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HAPPIER ABROAD  Why You Will Have A Better Love and Life Beyond America

The Industrial Culture and Automaton Populace of America

(Understanding the European perspective of America)



I’ve written this essay to help others, especially Americans, understand how most Europeans view America, and why they are so critical of it (most of them agree with the contents here).  Some of these viewpoints also reflect, I believe, how many Americans feel, but are unable to find the words to express it or are afraid to.  (
Note: If at any time while reading this, you wish to accuse me of stereotyping or generalizing, or you wish to protest that you know exceptions to what I describe, click here)

A culture of hype and consumerism

In the old days, America had a pioneer/cowboy culture of expansion during the days of the Old West.  But that’s been reduced to nostalgic remnants of the country and Old West films.  Nowadays, modern American "culture" is basically an industrial culture consisting of two primary ingredients - HYPE and CONSUMERISM.  These two elements pervade almost all facets of American life, all for commercial purposes.


American culture has little or nothing to do with reality and substance.  Instead, everything is hyped up beyond substance or reality for commercial purposes.  The US economy lives and thrives on hype, which is a mere illusion of advertising to attempt to psychologically create the desire among the populace for the goods and services being sold.  The hype of course, serves and perpetuates our lifestyle and routine of PERPETUAL CONSUMPTION without end, which is encouraged as well.  


This is exemplified everywhere in advertisements, commercials, billboards, strip malls, mass media, etc.  We are programmed to think that being able to buy things leads to happiness and fulfillment.  And in fact, in most of America, there is nothing to do but go to strip malls to BUY and CONSUME everyday in a neverending routine of hyped consumption.  The US lifestyle simply offers little else.


It's no wonder that my Greek college buddy used to always say to me that, "Americans have no inner life.  All they do is consume, consume."


In the US, most people see life only in terms of making money, buying things, and surface practicalities.  There is no spiritual or intellectual dimension in their lives, and no “inner life.”


Excess consumption=excess production=excess work


The problem with the American lifestyle is that people consume more than they need to and they work more than they need to.  They both go hand-in-hand.  Excess consumption means excess production, which in turn leads to more work and jobs to be done.  Plus, if you consume a lot, then you have to work more to make enough money to keep up that lifestyle.  The thing is though, that neither are really necessary.  We are simply programmed to think it's necessary and act on it.


To see an obvious example of excess consumption in America, go to a typical home and look in the garage or basement, and notice the excess of things stored there that are never used, making moving a total pain in the ass.  As ancient wisdom goes, too much of anything is never any good. 


Though excess consumption is supposed to lead to happiness and fulfillment, for many it doesn't, so they are left confused as to why they feel empty and flat when they should be happy for being allowed to consume to their heart's content.  Hence they wonder "What is wrong with me?" rather than see a problem in the whole hyped consumerist system which they've been programmed to think as the perfect epitome of life.  And of course, our system's train of thought is that anyone who doesn't fit into it or find fulfillment in it is "the problem" rather than the system itself.


Some counter culture authors have postulated that there is enough productivity in this country for everyone to work only 3-4 hours a day, yet maintain the same lifestyle.  But the reason we don't is that the powers that rule production and resources in this country do not wish us to, for if everyone had that much more free time, they'd start to think on their own, organize grass root movements in their own interest, and upturn the status quo.  In other words, they know that a revolution of the people would be much more likely if everyone had that much more free time.  So, they prefer you to always work at least 8 hours a day so that you'll be so tired at the end of the day, that all you can do is lounge off on TV the rest of the night, becoming a passive observer rather than a participant.  That's how the ruling class in America maintains a slave labor to keep doing its job.


Stagnation of mind and soul in a culture of assimilation


The problem with mainstream life in America is that the lifestyle and daily experience do not expand your mind or soul (unlike the culture and environment in Europe). From childhood, the system basically conditions you to be a robot, a “happy slave” to the system. If you refuse to conform, you are punished with deprivation of your financial and material needs. In essence, you are forced to choose between becoming a robot or a bum. It is difficult to choose a third path, and one must rise above the system to do that.


