Some ramblings about American culture.

What would you call something which, having become poisoned and yet dominant, seems to impede, in its way, the further forward development of human culture at large, the hard won notions of the enlightenment, the happiness of individuals everywhere, and possibly the advancement of the species as a whole? I call it American culture.

Western civilisation was built on the tenet that mankind is beyond nature. Animism placed us as the most aware of the animals, but still a natural capacity in a wild world. Polytheistic religious cultures lived under assumption that mankind were the slaves of the Gods. The actions we carried out were equally as likely to please one God as vex another. Here mankind was between God and beast, but still a mere sacrifice if the Gods so wished us to be.

Monotheism shifted the place of humanity completely, allowing us to reign over the kingdom of God ourselves, placing God’s love as the number one reason for our existence. God loves his children, and his children were born of his very own image. The natural world lies completely outside the universe of man.

I believe many aspects of what you say here lead back to this fact. Our fears of sex, our grasping of the simulacrum of youth, our inability to learn from our past mistakes are all symbolic of the desire mankind has to be God himself - to shun his animistic origins. The youth of America is viral because its power to satiate the human desire to find meaning in life has become the quickest fix in cultural history. The spirit gives way to the ‘lifestyle’, mythology gives way to ‘entertainment’, and nature gives way to an all conquering ‘science’.

And as for George W, well. As a great philosopher once said - “Oh doobie doo, I wanna be like you-ooh-ooh. I wanna walk like you, talk like you, oooh oooh oooh”...

posted on 06.18 at 08:45 PMMr.Danieru

It seems that many of the most successful people are exceptionally fucked-up: I wonder if the same is true of cultures. Certainly the globally-bulldozering Victorian British culture was a marvel of repression & hypocrisy; and I would guess the mixed-up American attitude to sex is in a large measure inherited from its parent culture—terribly sorry about that, by the way, old chap!—could it be that American culture is so successful because of its particular confusion of dysfunctions?

posted on 06.19 at 03:28 AMmisteraitch

I am always reluctant to comment on American culture, not being one of you. But I would like to point out that, once again, far away hills are greener and this vein of anti-intellectualism is not limited to the United States. It’s just that, as is always the case when if comes to societal change, you are leading the charge.

And as regards sexual disfunction, you have nothing on the Irish. Although it could said be that we are headed in the right direction, while you are going in the wrong one.

posted on 06.19 at 08:19 AMPierce

Normally I love reading about how much american culture sucks, and its true, but I think your views of other cultures are a little too romanticised, and consequently the whole post is a little hard to swallow.  Other cultures have their own problems, that are sometimes entierly absent in the flawed american culture, these facts you reaedily dismiss in your idilic rant.  There may be many things to learn from these other cultures, that we are adamant about disnissing, but they are also far from perfect.

posted on 06.19 at 10:55 AMnymous

@misteraich: My girlfriend just finished reading a book (the discussion about which is what prompted this post) in which the author points out “Victoria’s Secret” as the most overtly sexual American success story, claiming that the secret to their success is right there in the company’s name:

Victorian + Secret = perfect vessel for America’s repression. 

@nymous: Agreed “nymous” this post was “idilic” and stilted. I admit that readily. Pretty much why I titled it “Ramblings…” But then, that does not make the observations any more or less worthwhile I don’t think.

What I focussed on was what I’m familiar with, American culture, and nothing else. My conclusions that this culture is a threat to others may or may not be correct, especially in the sense that one flawed culture infiltrating another flawed culture may not be much to write home about. But I don’t think anyone would argue that American culture is not viral and in as much its flaws are a troublesome payload. Especially if our flaws supplant another’s virtues.

