Recently by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers: Fourteen-Year-Old Transvestites, Racists, Murder and Jr. High School: Welcome to America 2011
Greeting and salutations! They are no longer to say "Hello!" they are a defense mechanism.
I went to America a few months ago to see my deathly ill father. I didn’t want to go to America. I hate going to that place.
Why do I hate going to America? Well, there’s something very wrong about that country. From the moment you land at the airport — I always land at Los Angeles International (LAX) — there’s a tension in the air. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but it seems like a racial tension. It certainly got worse after the Los Angeles riots of the early 1990’s after the LA police beat up Rodney King.
Most Americans realize that America is an extremely messed up place and they will talk about it and complain about it amongst themselves but they will take umbrage with you if you, as an outsider, bring it up.
People may know that their kid is an idiot but they don’t like it if you say so….
America is one royally messed up place. Though most Americans recognize that fact, many are in serious denial or think that it is “still the best country in the world!”
Today's American is so used to being treated like a third-class citizen that they fail to comprehend what has happened to their country. Most Americans are so blind that they think it is normal to be yelled at by police on a street or scolded at the airport and treated like cattle. They think that this kind of behavior is normal.
Well, it is not. It’s bizarre and uniquely American.
Why don’t Americans recognize how bad that country has become? I suppose it’s kind of like the frog in the slowly boiling water: Things have been going to hell in a hand basket so slowly that Americans cannot see what kind of a crappy third-world country that place has become.
The biggest reason I hate going to that place are the police and the airport.
You know, there's a joke going around all over the world;
"How do you tell the American at the airport?"
"They are the ones stripping naked!"
Ha! Ha! Really funny, eh?
When you go to any other civilized country in the world, and leave, they don’t ask you to strip down naked and take off your shoes like the USA does. They don’t ask that you go through an X-ray machine like the USA does. They don't normally strip you of your dignity like the USA does.
Ask me why I hate going to that place.
The last time I went to a foreign country, besides the USA, I went to Hong Kong. Weird, those Chinese communists. Those people are polite and actually pleased that you come to visit and spend your hard earned cash. They are polite and kind to you! Can you believe it? They treat you with respect! What’s their problem? I had the same problems whenever I visited any other country in Eastern Asia or Oceania: The border and customs officials were polite and seemed happy to have me and my wife and children visit.
Odd balls, aren’t they? I mean, who wouldn’t think a guy who looks like a middle-class white American dude with his Japanese wife and 6-year-old son and two teenage daughters (with their Gucci bags and makeup) aren’t terrorists with bombs strapped under their clothing ready to suicide themselves for the freedom of Designerbagistan?
The USA? The surly immigration agent looks at my USA passport, his lips curl at the corners and he barks in a most foul attitude,
“What is your purpose in visiting the USA?”
“Uh, I am an American!" I say. But I think, "Duh! I have an US passport, dummy! Why do you think I am here? What is your purpose in being such a dolt?”
And that brings me to an interesting thing I heard from an American woman living in Tokyo the other day. We were talking about this very same subject. She said that she recently went back to New York and was surprised because people were “nicer” than she remembered them being. She had been living in Japan since the year 2000.
I asked her to explain what she meant by “people being ‘nicer’.”
She said that wherever she went, to stores or shops, it seemed that people were friendlier and more polite than she remembered. She said that when she was at a coffee shop, whenever customers walked in, they would always say a very polite “good morning” to the clerks and staff.
She’s right. American people do this. I’ve noticed it too. It is much more pronounced than it used to be before 9/11. In fact, this "overly politeness" has escalated as the recent years go by.
I have pondered about this and why it happens as I love to watch people and, in my amateur views on humanity and social behavior, reason why people act the way they do.
When I was in the USA a few months ago, I saw this very same behavior by people in many places I went. It has been becoming more and more pronounced as the US police state grows and crime grows along with it.
I didn’t usually notice these overly friendly salutations at chain restaurants such as a McDonald’s or fried chicken establishments like KFC or Popeye's. Nor did I see it at large, very crowded restaurants. (I did, though, notice many security cameras at a McDonald’s that I stopped at to get a cup of coffee off the freeway heading back to LAX). I noticed this sort of overly friendly greetings and gestures at small restaurants like corner donut shops, liquor stores or out of the way mom & pop coffee shops….
I noticed this sort of behavior by customers at these small shops and these small shops only.
“Now," I wondered, “why are people acting so overly friendly? Isn’t it strange?”
I did some very surface research about crime in my home county and found that more than 10% of all felonies were robbery (with 85% being assault)… When it came to property offenses, over 1/3 were theft.
Perhaps my image is wrong, but it seems to me that robberies of these little corner shops and mom and pop restaurants are far more prevalent than robberies of big chain restaurants and establishments that are full of customers. Low traffic and poor security seem to me to make an easier target.
So, how does this abnormally high amount of extremely friendly greeting work as a self-defense mechanism? It dawned on me at a coffee shop in Oxnard, California.
It was 7 am or so. I walked in. The shop's clerks nervously looked at me. They were a Vietnamese couple. Nice folks. I quietly said (in what used to be a normal voice in the USA), “Good morning.” I made my order. After me several others came in. They all gave out a very loud “Good morning!” (It seemed too loud, in fact)… Everyone did this as they filed in and out of the shop. I sat down and enjoyed my coffee at one of the two (dirty) tables available.
One after another, people came in with a very loud, “Good morning to you!” “How are you today?” etc. Nevertheless, there was that tension in the air whenever someone new walked in. It was the same tension I always felt at LAX.
If you always lived in Southern California, you’d probably never notice it. But if you lived outside of the USA for any period of time, this tension is very heavy and like soup in the air; it is a very heavy fog.
The tension is in the air. The people all greet in a loud, yet mechanical way. “What is the reason?” I thought….
I believe that this excessively friendly greeting and attitude was a method of self-defense. When these people walk into an establishment like the ones described above, they say a hearty (exaggeratedly friendly) “Good morning!” The true meaning of this greeting is not a de facto, “Good morning!” it actually means, “Don’t worry about me. I am a safe person and mean you no harm. I just want to come and go about my business. I am not dangerous to you!”
The greeting disarms people and allows them not to worry and can give them a chance to relax… Like I said, it is a defense mechanism.
It is just one more reason why the USA has gone to hell in a hand basket. People must now announce their intentions in coded language to others to show that they mean no harm. It used to be the other way around; people expected others to be civil; that was normal and a matter of course.
It used to be that it was normal behavior that everyone was not a criminal and only criminals announced their intentions upon entering and establishment by way of saying something like, “This is a robbery! Put your hands up!” Now, in 2011 USA, normal people must disarm others by announcing that they are not criminals by saying “Good morning!”
Many Americans will scoff at this idea. But, deny it as you wish, it is pretty difficult for any human being to shut off their basic human survival mechanism regardless of what country they are living in.
In today’s USA it is necessary to let others know that you have no ill-intentions upon greetings.
It used to be obvious and common that people had no ill-intentions towards others… In today’s USA? One never knows. In today’s USA you must broadcast your intentions.
It is a bizarre and sad state of affairs.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of an Internet & Cross Media advertising/marketing agency and a media production company named Universal Vision. He writes about marketing, the Internet and Social Media at the Modern Marketing Japan blog. His book, Schizophrenic in Japan, went on sale in 2005.