Mike Kueber's Blog

August 21, 2014

The Triple Package, The Bucket List, and Me

Filed under: Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 12:05 am
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While on my bike ride this afternoon, it dawned on me that the lessons of The Triple Package (Amy Chua’s book) might have some strong applicability to me. As you may recall, the triple package comprises three character traits that, when combined, tend to produce individuals who succeed in America. Those traits – a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. As I pondered the list, it occurred to me that in my youth, I could have been a poster child for the triple package:

  1. A superiority complex. During my freshman year in college, for a reason I no longer remember I was talking with a high school classmate about me, and she said in high school I had been self-centered or conceited. I don’t recall which term she used. I responded with disbelief and asked why the School Paper’s personality poll had listed a classmate instead of me as the most conceited in high school. She responded sensibly that just because he had been the worst didn’t mean I wasn’t bad, too.
  2. Insecurity. During my high school years, I hated the way I looked and sincerely thought I was one of the two or three ugliest guys in high school. Imagine my surprise when the aforementioned School Paper personality poll listed me as the most handsome guy in high school.
  3. Impulse control. I never had an allowance during high school. My brothers and I were given a calf to sell in the fall and the proceeds had to last us until the next fall. That will inculcate impulse control.

With those three traits engrained in me, you might think I was destined for great things. What the hell happened? Why did I underachieve?

The authors of The Triple Package provide an explanation for my underachievement that I like. According to them, success can be defined in numerous ways, including goodness, religiosity, or self-awareness, but for purposes of the book, they subscribed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., suggestion that success “in its vulgar sense” means “the gaining of money and position.”

Well, I like to think that, as a child of the 60s, I declined to pursue success in its vulgar sense. I distinctly recall on multiple occasions while early career and mid-career advocating against a full-throated quest for money and position. Instead I attempted to create a life that is more consistent with the philosophy described in another book that I recently read – The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly.  As you may recall, Kelly suggested that, for a life to flourish, a person needs to develop four critical facets – body, relationships, intellect, and spirit. Money or position are not on that list.

Looking back, I am satisfied with my work in each of the four items in the bucket, with one glaring exception – my failed marriage. Otherwise, I like where my body, heart, brain, and soul have been.

January 30, 2014

The Tiger Mom comes under attack by a politically correct Indian-American

Filed under: Book reviews,Culture — Mike Kueber @ 2:43 am
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A few weeks ago I blogged about a new book by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld.  The book is titled Triple Package, and argues that eight ethnic groups – Chinese, Indians, Cubans, Jews, Nigerians, Mormons, Iranians, and Lebanese – are thriving in America because they share three character traits:

  1. A superiority complex,
  2. Insecurity, and
  3. Impulse control.

This week’s issue of Time magazine contains an article by Suketu Mehta, an Indian-American who attacks the Tiger Mom thesis and suggests:

  • “[A] new strain of racial, ethnic and cultural reductivism has crept into the American psyche.  Whereas making sweeping observations about, say, African-American or Hispanic culture, flattering or unflattering – remain unthinkable in polite company, it has become relatively normal in the past 10 years to comment on the supposed cultural superiority of various ‘model minorities.’  I call it the new racism – and I take it rather personally.”

Mehta seems to have contracted an especially virulent and pernicious strain of political correctness.  Like an ostrich, he chooses to bury his head in the sand and ignore facts that are patently obvious to anyone looking.  To refute the Triple Package analysis, Mehta points out to his two kids a version of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” argument:

  • We worked hard, yes….  But we also benefited from numerous advantages – from cultural capital built up over generations to affirmative action to an established network of connections in our new country – none of which had anything to do with racial, ethnic or cultural superiority.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Cultural capital and a network of connections has everything to do with cultural superiority, and there is very little affirmative action in favor of the eight “model minorities.”

Mehta also asks, if Indian culture is so great, why is India “such a sorry mess, with the largest population of poor, sick and illiterate people in the world, its economy diving, its politics abysmally corrupt.”  His suggested answer is that the emigration process self-selects the best of its people for emigration to America, and he wonders what American would think about Indian immigrants if America shared a border with India and poor Indians were able to illegally enter by the millions like Mexicans.  Or, as another expert suggests, “If Mexicans threw out the top 10% of their population into America, you’d be singing a different tune about Mexicans.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Just because America doesn’t receive a cross-section of the Indian population, that doesn’t defeat Chua’s argument that Indian-American immigrants have three defining traits that bode well for success in America.  And with respect to Mexico’s top 10%, we have experience with them (legal Mexican nationals) in Texas, and we are singing a different tune about them.  Most Americans welcome them to our country as welcome additions to our society.  How does that contradict the Chua argument?

Mehta accuses Chua and Rosenfeld of ignoring “the realities of American history to make their half-baked theories stick.”  I think Mehta is guilty of making a feeble case in defense of political correctness.