 90% of Indonesians think their culture is superior? If they did a little more outward thinking, they might see what they could improve. (And ditto to Korea!)
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