01 May 2008

Native Americans Have Weird Intersections

I am known to be someone who does "good-enough" processing. That essentially means that whenever I hear a stimulus, even if I am not so sure about what I heard, I assume the best possible match. Of course, I usually repeat it, to make sure I heard right, but most of the time, the things I repeat are way far off from the actual signal.

To illustrate, once, I was in a bar in downtown Elmwood with a few friends. This was the night when I went out with an American female friend, an American male friend, the female friend's American female friend, the male friend's American female friend, a French girl, a Colombian guy, a Spanish guy, and another random American girl.

So, we were drinking, and when I asked my female American friend to tell me something interesting, she asked her other American female friend for help. The other female friend then said, "One-third of Americans think we are heading for a recession."

I, on the other hand, understood it as, "Native Americans have weird intersections." Of course, I repeated it because it somehow didn't make sense, but when I did, people just laughed.

So, that's good-enough processing.

Anyway, speaking of recession, I read a news article yesterday about Americans selling everything they have, just to make ends meet, like family heirlooms, tea kettles, and other things. I then was appalled because I didn't realize that plenty of Americans are poor. Wow, I don't make tons of money as a graduate student, yet I do not consider myself as poor. I can still afford to take a few trips here and there during the year. And I do not need to sell my belongings just to make ends meet.

Then the surprising thing about the article was that it mentioned the things that they were selling. TVs, stereos, appliances, and all that bulky stuff. Wow. It seems that people can hoard plenty of furniture. But then they are poor? Somehow, my image of poor is not the right image to evoke, I suppose.

I asked my female American friend about this, and she told me that poor Americans apparently have a different mentality when it comes to money. When you are poor and an American, whenever you get money, there is no initiative to save it for a rainy day. What happens instead is that they buy things that they want, such as Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses, designer clothes, and other items of luxury. This may not make sense, but to them, they reason that there may not be another time to buy these luxury goods that they want, so they go ahead and buy them.

No wonder I see people dressed up that way in a ghetto neighborhood, and I get a surge of N400, because I experience a huge amount of cognitive dissonance. You're wearing a Dolce and Gabanna eyewear and yet you say you don't have enough money to feed your baby?

(Opening Plaque, from my Watkins Glen Series)


  1. Sorry I haven't been around for a while, but I saw your comment at Zhu's and thought I should say hi!

    This is a very interesting and readable post and you got some good points here.

    Funny you've posted about it today as it is (for most rest of the world): 1st of May - Labours Day you know.

  2. Hahaha! Pareho tayo kuminsan... I do that too. :)

    After the Katrina hurricane, there were plenty of images of the poor people of New Orleans on TV. Funny but they were all kind of overweight... pretty different picture of "poor" in the States from that in Africa and Asia.