What's So American About American Culture?
May 12, 2002 2:08 AM   Subscribe

What's So American About American Culture? Richard Pells launches a spirited attack on the notion that American culture dominates the world, noting how almost all its sources are European, which would explain why "American culture has never felt all that foreign to foreigners". As a sideline and a Sunday provocation, I suggest to you that, apart from medicine, computers and entertainment(movies; music; web sites) Europe is either as good as America(art; literature; architecture; universities; publishing)or a damn sight better: telecommunications; TV; cars; pharmaceutical products; food and drink; luxury goods...In fact, America and Europe complement each other quite perfectly. Though we win in the end, of course, because we're much better at appreciating this symbiosis. If only because know and enjoy more American stuff than you Americans do European stuff. So there!
posted by MiguelCardoso (61 comments total)

 
Oops: "If only because we Europeans know..."
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:11 AM on May 12, 2002


Just face it my friend. You wish you were me. (though secretly, I wish I was you)
posted by eyeballkid at 2:33 AM on May 12, 2002


If I didn't know better, Miguel, I'd say you were trolling here, you provocateur, you.
posted by crunchland at 2:33 AM on May 12, 2002


Excuse me, I was eating McDonald's food and shooting one of my many handguns at a minority. What did you say?
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:36 AM on May 12, 2002


Being part of the white minority, I resent that.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:38 AM on May 12, 2002


It's long been a rant of mine that once *every* other place in the world becomes McDonald-ized and Gap-ified, it won't be any fun to travel. Slowly the world is becoming very much "the same" wherever you go. It's very obvious if you're *in* America: When was the last time you were in a city that DIDN'T have a Wal-Mart and/or Olive Garden? But increasingly that's the case when you're *not* in the U.S. And I used to be a little sad about that ... but I don't think it's anything you can "fight". The "American" way of life (i.e. democracy, free enterprise) is eventually going to be everywhere, right? ... and is that so bad? I don't know. If it *is* so horrible to be Americanized, why is it happening everywhere?
posted by GatorDavid at 3:01 AM on May 12, 2002


Miguel Cardoso, where are you from? (I am from Barcelona, Spain)

I am very critic with all things american, just because they are very influential and ever present. You have to be aware of what is doing the SuperCountry, specialy when it is commanded by a bunch of right wing militaristic wackos.

But fortunately, there's much more in America than its government (I know it can make me look a troll, but I love Chomsky, for me it's an example of a man that loves his country).

I speak Latin and pay my tributes, but my Emperor isn't Bush & cia.
posted by samelborp at 3:34 AM on May 12, 2002


Gatordavid, Americanization is happening everywhere because it appeals to our laziness (strip-malls rather than shops you can walk to, fat and sugar rather than fibre and nutrition, pyrotechnics and sex rather than intellectual or emotional engagement). We are susceptible to things that appeal to our laziness because we are all being worked into the ground because of that other great American export, blind short-term opportunistic free market capitalism (if it makes money, it's good, end of story). Yes, strip-malls (for example) are convenient and useful to SUV-driving parents of small children (a powerful lobby, since they are affluent enough to both reproduce and consume), but the rest of us used to like going out and seeing people and feeling like part of a community, rather than just someone who's in competition with other drivers. This is why we hate Americanization - it's too seductive to the overworked and downtrodden to resist, but we see it destroying centuries-old ways of life (that have served us reasonably well - i.e. medieval market towns with pedestrian centres, suddenly turned into ghost towns by ring-road Wal-marts). The American way is "happening everywhere" because it is a lowest-common-denominator-grabbing money-making machine for the dominant classes, and people subscribe to it because it masturbates the lowest-common-denominator susceptibilities of the downtrodden.
posted by scooterboy at 4:47 AM on May 12, 2002


America gave the world the comic strip, blue jeans, and the bumper sticker....now top that!
posted by Postroad at 4:47 AM on May 12, 2002


European cities are not full of Walmarts and, what are the other evil things? Starbucks - oh yes, we've got those. But they have to compete with the clones: Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Coffee Co etc etc. My point is that European cities are full of our own homemade crap that makes every provincial town look exactly the same. We don't have Olive Gardens, we have Pizza Express. Instead of Walmart we have Tesco, Sainsbury's, Carrefour, LeClerc. I remember going to a Leon De Bruxelles in France. It was fast food mussels. Every mussel the same size and the same bland taste. THe French have managed to fast-foodise their own cuisine.

