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View from US: Xmas cake and pudding too!

December 25, 2011

Classy, well heeled Americans fill up the space tastefully decorated with Christmas cheer. My hosts , the Hamiltons, have been coming to Grand Café for years. They love the French cuisine. Husband and wife, both successful in their own fields of business, are upbeat, happy and ready to hit the ground running when 2012 arrives. Alex is obviously in the top 20 per cent of Americans who fire up the engines of American growth, making it still the richest country in the world.

“The top twenty percent are smart people, wherever they be will be, whatever they attempt to do, they will always succeed!” Alex says. “They have energy; they go out of the way to take risks; they are loaded with smart curiosity; they work exceptionally hard and have a good EQ.”

Hold it right there! I interrupt. What do you mean by a “good EQ?”

“It is like your emotional intelligence,” he says. Janet, Alex’s wife, who has been sitting quietly jumps in, “EQ is like how well you deal with environmental stress in everyday life,” she says. Is that all? I ask.

“No” says Alex. “Emotional Intelligence (EI) is often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ).” Quoting sources, Alex describes EQ as an “ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.” It is a new area of psychological research.

People with a bad EQ are those who are not humble. “They instinctively think of themselves, instead of looking outside of themselves. They fail to build trust or empathise with others.”

The world is a better place today. “There are zillions of reasons for it,” says Alex. The cold war ended 1991 lifting the 60-year-old iron curtain. “For the first time in history we are exporting oil instead of importing it.” Gas was $10 a gallon, now it’s $3, thanks to off shore drilling. “We always adopt a way to find a solution to our problems.” America is still #1 in innovation. China is muddling through. While it is hungry to get ahead, has good work ethics, “it will never catch up with us... it lacks entrepreneurial risk taking.” It will never produce a Steve Jobs, inventor of Apple. Innovation is the premier driver in US.

Just as I am about to open my mouth and talk about the ‘war against terror,’ Alex continues “Let’s not a have a sad view of the US – it’s a Superpower. We are first among equals ‘primus inter pores.’ Europe is stuck. It is too sick to move. But we must not get carried away... We have too much arrogance, hubris in us. We need to curb it.” The investment adviser is critical of the “excessive focus on sports” and feels that colleges treat their sportsmen like “gladiators.” It involves “financial and moral corruption.” Americans are “slaves” to the ball games on TV. “We are doing a big disservice to the African-Americans and Hispanics who excel in these games.”

In the end, Alex sounds a death knell for the bottom 3 per cent of Americans. “Their issues will remain unresolved.”

Americans tend to be optimists, Janet says. “So we would like to believe that the economy, which is top priority for us will improve. That hopefully we will see our troops come home sooner rather than later. We hope as a country we are less hated by others, and again become the country that was once the true visionary and economic leader of the world.”

Spoken like a woman whose heart and head are in the right place.

Janet continues “ We don't understand why we are spending our money on fighting wars outside our country, when that same money is needed by so many to improve our lives right here in the US.”

Next year will be an election year.“Shove down our throats will be mailings, TV, radio and billboards. We hope to elect a leader who can be a ‘turnaround’ President. Besides all that, we are all very self-centered and selfish like anybody else. We tend to focus first on ourselves and our small little world that we create around us. We want to believe that we are good and generous people, so of course we will give some contributions to the homeless and the less fortunate.”

Christmas has become big business. Most of the money that the large retailers make is during this season. “Therefore the hyper-marketing and aggressive mailings, TV ads and unrelenting sales people drive you nuts. You almost wish this was over so life would get back to normal.”

We are interrupted by Alice and Desmond, owners of Grand Café. “You guys have been so busy talking that now it’s time for some dessert. Take your pick: Christmas cake or pudding?” All three of us chip in: “Xmas cake and pudding too!”