On my recent visit to New York City, I was captivated by this gigantic video screen outside the M & M’s World in Times Square. I stood gawking at it for 15 minutes as the green, then the blue, then the red M & M’s character took turns to prance around and show off his or her antics. It was then that it struck me — no one can brand, package and sell a product (or an idea) like the Americans can. M & M’s started as just a chocolate in 1941. But the Americans personified and animated the chocolates into delightful cartoon characters and now use them to sell M & M’s bags, mugs, toys, cushions and all kinds of paraphernalia at a spectacular store in New York City. It is doing a truly roaring business.
It was then that I realised — all the talk of the decline of the United States is grossly exaggerated. Can China ever match the soft power and the ingenuity of the United States? Can they produce a Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga or Transformers movie? It was deeply ironic that the Americans took a Chinese animal — the panda — and turned it into a hit movie around the globe: Kung-fu Panda. The collective Chinese ego suffered a major blow from this, and it prompted much soul-searching in China over why they could not make a hit cultural product out of their own animal, but the Americans could.
Walking through New York City, you can’t help but feel the sheer verve, swagger and inventive genius of America. Of course it’s easy to focus on the debt problems in the country, the gun crime, the constant political bickering. However, no country is without problems; a country as vast and diverse as America is sure to have many issues. But it remains the greatest nation on earth, with strengths that other countries will find very difficult to replicate or match.
From this, I drew another lesson: we must always look at something holistically, instead of only focusing on its positives or negatives.
I shall reflect further on my American experience in my next post.
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