Same goes for TV. TV is beginning to look the same the world over. Formats get sold to hundreds of countries and the only change is the presenter and the contestants: Big Brother, WWTBAM, Weakest Link, Survivor, Changing Rooms. What does it matter where they come from? Multichannel TV in the UK is now owned by the same people who run the newspapers (News Corp), the Web in Europe isn't owned by AOL, it's owned to a large extent by the French (Wanadoo/Freeserve) while the British, French and Germans have got the mobile networks sewn up (Vodafone/Orange/Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile).

But does it really matter where any of these companies come from? Even in Hollywood, which is supposed to be the epitome of American cultural dominance, a huge number of the directors, screenwriters and actors will be speaking with foreign accents. The money's American but the talent quite often isn't.

Advertising and marketing were not invented in America and I'd argue America doesn't do it the best. Freedom and democracy were not invented in America and I'd argue again that America doesn't do it the best. But what does it matter? Many countries contribute to Western culture but none control it.
posted by Summer at 5:36 AM on May 12, 2002






Nice fucking troll, Miguel.
posted by NortonDC at 6:03 AM on May 12, 2002


The author seems to argue that America is a collection of immigrant communities, therefore it's culture is derivative of other nations - there is no American culture because there is no America.

But it ain't so. America is much more than the sum of it's immigrant parts. When Europeans praise or complain about American culture they mean something quite specific, expressing America's unique egalitarianism, freedom of expression and absence of controlling cliques. Much of this comes straight from the First Amendment.

It's the underlying theme of absolute freedom of expression, coupled with a related and alluring prosperity that makes American culture so attractive and pervasive across the world.

There's nothing European about that.
posted by grahamwell at 6:09 AM on May 12, 2002


When China takes over the world a few decades from now, Americans and Europeans will bicker no more.
posted by Voyageman at 6:14 AM on May 12, 2002


absolute freedom of expression, coupled with a related and alluring prosperity...
There's nothing European about that


Oh Jesus, now you really made it. You've willingly ignited the 10,000th MeFi thread about the fascinating topic "You guys gave us Nazism, Mussolini, Bosnia and Socialism" vs "Shut up, you KKK, militia, Rodney King, Jesse Helms ugly Americans"
Almost as bad as I/P threads...
posted by matteo at 6:37 AM on May 12, 2002


Great conversation! Thanks everyone.

I agree, it's becoming harder and harder to find distinctiveness within America. However, that just makes my quest more interesting. Harder, but more of a quest to find consumables and atomosphere that are not the run of the mill.

An interesting convergence (just thinking outloud): Target department stores. They often have products that have a sense of style that go beyond the Walmartian sensibility. And, if you don't buy them when you see them, they're gone. Limited.

I've noticed that I'm willing to now pay for good service more than ever before as being treated as a valued customer means so little these days.

In today's Washington Post there is an article on What Makes a Market Super. As local, family-owned grocery stores get bought up by meganational corporations, the level of service and products is getting less and less. In an effort to become more efficient, the number of products on the shelves are becoming less. Less choice so shelf life will be longer and restocking is less frequent.