In daily American life, not much happens to you personally. Time just passes and life is wasted in mind-numbing mechanistic routines of work and hype-driven consumerism to perpetuate the stability and expansion of the industrial forces that dominate the country.  These forces also seek to control the rest of the world, often overthrowing foreign governments and regimes due to corporate greed. Let's elaborate on some of the factors at work.

Although America tries to pretend to be a multi-cultural melting pot of diversity to appease its many ethnic groups, in reality it is a culture of assimilation with no real culture left (notwithstanding a few cities, e.g. New York, San Francisco, New Orleans), at least not by the standards of the rest of the world. Instead, it's basically a giant "industrial machine" of mass production and consumption, seeking to dominate the world and make all in its path serve its interests.

Even foreign immigrants who come here lose their culture, as they become immersed and "assimilated" into the gigantic industrial culture of modern day
America. Those who "assimilate" into the industrial culture are rewarded with a mechanistic automated life of non-expression and hype-driven overconsumption, while those who don't are labeled as misfits and losers, who will be left behind in the "rat race".

Regulating self-expression in an automaton society

Those with a strong need for creative self-expression often feel suffocated in corporate
America, instead becoming starving artists, actors, musicians, small business owners, hippies, or living some other poor Bohemian lifestyle. Thus, while America boasts freedom politically and legally, there is no true freedom of the SOUL, something much more abundant in European cultures. On the contrary, life in America stagnates and stunts the growth and development of the soul as conformity to an industrial culture and materialistic mentality is forced upon you.

What most Americans don't know and don't realize is that the industrial corporate forces that control everything in the country, NEED them to be automatons, without self-expression or critical "out of the box" thinking, and therefore set up the conditions to make and keep them that way so the industrial structure of this country can prosper and stabilize. To maintain the status quo, free expression needs to be squelched to keep the lives of the populace as automaton-like as possible. Since
America is a generally stable and conformist-oriented country, its economic system is dependent on people who rigidly conform to it.  Rather than encouraged or taught to think, we are simply plugged into the system like an automaton.

Most Americans don't realize this because they've never stepped outside of it like I and others have, so they think that it's "the universe" and nothing else is outside of it. But as in the "Cave Analogy" by Plato, some do escape the shadows on the cave wall and step out to see the light, but of course, the national media, owned and funded by corporate industrial interests, never give them an outlet to present their viewpoints.

One way corporate
America forces its citizens to become automatons is by discouraging and banning any kind of self-expression in the workplace (ok at least you're allowed to hang pictures of your family in your cubicle), allowing only conformity to the corporate structure. With no freedom of expression in corporate/industrial America, there are no true outlets to expand your mind and soul. There is only freedom to move up and down the corporate ladder (or sideways). Thus, Americans are conditioned to define themselves by what they do and judge their self-worth by it.

To quell the human need for self-expression and provide an outlet for it, the American population gets to see actors, entertainers, and athletes express themselves in movies, television, and professional sports. These forms of entertainment allow the automaton populace to have a canned, controlled, form of expression. In effect, the automatons who spend the day as slaves to corporate America can "express" themselves by identifying with movie stars. It's no wonder that Americans idolize movie stars so much that they read tabloids about every scoop about their personal lives, more so in comparison than people in other countries do. You would think that if they had more interesting and fulfilling lives, they wouldn't need to, but they don't, sadly and unfortunately.

And as for youngsters, they are given a wide barrage of extremely elaborate interactive aggressive violent video games to allow them to vent their energies (aggression for males) in yet another form of senseless entertainment that provides more distraction from critical thinking or community development.

What this does is turn the population into passive observers (as globally acclaimed author and critic of US media, Noam Chomsky, has noted in his publications). Instead of critically thinking about their lives and society, being aware of what's going on, their attention and energy is vented through outlets such as the above, which serve no threat to the hierarchical power structure of this country, diffusing any possibility of revolution.


