A Unique Application of Personas
George Packer believes the people of the United States see Four Different Americas.
Each of these Americas is a “persona” crafted to fit personal values and beliefs.
According to George…
- “Free America” believes the purpose of government is to secure individual rights and little else. Consumer capitalism and the elevation of entrepreneurs are two of the markings of this belief system. In Free America, freedom is a matter of personal dignity, identity.
- “Smart America” is a meritocracy where talent and education determine the winners. They “go to college with one another, intermarry, gravitate to desirable neighborhoods, and do all they can to pass on their advantages to their children… It is the America of Mileage Plus Platinum, The MacBook Pro, grass-fed organic beef, cold-brewed coffee, Amazon Prime… The winners in Smart America have lost the capacity and the need for a national identity, which is why they can’t grasp its importance for others.”
- “Real America” believes the authentic heartbeat of America beats hardest in common people who work with their hands. “From its beginnings, Real America has been religious, and in a particular way; evangelical and fundamentalist… the villagers can fix their own boilers, and they go out of their way to help a neighbor in a jam.”
- “Just America” gained momentum when Millennials saw a disconnection between our actions and what we say we believe. Just America speaks of people being “marginalized,” “privileged,” or “harmed,” and they believe words can be a form of violence. A general argument can be closed down with, “You wouldn’t understand,” or “I’m offended.” In Just America, every idea is cross-examined and nothing can get done until the case is heard.
Packer summarizes: “All four of the narratives I’ve described emerged from America’s failure to sustain and enlarge the middle-class democracy of the postwar years. They all respond to real problems. Each offers a value that the others need and lacks ones that the others have.”
“Free America celebrates the energy of the unencumbered individual.”
“Smart America respects intelligence and welcomes change.”
“Real America commits itself to a place and has a sense of limits.”
“Just America demands a confrontation with what the others want to avoid.”
“They rise from a single society, and even in one as polarized as ours they continually shape, absorb, and morph into one another. But their tendency is also to divide us, pitting tribe against tribe. These divisions impoverish each narrative into a cramped and ever more extreme version of itself.”
– George Packer, The Four Americas,
The Atlantic, July/August 2021, p. 66