Ironically, one of the biggest food chains in the DC area, Giant, was bought out by a Dutch corporation, Royal Ahold. And many, including myself, see less products than before. An interesting twist, where we in America, are losing our individuality to a large "foreign" corporation.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:43 AM on May 12, 2002


America is a European (primarily British) product, though much of the toughest work building it was done by Africans and Chinese for little or no money. If Africans and Chinese eventually take the place in lieu of unpaid wages and interest, it wouldn't be a bit unfair.
posted by pracowity at 6:59 AM on May 12, 2002


This is not a troll:
GO BACK TO EATING FROGS, EUROTRASH.
*big wet smooch for Miguel*
posted by darukaru at 7:02 AM on May 12, 2002


What's interesting to me, here, is that samelborp from Barcelona Spain, expressed my (as an American) exact feelings about America.
Expect for the bit about Chomsky and the Latin, of course.
posted by dong_resin at 7:42 AM on May 12, 2002


Oh, yeah?!?! Well if you like Europe so much, Miguel, why don't you go LIVE there!?!?!?.......oh, er.....ahem....I see...never mind....

But seriously...I'd argue that on some level this is not about globalization (Starbucks everywhere) but the traditional kultur vs. culture debate. I'd argue there is a genuine "American" culture that has absolutely nothing to do with its Western European heritage, and it's that white-bread middle-class kitsch we all love to hate (yet slavishly fetishize). We do export a vast amount of popular culture, but its the sort that does have a broader appeal. I doubt we sell many "bent-over grannypants" lawn ornaments or "dogs playing poker" velvet paintings in the shopping venues of Milan or Munich.
posted by briank at 7:46 AM on May 12, 2002


America rules product; it rarely competes at soul.

We are the ultimate pragmatists, which leaves gaping holes in our lives.

The world will end up Americanized if America is not destroyed soon (our enemies know this), because our engines of product and culture are adaptive to an extreme degree. We will shamelessly and relentlessly borrow, adapt and incorporate ANYTHING that we can repurpose, repackage, and resell. That's why aspects look familiar to Europeans (and, increasingly, to Asians, Africans, and other regions); familiar, yet distinctively different, clearly American. We will sell not only McDonald's to the French, but Taco Bell to the Mexicans. Marketing and advertising, the uniquely American sciences, produce more powerful weapons for us than nuclear physics or biochemistry.

He who adapts best (and fastest) fills the most niches and dominates. This is what we are all about. The best most other cultures can aspire to is to weave threads of their own into our world tapestry, to compete to be the chocolate or pistachio in our buffet of 31 (thousand) flavors.
posted by rushmc at 7:57 AM on May 12, 2002


and it's that white-bread middle-class kitsch we all love to hate

Not me. I genuinely love all that white-bread middle class kitsch. To a very large degree the fact that we have such a large middle-class is to a large degree America's triumph. The middle class desires stability, respect and good sense; It's neither dominated by the decadence of the rich or the nihilism that can infect the poor. Sadly the middle-class culture that spawned me (and I'm willing to bet a large proportion on MeFite's) is vanishing and being replaced by something that combines the worst elements of the rich and poor culture.

So if you'll excuse me, I going to sit in my tract house, put on some Elvis and eat a baloney and velveeta sandwich on Wonder Bread followed by a Twinkie.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 AM on May 12, 2002


See, an american or an american meFi may say...
"miguel, our man in Lisbon" (a play upon an english phrase, yes?) OUR man?. He is Portugals man, he is the worlds man. we like labels dont we. Perhaps Miguel is provoking a debate, a debate which is centered on Pells article...i believe he is challenging use to refute the Mcspook movie image Pells dredges up. (IMO, pells says nothing new) Japanese used to tell us...'clothing and movies are all america is good for'

"wheres your cash kow now...shee"

perhaps we should just list americans and accomplishments and take it from there. then trace some euro antecedent.
examine what china has given the world as far as products, culture, politics. see how it trickeled into europe, then to america. Pell goes through a short 'time-line' but concentrates on the 20th century...a classic historical mistake.

