Fading of American Mystique

April 11, 2019

I’m realizing that I love talking to younger people about life. I remember how I felt and how I saw the world when I was in my 20s, but the world is different now. It is fascinating to hear the description of the world I see now from the perspective of 20-somethings.

I had tea with Kay who grew up in Japan and is in touch with Japanese youth. Unlike me, she is a proper Japanese, so, she brought me a gift which is what you see in the photo. We covered many topics but one that is lingering in my head now is her confirmation that young Japanese people are no longer interested in coming here. She believes it’s because it’s very comfortable to live in Japan; it’s safer, food is better and cheaper, and the economy is doing fine. Why leave?

That makes sense but Japan was comfortable even for my generation too, so perhaps we are directing the question to the wrong generation. Why did my generation come here? There used to be a sizable Japanese community in the East Village. Back then, most of the Japanese restaurants were owned by Japanese immigrants. Not many are now. If there are any Japanese festivals, I only see a small number of Japanese people participating in it. Some did go back to Japan but the main reason for the decline is that younger people are no longer coming.

I think many people of my generation came here because of the mystique and the excitement of the American ideologies, particularly of capitalism. USA was a powerful brand. Trump is right; it isn’t so great anymore. He sees it from an economic point of view, but it’s declining ideologically also. The mystique and excitement are fading because America broadcasted its dirty laundry too much. People now see that America is just another country, and that “American Dream” isn’t so different from their own domestic dreams.

For my generation, the experience of living in the USA meant something to the friends back home. For many people, this was part of the impetus of coming here; to go home with an enhanced status. Now that America does not have this power, and capitalism has hit a wall, being “comfortable” became more attractive for those in other developed nations.