Actually, now that I think about it, there’s a possibility, however remote, that globalization could shake out to leave world culture with nothing but an aggregation of each cultures flaws. Yikes! Alright, I’m romanticizing again…

But yeah, I hear where you’re coming from.

posted on 06.19 at 11:34 AMjmorrison

Sorry to rain on your parade.  Now I feel bad. You’re perfectly entitled to ramble as much as you like.  I guess that post simply didn’t fit with my preconceived notions of what this blog is about and therefore it triggered that response in me.  One should always be free to ramble.  I just wasn’t expecting that.  Ah, the complicated world of blogs…

posted on 06.20 at 04:53 PMnymous

No worries nymous. None at all. Let’s just hope I can manage to surprise and revolt you again in the future!

posted on 06.20 at 06:06 PMjmorrison

The problem with anti-American sentiment in my mind, is the fact that it often creates self-righteousnous in people like us.  Canadians.

Yes, there are many ways in which our societies differ, but in most ways they’re the same.  I’m not talking about going to war with Iraq or staying out of it.  Nor do I refer to issues like right versus left.

Western culture, led by America, is gobbled up in a good part of the rest of the world.  Canada is fully at fault for, at once, being part of it and admonishing the US for promoting it.  We all like expensive clothes, big-screen TVs, pop music and Coke.

The reason western culture dominates is the very reason it often does not embody higher values.  It is focused on the individual, commerce, consumerism, idol worship and the surface.  It is easy to digest, attainable and makes people feel important for no particular reason than that of attaining something disposable and new.

While I’m not a Buddhist, I do believe attachments are at the root of most suffering and, perhaps, that very notion is why America (and Canada) has some serious fucking issues.

posted on 06.30 at 09:52 PMJames

You’re right about the puritanical streak in American culture.  Oh, how you hate those Philistines, those unsophisticated boobs!  Their simplistic division of the world into absolute good, and absolute evil.  Perhaps it was from the Puritans that they inherited this priggish sense of righteousness and purity!

But it occurs to me that you are the exact mirror image, an inverted duplicate of these same tendencies.  In America we suffer from the prigishness not only of the Puritans, but also of the self-appointed anti-Puritans, who exchange old Hells for new,  and laugh away the old Heaven while dreaming up new ones. 

Your “ramblings” continue the in the persistant American tradition of Fire and Brimstone evangelism.  This land of sin and decadence, of “game playing man-children”, this “cesspit of waste and debt and ecological ruin”.  Oh, but guide us to the promised land!  Where does our redemption lie?  Where can we enjoy the eden of “pleasures of the flesh”?

“If those among us who want further enlightenment here on earth do not eventually shake loose of the yoke which keeps America backward and fearful….”

Preach!  Let the spirit take ye!

Please guide me to the lands of uninhibited sexuality.  Where can they be found? South America?  the Middle East?  Asia?  Central Asia?  Great mother Russia? 

My good Puritan, your touching American naivete will be tested, if you should venture beyond the dominion of sin and into the greater world.  Be prepared.

posted on 09.07 at 11:15 PM.


posted on 05.04 at 12:48 AM.

I agree with you, in America we suffer from the prigishness not only of the Puritans, but also of the self-appointed anti-Puritans.

posted on 06.18 at 02:57 PMStudent Art

The reason American culture is so dominant is that it is about the individual. How many cultures are about society? About family and doing things for others? But not in America. You want something? Buy it. Don’t care about anyone else. Don’t care if your wife hates it or you need to hide it from your children. It is about you. And I do believe a lot of cultures are being blind sided by this sudden, dominant culture of commercialism and individualism. Look at India where they were heavily family oriented. The villages would hand make clothes and other goods. Now major corporations came in with giant ads, models, and brands with giant superstores and completely pushed out everyone else. In the matter of years major cultural changes have been taking place. Many are leaving the family model of arranged marriages and tight networks and caste system for an American free-for-all of individualism and consumerism.

How can cultures compete with the constant attack through media and ads that America has put forth? American companies have larger budgets and can spend whatever they need to line an entire Chinese street with Coke ads. How can local music stand up to millions of dollars to promote and create a single Britney Spears song? Hell, they digitally alter the music to sound better.

posted on 12.11 at 05:59 PMDemexii

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