"comic strip, blue jeans, and the bumper sticker"

kinescopes, sans-coullotes (sic sp.), footman at the rear of the coach.

bravo miguel.
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 AM on May 12, 2002


Plumbing. The only technology that really matters.
posted by srboisvert at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2002


I think you have to be genuinely a little ignorant to feel that Americans have not contributed just as much as Europeans have to the worlds of art, literature, architecture, science and academics during their nation's relatively short history (only a couple hundred years). Just because there are fewer cathedrals and coliseums here in the States doesn't mean that all America has contributed to the world are kitsch and McDonald's; what about the writers, (serious) filmmakers, artists, and so on? There are plenty of them. That's how we Americans know the difference between 'Americana' and 'American culture' -- by looking at our real culture in contrast to the American Schlock they sell at Archie McPhee.

I would also say that there are people here in the States who hate McD's, Starbucks, etc. -- we fight them by not buying from them -- if people the world over turned not only their noses up but their wallets away from those chains they would not be expanding as they are. I think this discussion actually boils down to "American business vs. European business" -- it is about businessmen, not culture, in the end.
posted by josh at 8:25 AM on May 12, 2002


We will sell not only McDonald's to the French, but Taco Bell to the Mexicans.
Well yes but not in huge numbers really. And anyway the American food chain model is what the cultural export is, not the franchise itself. Even the concept of "fast food" isn't uniquely American... Fish&Chips, Frites and Gyros were there way before them and are still doing very well thank you. Anyway speaking of American culture let's keep in mind that there is more than one: Madonna (unfortunately) is a US export, Hank Williams Sr. (unfortunately) isn't...
posted by talos at 8:29 AM on May 12, 2002


A few words on American culture:

Without Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin stories, the detective story as we know it would not have developed. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle directly attributed the Dupin stories to his development of Sherlock Holmes. And the comparisons did not go unnoticed by critics at the time.

Americans have also given the world jazz, the comic book, the motion picture, Andy Warhol, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, H.L. Mencken, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Thomas Wolfe, William Gaddis, Thomas Pynchon, Alexander Calder, John Cage, Isadora Duncan and countless other cultural figures far too numerous to list. And I also find the article's refusal to mention Stanley Kubrick, D.W. Griffith or even Billy Wilder in its American filmmaking pantheon highly suspect. Without Robert Flaherty, the innovation of the documentary is pushed back at least fifteen years.
posted by ed at 9:28 AM on May 12, 2002


Alright, I'll bite.. here's my two cents...

First of all this argument that America is just a product of Europe (UK mostly) is stupid. Everyone came from somewhere, including you Europeans. Lots of folks agree we were all on Pangea before things split up and became a clusterfuck. Who cares about who immigrated/emigrated to/from where?

The point is, we're here now.

I'd like Europeans to know there's plenty of things we Americans don't like about our country. I'm not happy that I live in a land that was created by the destruction of an indigenous people (the American Indians). I'm not happy that my government is so money-driven, and controlled by oil companies. I'm not happy that AOL/Time Warner and Disney own about 2/3rds of the country if not the world.

However, America provides a lot of great things for me, too. I have a lot of freedoms I might not have elsewhere. There is a lot of great music here if you turn off your radio and just go to a local bar or club (not that there isn't in Europe.. I wouldn't know though). There's a lot of personality in America.. it's just not portrayed on TV. On TV all you see about America is the Gap, Abercrombie, and Pop music. While that may be the VISUAL majority, it's not really the majority in this country.

Most people are into more meaningful music, and frankly more unique clothing. But when you have 30% of people wearing Gap, and tons of little .5%'s wearing all different things - taking a survey you'll find that 60 times more people wear the Gap than wear Designer X. It's not a real accurate portrayal of the distribution of things.

I don't know why I just based my post on music and clothing.. they were the first things that came to mind as far as "soul" that someone mentioned... Anyway, there's my 2 cents :)
posted by twiggy at 9:43 AM on May 12, 2002


When was the last time you were in a city that DIDN'T have a Wal-Mart and/or Olive Garden?

