Acceptance of Life’s Disappointments, U.S. and U.K. Attitudes

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Here’s some interesting philosophizing on a rainy summer day.  Building on the observation that folks in England are too content to accept drying machines that don’t dry, Corinne Purtill draws broad conclusions about the difference between Brits and their American peers.

Purtill herself is an American just returning to her native country after five years across the Pond, and although she flirts with complimenting her fellow Americans, she can’t quite bring herself to side with us.  Indeed, in backing away from that conclusion, she may capture modern progressives’ true sense of trade offs:

This American bias toward change—newer, better, different—has fueled countless innovations. It has also fueled a culture of thoughtless consumerism.

Like progressives, one gets the sense that Purtill’s final analysis is that “thoughtless consumerism” outweighs “countless innovations” on the scale of human values:

Under the proper circumstances, [the British have] is a mature and useful perspective. Suffering—large and small—is an unavoidable feature of human existence. In the face of illness, loss, or heartbreak, the American insistence on looking on the bright side and fixing the problem can feel heartlessly clueless. Some things cannot be fixed.

Here’s what Purtill misses: Seeing a “bright side” shows that there is acceptance of suffering.  We accept what is and seek to improve what can be changed.  Why compound the loss of a loved one with the frustrations of a dryer that doesn’t work?

For that matter, why not work to reduce the amount of human suffering?  Let’s turn our lens in the other direction and witness Charlie Gard, whose parents the British government told they could not try to save his life, even though they had the money and a doctor willing to attempt new methods for helping him.  Where did the parents want to take the child for help? The United States.

Maybe it’s because I’m so thoroughly American that I can’t achieve an adequately “mature and useful” perspective, but I can’t quite see how innovating to fix problems while maintaining a fundamentally positive outlook on life is the “heartlessly clueless” attitude, here.



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