This is a post written by Alex, our beloved in-house philosopher, working at Supercell SF office. Here he shares some of his thoughts on american society and culture.
This is America! A phrase that conveys a message of the Greatness of this nation. A phrase that I feel to be exposed to every day during the past two months I have lived here in San Francisco. In the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville, I figured to share some more or less shallow thoughts on some cultural insights America has revealed to me.
Disclaimer: This blog post desperately tries to be descriptive, informative and humorous all at the same time. Any views or opinions presented in this text are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Furthermore, the Author does not intend this blog text to lead to his Visa being cancelled.
Before diving deeper, I want to take a few words to pay some homage. I am very privileged to have the possibility to spend the summer in this microcosmos called San Francisco. Big shout out to Startup Sauna & the Startup Life program for making this happen and for all the work towards Finnish students and entrepreneurship! However the puzzle is not complete without an amazing company to work for; thank you, Supercell!
The United States of America. Even the name makes you wonder in awe of what a magnificent country it must be. The Land of Opportunities where nothing but you set limits for the success of your endeavors. The American Dream is something anyone, regardless of background, can aspire to pursue. No wonder this land has intrigued so many people from overseas to search for a better life – just like Stavros, the protagonist of Elia Kazan’s masterpiece America, America.
For a guy born and raised in the so-called welfare state of blue and white and indoctrinated with the idea of how being a descendent of Väinämöinen is like winning the lottery, one has a tendency to easily look down on other nations and cultures. Seems to me that even though we Finns have for long been exposed to the glorified American ethos we still take it with a characteristic pinch of salt and have a somewhat good capability to filter out BS. As a well-structured and working young country who lacks deep historic burden, I suppose we don’t have an inherent admiration towards the Land of the Free.
I’ve done a fair share of travelling in the US of A and also lived in its Northern replica. However one thing has always bothered me along the way and it still constantly hits me: How is it that the Greatest Nation on Earth actually makes me think about three words: Third World Country?
Every day I walk by handfuls of homeless people; lost souls without a shelter or food. It is striking how many outcasts realm the streets of SF. Seems pretty obvious that here one doesn’t define a country by how it treats its weakest members. How about technology? Well, the banking and payment system reminds me of old movies; unless you make a separate direct deposit agreement with your bank, your paycheck will be handed to you as – you guessed it – a check. Basic infrastructure is annoying, too. The shower is fixed to the wall so the flow of water hits you in your shoulder (exactly the most important place that you want to wash), toilet bowls are filled with an insane amount of water, and public transportation is a joke. Television is full of charlatans and manipulative propaganda. Oh, and the reality of wealth distribution is blatantly skewed. This country is indeed Great but it also looks to be very schizophrenic.
Often I feel America is like something of a castrated nation. People smile and ask how are you but inside they are flakey and don’t really give a shit about you. One is surrounded with facades of awesome, cool and healthy. But what is the truth inside? For example, people are actually deprived of words, as everything can potentially be incorrect and insult the precious feelings of delicate individuals. People are encouraged to consume, be free to actualize themselves and dedicate their lives to pleasure. However, in order to do this, they have to have a proper job, do lots of exercising and eat only healthy food. This is sort of paradoxical, as the outcome of this apparently hedonism seems to be a life full of regulations and constraints! We can have it all, but in a reduced form that is deprived of its substance; seedless raspberries, chocolate laxative, decaffeinated coffee. As if Americans live in an artificial wonderland that looks safe and soft but severely lacks honesty.
But it cannot all be that negative, can it? The opposite side of the coin exists, too. San Francisco is a prime example of an ecosystem where the future is already happening this very day. I am not talking about George Orwell but about the online and mobile services industry. Aspiring entrepreneurial spirit combined with critical mass has made it possible for apps like Waze, Lyft, Venmo to really work and become part of people’s everyday lives. To be honest, it almost feels saddening to see how while institutional entities take their time entrepreneurs make things happen.
At this point it might be time to acknowledge the colossal size of this country. Traditionally, we Europeans excel in criticizing our young western comrades across the Atlantic. Americans are nothing but ignorant cowboys and rednecks compared with our continent with a history of a few thousand years filled with art, philosophy and science. We entertain ourselves with their TV shows, movies and music but don’t identify us with their culture. We take the role of a spectator who sympathetically laughs keeping a safe distance.
Despite the deep-rooted patriotism and the occasionally lovable way of forgetting that the Great Nation was actually founder by immigrants, I feel to find myself in a most definitely multicultural (even cosmopolitan) and also welcoming country. At least to a part of it. The worn out notion of America as a cultural melting pot, similar to that of Hellenism after Alexander the Great, does accurately depict what I see around me. Everyone can be an American – me, you, the guy making your pizza – as it is more of a concept, an ideology, than citizenship.
Having reached the end of my rant, I want to take is opportunity to thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. Here is something to further get you in the mood.