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The Spartan Greeks of Bridgetown - PDF - / Send As Email
The Second Generation
by J. Mayone Stycos
In Common Ground, June 1948, pp. 72-86 - Previous Article / Next Article

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THE SPARTAN GREEKS OF BRIDGETOWN:
THE SECOND GENERATION
}. MAYONE STYCOS
(This is the hst in a series oi three
articles on the Greek Americans of a
northeastern city by J. iVfayone Stycos.
Graduated from Princeton last June, Mr.
Stycos has been working since then with
the Princeton population research group
in Puerto Rico and the United States.
The two earlier pieces on the Greek
Americans appeared in our Winter and
Spring 19^8 issues.)
I N UNDERSTANDING the psychology
of the second-generation Greek Americans,
the role of habit in life must be considered.
Habits are in general fixed patterns
of acting, thinking, and feeling. They
are ways of behaving that have become
stereotyped in us and consequently require
little conscious thought, their chief
advantage consisting in an immense saving
of time and effort for the organism.
Thus we do not have to think about walking
upstairs or brushing our teeth, and if
scientists advocated different ways of performing
these actions, there would be
great resistance to the proposed change
because change requires thought and effort,
and is accordingly undesirable. Concerning
habitual attitudes, few have to
think about how they feel toward Jews,
Negroes, Communists, etc. These attitudes,
right or wrong, have become habits,
and all who have attempted to change
another's attitude know how unwelcome
and how difficult a change of mental habit
is to the average person. Because they save
us trouble and time, because the grooves
worn into the brain become smooth and
comfortable highways to our thoughts
and activities, our habits come to be preferred
and enjoyed not necessarily because
they are right (although this is usually
the rationale), but simply because we are
accustomed to them, because it is the line
of least resistance.
When two alternative courses of
thought or action are presented to the
individual and they are not greatly unequal
in other respects, he will generally
choose the course to which he has habituated
himself. However, there are times
when the individual sees either that the
habitual course is occasioning undesirable
results, or that some otlier alternative
promises much more. In that event, a
new course of action may be chosen in
spite of the disturbance and difficulty in
abandoning the habitual response. Thus,
with many children of the foreign-born,
when conflict occurs between the habitual
ways of acting and thinking (those
learned in childhood and consequently
"foreign" habits) and new ways of
thought and behavior (those of the American
community), the individual will often
abandon the habits of his childhood and
his parents in an effort to be identified
with the majority group he believes will
bring him more social prestige and economic
opportunity. This switch to the
value-attitude system of another group,
however, is not accomplished without
cost; and the transition from the habituated
"foreign" attitudes to those of the
American group, even if ever fully accomplished,
causes conflict in many spheres.
72
PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG

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