(See an index of articles about corporate power and New World Order here or listen to Alex Jones or David Icke on YouTube)

In addition, the American population is bombarded relentlessly by daily mass advertising in many forms, turning them into zombies whose only inclination is deciding what to buy next. All of this is done to keep the automatons in line to buy what is produced as much as possible, resulting in overconsumption far beyond necessity.


Our mainstream media has almost no diversity in viewpoint.  The closest they come is picking out issues they consider important (but rarely have anything to do with our personal lives), and presenting the pro and con sides of them.  They never present any counter-culture, intellectual, free-thinking, or “out of the box” (and in this case, the box is very narrow and tight) views, dissertations, or opinions.  Though a proportion of the American populace has such views, discussing them in personal communications/conversations, the public media invalidates such them and denies their existence by never presenting them nor giving their advocates a say on the air.


Instead, our corporate network media wants us to believe that only views that strictly conform to the industrial culture exist, and that anything outside that tight box is inappropriate, weird, or even creepy.  They assume that everyone watching is a workaholic, lives for consumption, and has a rat race mentality.  That's the vibe they give, and it's very anti-intellectual.  Anything intellectual or "out of the box" of their propaganda is ignored in the network media's universe.  Hence, they help condition the American populace to be brain-dead conformists with the illusion that they are unique individuals.


Michael Goodspeed, a good friend of mine, made eloquent points about this in his article My Brain Is Not Silly Putty: 

“I repeat, powerful people want to mold your mind to fit their self-serving interests. They are salesmen, you see...and the products they are selling are ignorance and egotism. Useless entertainment such as gratuitously violent films, video, and professional sports thrive in the U.S. because consumers have been programmed to use them as a vicarious means for ego empowerment. The unspoken attitude of many is, "I want badly to be someone, but I know this won't happen in the real world. So I lose myself in the fantasy of entertainment, where I can identify with anyone I want -- a pro athlete, a rock god, or even a serial killer."


The corporate "bottom-liners" who own the media have a VESTED INTEREST in creating collective and individual mental illness. The more contracted and disturbed your mind is, the more product they are going to sell. Just as it's easier to mass-produce junk food than to nurture and grow organic health food, it is easier to sell ignorance and egotism than truth and beauty.”

Segregating and dividing the populace to prevent revolution

Another way to maintain the power structure, keep people as automatons, and prevent any form of revolution is by segregating, dividing and isolating the population.  Those in power in this country know that for real change to occur, it would require mass grass roots movements from large segments of the population. In order to diffuse that possibility, they divide and segregate the population in a variety of ways to prevent collective bonding that would pose as a threat.  Scholar and US critic Noam Chomsky writes about this in his works, as well as other free thinkers. 


The following are just a few examples: Mainstream people in the suburbs are isolated in their homes, living in their own world. Neighborhoods lack any real sense of community or togetherness; many live for years in their homes without ever getting to know their neighbors. Life in America is too busy, cliquish and anti-social for much community interaction anyway. And in addition, our media perpetuates paranoia among the population against strangers, making us even more closed and cliquish.


In fact, I would say that out of all the countries I've been in, US society is the most cliquish, anti-social, paranoid, and closed toward strangers I've ever seen.  I'm not saying that there are no friendly people in America, but there is definitely something peculiar that makes Americans limit virtually all social interaction to within their clique, ignoring all outside strangers.  You might think that is normal if that’s all you ever grew up with, but when you see how people are in most foreign countries, you will understand how abnormal that really is.  Most Americans have no idea that most of the rest of the world is not like that, since they have nothing to compare it to, so they assume that the rest of the world is the same.  But thank goodness it's not. 


In most parts of the world (not just according to my experiences, but those of many others as well) you can just walk in out of nowhere a total unknown, yet meet a lot of people, get dates, and have fun.  But not so in the US.  No way.  Social interaction there is oddly limited to within cliques.  People fundamentally don't meet people outside their clique.  It’s just not within the unspoken social boundaries (which you can feel strongly in the vibes even without any evidence).  You gotta WORK HARD to meet people.  It doesn't come naturally, smoothly or freely.  You gotta "prove your worth" to break in or be accepted by a social clique, and even then you’ll only know a few people.  And that just sucks for an expressive people-person like me.