Actually, living in a university town and working in one of the most affluent suburbs of Chicago, I can safely say that Olive Garden is pretty rare around here.

What I really really want is a reliable GSM cellular network. Europe seems to have figured this out a long time ago; America is playing ketchup.
posted by schlaager at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2002


We will shamelessly and relentlessly borrow, adapt and incorporate ANYTHING that we can repurpose, repackage, and resell.

You.. will.. be.. assimilated..... resistance.. is.. futile.
posted by crunchland at 9:56 AM on May 12, 2002


"Without Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin stories, the detective story as we know it would not have developed."

i agree, he started the 'modern' dectective story.
BUT the chinese 'Judge Dee' is the first detective 'story' I believe.

May this thread be long and wise.
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 AM on May 12, 2002


You have to be aware of what is doing the SuperCountry, specialy when it is commanded by a bunch of right wing militaristic wackos.

Ahh, I see you have been enjoying the fine news and information products of one of America's biggest cultural colonialists: McLeftist.

Heh. Seriously, I love American culture. I love European culture too, but not nearly as much. It often takes itself way too seriously. I'm with my man jonmc on this one.
posted by evanizer at 10:15 AM on May 12, 2002


I feel a snarkout coming on...

Americans have also given the world jazz, the comic book, the motion picture

That very much depends on whether you consider The Yellow Kid (1894) or Ally Sloper's Half Holiday (1884) to be the first comic book.

Perhaps even (stretching a point) The Rake's Progress.

And whether you consider the Lumiere Brothers to be American.

It's true about jazz, though.
posted by Grangousier at 10:35 AM on May 12, 2002


The pure products of America / go crazy.

Said an American.

Which makes me think that, as Grangousier suggests, America succeeds best with 'impure' products.

Oh, and evanizer: spoken like someone who takes too seriously the claims of his own culture not to take itself too seriously.
posted by riviera at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2002


Oh, and riviera: spoken like someone who takes too seriously the claims of his own culture not to take too seriously someone who takes too seriously the claims of their own culture not to take itself too seriously.

Really. You wacky Brits!
posted by evanizer at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2002


I have a boyfriend who lives in Trinidad/Tobago. Importing is minimal to none. Every time he comes to visit me he goes crazy for fast food, strip malls, Walmarts, and all other things that are gosh damn "American".

Every time I go to his beautiful country I want to punch him for being insane.
posted by oh posey at 11:37 AM on May 12, 2002


Europe is either as good as America(art; literature; architecture; universities; publishing)or a damn sight better

Oh, this is a troll and so I'll respond in kind. :)

Attacks like these are predominantly launched by the underdog. Europe feels a terrible insecurity about itself and its place in history as it begins to see its predominance eroded. Is this ALL of Europe with its diverse cultures (Franco, German, Anglo, Iberian) and history (back two thousand years to the Roman Empire shall we say arbitrarily?) taking on a relatively mono-cultural country whose history only stretches back 250 years?

Yes, we will remember that yours was the first comic book and the first film in the same way that we will always remember that it was Leif Erikson that discovered America - that is not at all except to historical nit-pickers.

That an argument about cultural superiority has even broken out at this point, this early in our history, is a great compliment to our drive and our unstoppable ingenuity.
posted by vacapinta at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2002


we're much better at appreciating this symbiosis

No, you are just riding our coat-tails. I dont think you've thanked us enough, especially you British. The English language dominates the world today as the de-facto language for business and technology. We are all here having this discussion in English. And that is entirely our doing.
posted by vacapinta at 12:17 PM on May 12, 2002


Anyway, Sherlock Holmes owes more to Wilkie Collins than Edgar Poe, from what I've read.
posted by Hildago at 12:43 PM on May 12, 2002


I can't believe we have gotten this far without a European taking credit for the invention of the Web.
posted by rcade at 12:46 PM on May 12, 2002


We are all here having this discussion in English. And that is entirely our doing.

