This pathology, it seems to me, extends beyond just emotional directness. We lie to people about everything, for fear of offending them[ED]. I cannot even begin to count the number of times where I pretended to agree with someone just so they wouldn’t get angry. I know that there are many people who tell me only what they think I want to hear just so that I will feel good about myself. It is almost impossible for me to find anyone who is able and willing to give me constructive criticism about anything because most of the people I know are simply too afraid to say anything that might even begin to appear to be ever-so-slightly confrontational.and
This modern American society, then, is founded upon a culture of lies. The fact that we cannot be honest with how we feel about one another is but one microcosm of all the big lies we have bought into. Dishonesty permeates every aspect of our culture, and so we hide behind irony, false insincerity, and false bravado. Nothing is serious, even when it ought to be.I'll disagree with Simon here. It's still my impression, especially amongst the SWPL crowd, that Americans have a degree of cultural insecurity and when they want to appear cultured they traditionally aped the habits of the Europeans, particularly the middle to upper English. As a result, modern mainstream American culture is founded upon the high Anglo-Saxon cultural tradition.
Now, My upbringing was essentially continental European whilst I living in an Anglo-Saxon culture. I've now realised that this has put me in the privileged position of being able to see both the strengths and weaknesses of both cultures. It's a common complaint amongst lots of Europeans that you can't trust the English. Perfide Albion and its variants are a common theme throughout Continental Europe, but I think the Europeans are wrong in attributing to the English outright dishonesty. It's my opinion that the English place a much higher value on politeness than the Europeans do. They are concerned with not giving offence and are hence more diplomatic or circumspect than your average German or Italian. The European, of course, interprets this as the Englishman lying whereas in reality he is trying not be offensive.
The Germans, on the other hand. are pretty forthright at what they want to do. For this they are considered coarse and brutal. Yet, to the German he is being forthright and "honest". Unlike the Anglosphere politicians. The Germans are quite frank about what Europe needs to do to balance its books and are less likely to speak in euphemisms like "quantative easing". i.e printing money. They're direct.
It's my opinion that one of the big weak spots in Anglo-Saxon culture is the cult of politeness which America has inherited as a consequence of historical circumstances. I imagine that that this cult has it's origins in the ideals of upper class behaviour; in the ideal of behaving in such a way to never cause offense. This ideal manifests in many ways; in always being considerate of the other, in not talking about "taboo subjects" and in being deferential to others. To put it simply, Americans are too polite to tell the truth.
I imagine that the reason that politeness is so entrenched in Anglosphere is because it is necessary pre-condition of a tolerant society. For a society to work, people need to get along, and it's obvious that deliberately rubbing people the wrong way is going to lead to societal dysfunction. The ideal of politeness relegated contentious points of difference to the private sphere whilst the common good was freely discussed.
The problem with this ideal though, is that the private actions and beliefs can't be compartmentalised; private beliefs have public consequences. For example, the belief in the permissibility of divorce is a private matter but the familial dysfunction and societal consequences thereof are a public effect. What the cult of politeness does is stop us from dealing with common good problems which stem from private choice. Particularly, the problems of the social effects of personal morality.
But this cult of politeness also generates a far more insidious problem; that of self-censorship. The polite man does not want to cause offence, but what that means he is constantly trying to gauge what is offensive, and hence the level of public discourse is limited by "sensitivity" of his audience. A very "sensitive" audience can shut down discussion on a subject entirely by being offended or feigning offence. In days of old a man could be censured for lying but all he has to do now is be offensive, say something the mob doesn't want to hear, for him to be punished. This is why "hate speech" legislation is so insidious, it purports to do a good whilst in fact furthering an evil.
It is the shrieking violets in our society which now control the public debate. There are large areas of that are simply off limits to discussion simply because polite society finds the truth offensive, not factually wrong. It's this cult of politeness that makes a man a public enemy for speaking the truth.
Success in Anglosphere society is not only predicated on one's objective achievements but upon the social conventions that one assumes. Admission into this society, the society which still effectively governs and wields power, comes with the adoption of its habits and behaviours. Having the right attitude is just as important as one's achievements. Just ask Nobel Laureates James Watson or William Shockley. ( I don't personally support their views but their treatment at expressing them is a cause of serious concern). Politeness then becomes a mechanism that suppresses the truth and excludes it from the governing Anglo-Saxon(High Protestant) cultured class. It's also why business is a big enforcer of political correctness. The boss's company is a refection of himself and if his employees are openly spouting certain positions on Middle East policy, Racial IQ or Game, he is going to look bad amongst his golfing buddies or the hot secretary he is trying to bed. He wants to be part of the club. Social pressure keeps him toeing the line.
The solution to this problem is not the elimination of politeness as an ideal, but the recognition that excessive "sensitivity" or offense to the truth is a vice and that pandering to these people is evil. It needs to be recognised that Politeness has its limits though Redneck Primitivism is no solution to corrupt Haute Bourgeois Socialism i.e SWPL (though the Rednecks have time on their side as reality always triumphs in the end.) The solution, of course, is the polite man who unafraid to speak truth to social convention. In the end, the good man can't engage in pretty lies of omission just to keep the peace or look good amongst his friends.
One of the things that I noticed on my recent trip to the U.S. was that Americans were very, very polite.