It took me some time, when I was living in the USA
, to spot a
singular characteristic of the american Weltanschauung
, namely, the belief that:
If any given quantity of something is good
then twice as much of that same thing will be twice as good.
(the converse opinion, obtained replacing good
This is equivalent in believing that gains and losses (broadly
defined) are linear
(in the mathematical meaning of the word), or as
the saying goes:
You cannot have too much of a good thing.
Now I am not implying that a majority
- or even a sizable minority - of
Northern Americans have a literal belief in this obviously
extremistic position, just that it appears to be an attractor
American thought. There are examples of people (often, for obvious reasons,
deceased people) who appear to have held this literal view: I remember
reading the case of a US person that, on the grounds that excess salt
intake is bad, was so successful in avoiding it to come down with a
rather severe case of sodium
deficiency (to the disbelief of the
As a consequence of this, the complementary sayings "All in
moderation" and "Leaving good enough alone" always appear
to belong to (Northern) America's peripheral vision: Americans are
often called enthusiastic and energetic, seldom
This linear delusion is not necessarily bad, in fact it is partly
responsible for several of what I deem to be the best American
qualities (just like the - opposite - Italian universal penchant for
compromise has both good and bad effects).
Having conscience of this has helped me explain several
(otherwise unexplainable) quirks of the American way of life.
For instance, it is customary in Italy to have small office parties
for a colleague birthday - held during the work hours and in
the office, it lasts anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and the person holding
the party brings some pastry and something to drink, often including
some white wine.
An American visitor invited to one of these parties, was quite shocked
at seeing this and remarked that any form of alcohol introduction in
his office (he was hired at a large aircraft manufacturer in the US)
would have been unthinkable and constitute grounds for immediate
Most of the other folks put on their best "wacky americans"
faces: why should a little wine once in a while be so bad?
And they were of course missing the point of the prohibition, that
(to me) was obviously avoiding the possibility of the perception that
if "a little wine once in a while" is OK at the office, then
twice as much wine twice as often is equally OK or better, etc. -
typical linear thinking...