That, I suggest, is a matter of opinion. Unless you want to provide something that constitutes 'proof'.
posted by riviera at 12:56 PM on May 12, 2002


Whose culture is better will always be a matter of opinion. I love the American one, even though I love traveling to other parts of the world. If the Europeans hate it so much, then why don't they just do something about it instead of constantly complaining? (Very typical of Europeans, hehe :) Europeans could stop buying American products. If they are paranoid enough they could even ban American products, cut off ties with America, and so on. But they are not going to, and I think we all can guess why.
posted by epimorph at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2002


While I generally agree with epimorph, I really wanted to say that rushmc summed it up about as well as it can be summed up.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 2:15 PM on May 12, 2002


A couple of years ago I met a TV Producer from New Zealand who told me a few things about how TV works there.
1] TV Executives would purchase [US] TV Guide and base the schedule off that. "Futurama's on Sunday at 7pm, We'll put Futurama on Sunday at 7pm".

2]When a tape with "Days of our Lives" costs $16[NZ] and the same type of tape brand new costs $32[NZ] why would you bother buying a new tape? In fact why bother with a show that would cost a couple of thousand dollars to make when you can get "an hours worth of show" for $16.

Sure its pretty simple economics, but it becomes a huge block on a "cultural identity level" and that's what the world is afraid of.
posted by X-00 at 3:19 PM on May 12, 2002


God, after all that do I fancy a 'Starbucks'
posted by feelinglistless at 4:03 PM on May 12, 2002


I guess I didn't do a very good job of it ... but what I was thinking while I was writing my initial response was that maybe all this is "a good thing" (tm). Maybe ... just maybe ... once we've all arrived at some similar level of mediocrity (although I tend to think that the good ol' US of A way is a tad better than mediocre), regardless of how pitifully masturbatorial it is, we'll begin to think of Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba and Senegal and Ireland and Palestine and the Seychelles as just people that are far away from us, and not people that are so different from us that we really should pity, condemn, beat-the-crap-out-of-in-football, marginalize, or deride.
<valley girl>
Like ... y'know ... we'd all just love each other or something.
</valley girl>
posted by GatorDavid at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2002


"America rules product;..."

Which product would that be? Product made by Sony, Akai, Hitachi, Toshiba, Sharp, Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki, Yamaha, Hyundai, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Nokia, Bose, Audio-Technica, Belkin, Blaupunkt, Heineken, Guinness, Stolichnaya, Cuervo, IKEA, British AeroSpace, etc...

"We will shamelessly and relentlessly borrow, adapt and incorporate ANYTHING that we can..."

Please, you can't really be suggesting that America is the uber-pragmatist, or that America was the first country/nation to ever repurpose, repackage, and resell product. It's ridiculous to claim that any nation is better at it than any other.

European, and global culture in general, has as much effect on the US as 'American culture' has on the rest of the world. It's silly to have a pissing match over whose culture is superior, whose products dominate, who invented what first, or who's getting assimilated.

English as a global language probably owes as much to British empirialism, as it does to 'Americanization'. In the end, outside of a good debate, who cares?

'European culture', if you want to group it all together under that heading, and discount individual national culture, is no more than than the leftovers of its own wars of assimilation. Empires rose and empires fell. Bits of culture from whatever nation ruled was assimilated. Not to mention the cultural assimilations based on trade through the centuries. There probably has been no place that has gone untouched by European hands.

But is 'American culture' simply a derivative of 'European culture'? For the purposes of debate I'd have to say no. Does it have roots in 'European culture'? Of course. But it has evolved far enough along that it is now its own thing. I'd wager that for the most part, Europeans that migrate to the US wind up with as much 'American culture', or 'Americanized', as the 'European culture' they bring with them. It is people who adapt, not 'Americans' or 'Europeans' or any other grouping of peoples.

"...because we're much better at appreciating this symbiosis."

