A European/Belgian friend and I were discussing the lost art of friendly debating. Here are his thoughts on why Europeans are better able to have substantive discussions than Americans:
From my perspective, and based on my experience, Americans tend to be far more focused on judging people than trying to understand and appreciate them. Besides it being an insurmountable threshold to creating a community and meaningful relationships or friendships, it also makes them incapable of discussing any complex issues abstractly, especially if social norms and/or emotional reactions are involved. Furthermore, in the U.S., everything seems to be associated to some form of social norm which basically reduces any interaction to the equivalent of a discussion about the weather.
As I see it, people are isolated here, and incapable of transcending themselves, their relationships and their cultures, virtually creating a prison for themselves. The hole and emptiness this creates inside needs to be reinforced by 'same-minded' people and creates a co-dependent society of 'yes' people where they interchange their sadness by pretending to adhere to social norms for each-other...in other words, our culture is nothing more than a collective delusion creating a sick form of normalcy through a cult-like enforcement of norms and values.
Interesting observations. Cheery fellow, isn't he? :-)