Moving From Me To We BlogMoving From Me To We Blog

How We See Ourselves, Pollster Suggests

At a wedding I attended last month on the most southern island of Greece, an American was marrying a Greek woman he met at graduate school.  People traveled there from 20 countries. Of the 90 or so guests, all under 30 years of age had visited at least five countries, often for study, work or to visit friends.

After the wedding, held in a small white church on the edge of the water, people gathered for an outdoor dinner on a hilltop. Seven courses, many toasts, dancing and mingling conversations later the last of the guests left for their rooms around four a.m. (I heard). In the following days, at the beach, in cafes, on walks and over a final dinner held on a long table, between the water and a main road in town, guests traded stories that left me feeling optimistic about the future. In talking, they were proud of their  “home” countries, yet saw themselves as citizens of the world, in their friendships, their work and where and how they lived. I admit to being somewhat surprised however (and gratified) to learn that the foremost independent U.S. pollster believes that world view is held by a significant number of Americans.

From his 20 years of research, John Zogby concludes that, “We are in the middle of a fundamental reorientation of the American character … away from wanton consumption and toward a new global citizenry in an age of limited resources.” Not everyone agrees with the extent of his optimism, including me.

Yet, here’s some takeaways from his new book, The Way We’ll Be.

1.  Significant numbers of Americans “are less interested in luxury and extravagance than in comfort, convenience, costs, and the dictates of a growing global consciousness.”

2. There’s an emerging class of Americans “who want less, expect less (so much for job security: 40% of Americans consider their work situation ‘unstable’) and can see insincerity coming a mile away.”

3. “Americans want to live in a world with other people, not in a walled empire surrounded by enemies.”

4. The main impetus for #3 comes from “First Globals,” (current 18- to 29-year-olds).  They are “the most outward-looking and accepting generation in American history.” More than their elders, they feel more personally connected to the world outside the U.S. For example, “they’re the first color-blind Americans and the first to bring a consistently global perspective to everything from foreign policy to environmental issues to the coffee they buy, the music they listen to and the clothes they wear.”

If Zogby is correct, then his findings have implications for the upcoming presidential election, as well as for how products are made and promoted.

For quite different yet thoughtful views on how we view ourselves read ….

Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga.

Why We Hate Us: American Discontent In The New Millennium by Dick Meyer.

Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted August 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kare,

    I hadn’t heard about Zogby’s book, so thanks for pointing it out. It’s on a topic that interests me.

    Has Zogby written a research-based book or an opinion-based book?

  2. Posted August 20, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Bill
    Yes (my cheeky way of saying it has elements of both)

  3. Posted August 21, 2008 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Dear Kare,

    Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog. I wish you the best. Your articles are great.

    William Atak

  4. Posted August 21, 2008 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Cool. Thanks, Kare!

    . . . and cheeky can be good. 😉

  5. Rachel Conine
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Why am I totally surprised that I am not the only one who sees us moving in this direction? I’ve seen it coming for a long time . . . I’ve had a fair amount of time to watch it happen. How refreshing that the Global Generation and their children and children’s children will not even be discussing this. . . . or at least on a lesser scale. I really see us screaming down the path towards a global world . . . .

  6. Posted August 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    While we may not be making any remarkable progress of foregoing luxury and extravagance, I believe there is an important shift underfoot. With the talk of Global Warming, we have become at least spectators of the world. A spectator is a good first step but what is needed further is our participation. We need to become a participant in the rhythms and nature of the World. Through our heart, we need to meet our World soul to soul, realize we are married to it and become a participant in the messy process of relationship.

  7. Posted August 26, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Aaron
    Several people have written books about how we have become passive spectators of life, relaying more on being entertained than on enjoying the company of others, doing things that give us joy and a sense of fulfillment… In fact Ben Stein wrote a column in this Sunday’s NYT, suggesting that people take the gadgets out of our ears and away from our eyes when we are out and about….. connecting with life is the first step towards knowing how we feel in a moment, reflecting on our lives…. then taking responsibility for the world around us… as you write about so well.

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