In the states, to have a "life", you have to be part of the "in crowd" or else you're nothing.  And if you're not attractive or desirable by the cultural standards here, then you'll never fit into the "in crowd" anyway, which is extremely limiting.

In contrast, the social scene in Europe is much more free spirited and expressive, compared to the canned, clicheish nature of the social scene in America. Whereas the day ends for most Americans at 5 or 6pm who become deadbeats afterward, the social day begins at 5 or 6pm for many Europeans. A total contrast.

All of these unnatural conditions cause some in the US to feel lonely and isolated, which often leads to insanity or some form of psychological dysfunction, as well as weight problems and obesity. It's no surprise, since isolating and segregating people the way American society does is unnatural to human nature, creating all sorts of imbalances. And obviously, some can't cope with it (and they are told that there is something wrong with them). It's no wonder that we have the highest rate of mental illness in the world, and indisputably the biggest weight problem on the planet.

Lack of curiosity and interest in the outside world

The above, in part, is why Americans are known around the world as the most ignorant of global geography (amazingly many can't even find their own country on a global map, or their own state on a national map). And most Americans don't even know who the leaders of their neighboring countries, Canada and Mexico, are, nor who the governors of their neighboring states are! These things are unheard of in Europe, for example. On the average, they are not well-read, cultured, or developed intellectually. Since the conditions they live under don't allow them to expand their minds or intellects, they simply lack any curiosity or desire to learn about the world or travel internationally. Instead, they simply live according to the mechanistic routine set up for them, with their only inclinations geared toward consumer consumption. Anything that isn't relevant to that is ignored.


The preservation and perpetuation of these national industrial structures and systems, contributes to America being the richest and most powerful country in the world. It's not because of the principles of our founding fathers, nor due to democracy and freedom, but due to an extreme "live and breathe" version of corporate capitalism, forcing the mass population into a robotic existence without imagination or freedom of expression.  (See also Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment by a researcher in India

Some of course, are happy and thrive in this kind of system. However, for free-spirited, open-minded people who are seeking to expand their mind and souls, the industrial culture and systems of America conflict with their inclinations and suffocate the very essence of who they are. This is one reason, I think, why "freespirits" (alternative crowds, bohemian artists, hippies, intellectuals with counter-culture views, etc.) in America tend to be mentally unstable and emotionally unbalanced. They are seen and treated as such because they don't conform to the industrial culture and don't behave in an automaton way. Thus, they come to believe it themselves, subconsciously forced to view themselves as misfit losers, defective and maladapted to society, culminating in a self-fulfilling prophecy which leads them to act that way (perhaps that’s why most hippies in the US smoke pot regularly). On the other hand, "freespirits" in Europe, I've noticed, tend to be the way they are while remaining stable, mature, reliable, and organized. It's no surprise since they are told that they are normal, healthy, and not weird. (Hence, dress styles in Europe are way more creative and expressive than in America)

What's not taken into account though, is that ancient wisdom has taught us that extremism in any form is never a good thing. The ancient Greek and Chinese sayings of "everything in moderation", as well as the Chinese principle symbol of Yin Yang, which requires opposite forces to be balanced and unified in order to achieve harmony, indicate that such an extreme capitalistic system as ours would result in unhealthy imbalances of sorts. Perhaps that's why we have the highest rates of insanity, obesity, etc. in the world among industrial nations.


Although most Americans are not able to view life in their country from the viewpoint I espouse above, those who are well traveled or have integrated themselves into several foreign cultures, are better able to relate to the "wavelength" I'm coming from in this essay.  The reason for this is what most never thought of.  When you are out of America, you are able to see everything in it from a much more clear and apparent viewpoint than when you are in it.  Those who are less traveled simply don't know this and haven't experienced this.  As it is in a personal relationship, when you are out of it, you are able to see it from a more detached and objective standpoint, allowing you to see the "bigger picture", than when you are in the midst of it.