Miguel, as a provocation, I suggest to you that Europeans are the only ones complaining about it.
posted by mikhail at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2002


Culture, shmulture; product, shmoduct. I would kill (or at least smuggle) for, however, a Canadian toilet that actually flushes poop.
posted by yhbc at 6:14 PM on May 12, 2002


It's ridiculous to claim that any nation is better at it than any other.

LOL Do you have any familiarity with American society?
posted by rushmc at 6:42 PM on May 12, 2002


Shouldn't everyone feel like their country is the best? No necessarily that everyone else sucks, but that your homeland rocks? Maybe (like with everything else) us 'Mericans are just louder about it.

There is also an upside to having McDonald's everywhere = consistency.
posted by owillis at 7:59 PM on May 12, 2002


"Do you have any familiarity with American society?"

Actually I do. Now do you have a point you want to make, or do you always laugh while you try to make one?
posted by mikhail at 8:10 PM on May 12, 2002


Well, if you do, then I guess you're trying to be funny. :)
posted by rushmc at 8:15 PM on May 12, 2002


Shouldn't everyone feel like their country is the best?

Why should one feel that way? Whatever criteria you choose to use, clearly not every country can be "best." Are you suggesting we all choose to believe a patent lie? Better, I should think, to clearly identify areas where one's country may lag behind others and try to improve in those areas.

Nationalism is primitive and evil.
posted by rushmc at 8:17 PM on May 12, 2002


Summer : It was fast food mussels

Funny. As bad as fast food Lobster!
posted by HTuttle at 8:29 PM on May 12, 2002


Better, I should think, to clearly identify areas where one's country may lag behind others

I suppose its a difference between glass empty/full....

I don't know if I'd call it patriotism rather than nationalism. One can certainly think their country is great/greatest but needs work in many areas (as I feel it does).
posted by owillis at 9:38 PM on May 12, 2002


My point is that every country cannot be the "greatest," unless one considers that one is the greatest at manufacturing, one is the greatest at literary criticism, one is the greatest a making chocolate candy, one is the greatest at producing orchids, etc., which seems silly and pointless. Why bother? One should not derive self-esteem by pretending to the superiority of one's nation over the rest of the world, IMO.
posted by rushmc at 7:04 AM on May 13, 2002


Yes, rushmc, I've always found it perplexing(and stupid and sad) that people derive self-esteem from facts they had no hand in and did nothing to deserve, i.e., being born in country X, being of Y colour skin or being of Z height. It's fine to be grateful and all for being the son or daughter of A and B, growing up in town C or D and going to school E, but it's important to remember that if one did have a good start in life this should be discounted from one's accomplishments(and regarded as privileges)rather than turned into them.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:57 AM on May 13, 2002


Agreed.

Not that there's anything wrong with privileges.
posted by rushmc at 7:16 PM on May 13, 2002


European cities are not full of Walmarts and, what are the other evil things? Starbucks - oh yes, we've got those. But they have to compete with the clones: Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Coffee Co etc etc.

In reading this, what came to mind is the fact that is may be easier to avoid "American culture" in America than in any other comparably developed place. What I mean by this is that if you have a certain amount of wealth, you can exist in an archipelago of developed, civilized, yet minimally corporatized locales. For example, I suspect it may be easier these days to avoid sighting fast food/corporate restaurants in Manhattan and Westchester than Paris and the suburbs towards Versailles. Or take the Hamptons versus the St. Raphael. I think what's going on is that while Americans confront the corporate juggernaut and either embrace it or adapt (with their retreats), people elsewhere don't understand said juggernaut, or are in denial.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:30 PM on May 13, 2002


kinescopes, sans-coullotes (sic sp.), footman at the rear of the coach.

Help, my postillion has been struck by lightning!
posted by y2karl at 12:05 AM on May 14, 2002


Nothing worse than a French fastfood knockoff. Also, what is Flunch?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:08 AM on May 14, 2002


American culture is way too Germanic for my taste.
posted by lagado at 5:38 AM on May 14, 2002


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