Distinctly American - fundraising as a commercial activity

Seattle Travel Blog

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Just when you least expect it, you are hit by culture shock.

I was just lazing around at home when two kids knocked on the door. They said they were taking part in this youth group activity to compete to raise funds for their college education ($40K to $200K for tuition alone for a basic four year degree, and no interest-free government loans). The competition was to speak to people about their careers and so forth. Not a terrible idea, but it was "sponsored" by a magazine company which gave them points based on their ability to sell magazines to the people they spoke to, basically duping hundreds of kids to run around trying to win a prize by doing their dirty work of selling magazine subscriptions. One of the kids in particular was really American in that "all American farm boy" type of way, from Indiana (it was actually a little hard to understand him, I guess I'm not use to the mid-west accent). We signed up for Smithsonian Magazine to be given to a children's hospital, and he wrote some acronym down and asking us to guess it - it was "thank you and god bless you". I said, "we're atheists, so just your thanks is enough" and he kept on stammering "I'm so sorry". We reassured him that it was okay, we just don't want people to assume that everyone is Christian (the atheists in America often hide from discrimination under this assumption). The other kid was fascinated and actually, honestly, truly said "wow, so like as atheists and stuff do you believe that like humans evolved, you know grew up from, some type of cave man or something that existed in the past?" We had to give them a brief primer on human evolution, he was actually amazed that there was evidence that cave men had really existed and wanted to know what they looked like. The scariest part is that this kid already had a teaching degree from a community college.

It is really sad and shocking the extent to which religion has subordinated basic schooling here in America. And the extent to which community activities have become advertising ploys and commercially-driven is just plain distasteful. Another example is the Girl Scouts. In Australia, they are just groups of girls that mess around with ropes and stuff to earn badges, and raise money to go on camps by making lamingtons with their parents and selling them to friends and neighbours. In America they have to swear to serve "God and Country" (many groups don't let atheists join) and they have licensed a subsidiary company of Kelloggs (Little Brownie Bakers) to mass-produce 200 million boxes of cookies for them to sell at a commercial level.

I'm still surprised at how alien this culture can be.

shirlan says:
Humans are definately interesting creatures!
Posted on: May 25, 2008
mickeyd302 says:
I have a mid-western accent and living overseas some people have told me how difficult it is to understand me.

On the other hand, you should try being an agnostic (like me) in a Muslim country. It is difficult to be a heretic in a religious land.
Posted on: May 24, 2008
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