The above factors explain, in part, why most Europeans despise and are critical of America, its unhealthy way of life, power structure, and industrial imperialism. They simply don't want their life and culture to be tainted by it, and the morbid consequences that come with it which undermine their freedom of expression.  With an outside objective view, they see America’s industrial culture as the destruction of the mind, soul, environment, and rich culture. 


While the average American centers his life around career status and the accumulation of wealth to retire as soon as possible, the average European centers his life around cultivating mind, body, and soul.  Though the European lifestyle is not always as luxurious as Americans, it nevertheless is richer in soul and culture, allowing much more freedom of expression and expansion of mind and soul.  As they say in Europe, “Americans live to work.  Europeans work to live.”

And so folks, these reasons help explain why I spend so much time abroad.  It's just too easy to go insane in America, coping and keeping up with the unnecessary and unrealistic pressures.  I value my sanity and peace of mind too much to keep up the false bravado image our culture idolizes vainly.


Even among Americans are a growing number of people who can see this, as this man rants:


“….. as anyone who has ever been to Europe will know, the Europeans are FAR more cultured than Americans.  Just saying the phrase "American culture" makes a lot of people laugh - McDonalds, shoddily-built wooden houses, rap music, "big is beautiful" people and throw-away goods.  What European in their right mind would want to move from a country with cultured people, castles and houses made of stone, and a strong sense of history into this artificial, fake, "free" (don't make me laugh) junkyard of a country where every second building is made out of sheet metal?  Third, I think we can all agree that America has not become more friendly, tolerant or attractive a nation since 9-11.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I, personally, am always looking around for a second country to call home for when things get REAL bad here.  The time may easily come when living in Russia (with a beautiful wife of course) is more attractive than living in the U.S.  I'd give it 20 years.”


Also, Europe, in fact, is far more progressive in its integrated global worldview as well, as author Jeremy Rifkin eloquently describes in his book The European Dream, page 3:


"The American Dream is far too centered on personal material advancement and too little concerned with the broader human welfare to be relevant in a world of increasing risk, diversity, and interdependence.  It is an old dream, immersed in a frontier mentality, that has long since become passé.  While the American Spirit is tiring and languishing in the past, a new European Dream is being born.  It is a dream far better suited to the next stage in the human journey - one that promises to bring humanity to a global consciousness befitting an increasingly interconnected and globalizing society.


The European Dream emphasizes community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global cooperation over the unilateral exercise of power."


Discuss this article here:


See also:

Propaganda vs. Real Life in America

Debunking the Myth of Freedom and Democracy in America

The Big Lie: Why America is all about Control and Conformity, not Truth or Freedom



Reader Responses:


- “Dear Winston:


I have never responded to a blog before or whatever they are called.  I found your essay about american consumerism on planet essay and was inspired to write to you.


As I read your essay I felt like you were telling my story, except that I am a 40 year old female living in Malibu with a husband and two kids.  Sounds nice right?   Many days I feel like I am living a life of a prisoner.  In my twenties I lived in Italy, France, and Belguim.  I have been to Switzerland, Austria, Germany, spain, Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, and Luxembourg. I felt so alive, so free.  Now what?  My life is exactly like you described in your essay.  I feel stuck.  I am a full time mom with a nanny to help.  I have read every spiritual book out.  All I seem to do is long for my twenties.  My husband is all about materialism and staying at 5 star hotels (many days I just feel suffocated by our marriage).  I long for the way I used to be.  I feel as though I have gone to the point of no return because I have children who rely on me.


Do you have any advice?” 


(My response:  Not really, unfortunately.  You just have to find every opportunity you can to do what you love and try to maintain a healthy balance between your other priorities, as well as a workable compromise.  In the meantime, you can try to live vicariously through people like me :))



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