Is optimism tied to American-style individualism?

A person can be optimistic about a lot of things. A sports fan can be optimistic that their favorite team is going to have a good season. Some people are optimistic about the future. But, does optimism spring more readily from a culture that also values individualism?

This article sets out to show just such a link.

As an aside, I’m always surprised that the Germans are such a dreary lot.

The piece cites a Pew Research Center study of 44 countries that focused on people’s sense of control and also the effect of hard work. The results show that Americans believe both in the ability of the individual to exercise control and also in the value of hard work to affect an outcome.

Seems sensible but, then again, I’m an American.

Our individualized optimism is even set apart among other wealthy nations. Again, what’s Germany’s problem? They build some great cars and have the Autobahn for goodness sake.

I find the study results interesting because I do not find the average American all that optimistic. Instead I see and hear a sense of stuckness from a lot of people. People are questioning the cost and benefit of everything from education to government. Certitude of mission seems in short supply. Not even NASA seems sure of their mission these days.

Still, there’s a kind of resilience alongside the uncertainty, a kind of confidence borne of the unusual alchemy of democracy and individualism. As attitudinally challenged as we are here, I’m glad I’m not in Germany.

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Is optimism tied to American-style individualism?

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