The United States is a proud ‘patchwork nation of diversity’ or so it claims – well is it?
The United States was founded on the idea of equalopportunities which attracted massive migrant populations from around the globe
in waves. There is a deep seated tradition within the United States – a conviction in fact that the United States is one of the most diverse nations in the world. I spoke to a New Yorker on the way back from the US on the plane who stated emphatically that “The US is the most diverse nation in the world and Greenwich Village (in New York) is an example of this”. Having recently toured across the United States this conviction was repeated many times.
I’d like to challenge this view – from a semiotic (cultural) viewpoint this is not true, from an economic and demographic point of view this has some merit. Let’s look at the latter first.
Our Patchwork Nation is a polemic against the idea that the US often presents itself as two nations ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’.
As a result this can lead to a ‘bipartisan view of the US’ – there are ‘two USA’s in the USA’.
In the book ‘The Patchwork Nation’ http://www.patchworknation.org/ Chinni and Gimpel explore the US and come to the conclusion there are 12 different ‘United States’ vs 2, 12 different types of community:
BoomTowns – towns where construction is driving jobs
Campus & Careers – University/Educational hubs
Emptying Nests – Retirement Centres
Evangelical Epicenters – the ‘Bible Belts’
Immigration Nation – diverse urban centres
Industrial Metropolis – often ageing cities
Military Bastions – Army base towns
Minority Central – cities divided on racial grounds
Monied Burbs – white middle class areas
Mormon Outposts – self evident
Service Worker Centres – often small medium size towns across America
Tractor Country – rural areas across America
Our Patchwork Nation is a well researched book – it looks at a whole range of data to come to this conclusion. The interesting question comes right at the end. What holds the United States together if it is so diverse?
The answer (from the data) seems to be a positive mindset. The strong belief that with hard work the US will have a stronger, brighter, future. As a semiotician and marketeer I would go much further. From the outside this positive mindset is so deeply ingrained in ‘cultural code’ in the American media, films and movies – that it makes the United States appear mono-cultural. And given the high consumption of media in the US by these different communities – I would challenge the book’s premise – I believe that the ‘personal semiotic software’ of people in the
United States is much more strongly uniform than the economic data would suggest.
And there is only one way to find out – and that’s to produce a semiotic map of America – a map that asks the question – what does America mean to Americans? How does this meaning vary by State and how is America viewed from the outside?
Our Patchwork Nation is a great piece of research – but the really interesting question here is this – how diverse is America versus the rest of the world? America may view itself as diverse but relative to what? And if it isn’t diverse relative to the rest of the world – then America has a perception of herself, a semiotic of diversity, vs a reality of diversity.
Top Selling books in the US - what is America interested in?
“ What is curious is that six of the books are about the demise of America or the troubles of America or the fictional metaphorical stories of an
America after greatness. Now I know you’d say – well the US has had a hard time so it isn’t surprising. I challenge you on that…why? There is always something – 70’s was about Vietnam and the oil crisis but there weren’t books in the top 10 then about the demise of America.
Let’s take a surface look 6 of the top 10 books are about the demise of America.”
Let’s go for a surface look. The answer is America is interested in, herself. 6 of the top 10 books are about America.
Any great nation tends to become self centred. America is an amazing place but to visitors from Europe or other parts of the world incredibly ignorant of how she is viewed. What is interesting is that if you are truly on top of your game, you don’t care. What is interesting is that six of the books are a the demise of America or the troubles of America or the fictional metaphorical stories of an America after greatness.
America it seems is starting to care and question herself. Is China? Is China reading about the demise of China? Or is she enjoying stories about herself which is what book lists in America used to look like in the 1970’s.
Next week, we’ll look at China – right now look at what Suzanne Collins books are about. Is this prophetic or merely reflective of a country worries about the economy?
Suzanne Collins’ series is according to amazon.com :
“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed” Cheerie stuff then.
TODAY’s Best-Selling Books listranks the 150 top-selling titles each week based on an analysis of sales from U.S. booksellers. Contributors represent a variety of outlets: bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers.