>Superman or ghosts?

>illustration by Suzanne Allen
From an old review of Richard Nisbett’s book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why in the Village Voice, Orienting the East: U. Michigan Psychologist Richard Nisbett Asks: Do Asians and Westerners Think Differently? by Hua Hsu (April 16-22, 2003)

In 1944, the eminent Chinese anthropologist and sociologist Fei Xiaotang accepted an offer from the State Department to spend a year working in the United States. Fei’s stint began with all of the excitement and wonder promised by this still-rising star among nations, but as the months drew on he grew exhausted with the fidgety, restless nature that outlined every feature of American life. He returned to China wiser and more attuned to American customs, but thankful that they were not his own: “American children hear no stories about ghosts. They spend a dime at the drugstore to buy a Superman comic book. . . . Superman represents actual capabilities or future potential, while ghosts symbolize belief in and reverence for the accumulated past. How could ghosts gain a foothold in American cities? People move like the tide, unable to form permanent ties with places, still less with other people. . . . In a world without ghosts, life is free and easy. American eyes can gaze straight ahead. But still I think they lack something and I do not envy their life.”


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