posted on Aug, 10 2004 @ 09:12 AM
Is the term “American Culture” an Oxymoron?
President George Washington it is claimed, once objected to having a National Opera for the US because he thought the actresses “on the stages of
Europe” were “of low moral stature” and that it would have a negative impact on “national morality.” Whatever that means.
Well…so much for “Mozart for the Masses” in early America. The US has come a long way from its Utilitarian Roots, but not far enough it seems.
This kind of “Anti Art Mentality” in America was not uncommon among the so-called Founding Fathers whose aims were mainly utilitarian (“produce things
with the greatest use for the greatest number”) as opposed to “Ars gratia Artis” (Art for Art’s Sake). The Americans, it seems, will never be like the
French. But then again, as Josef Fux used to say in his Gradus, “de gustibus non disputandum est”…
I think people in the US forget how “young” America is, and how “old” most of the rest of the world is. And in many ways, how unique an Experiment the
whole idea of purposefully creating a Melting Pot of the world’s nations (intended originally to be a Light to the Nations, but the lamp unfortunately
is quickly flickering out)
There’s a kind of sick cultural myopia in America since the 19th century, when the US began to take on some semblance of true nationhood, a
Weltanschauung which tends to view everything in terms of what is happening within its own borders must also be happening (or SHOULD be happening!)
outside of them.
And most of this disinformation comes from the fact that the Americans are far too fond of watching corporate sponsored television where it is
repeated over and over ad nauseam that the World is somehow “jealous” of Americans (Newsflash: the world isn’t ) and want to be just like them in
every way (wrong again).
What Americans need to do is live abroad more for extended periods in foreign countries (and a week in Europe doesn’t count!) in order to see the
outside world the way it really is, rather than the way it is artificially portrayed in the Corporate Sponsored US News media (which are after all
owned by the same 5 multinational corporations and who basically broadcast the same political views and stories day after day, and restrict the debate
on many issues for the masses to consume e.g. “we tell the people what we want them to think and talk about, but we don’t tell them everything…”
Aaronson of CNN has recently told some people off the record )
(Unfortunately, putting this “Taking Americans Abroad as an Educational Experience” theory into practice has become rather tricky now that the
so-called US “president” Dubya Bush has made every American abroad a target for extermination…)
Of course the Americans could always pick up a book and take some time to read…but that might be expecting a little too much for them----they’re all
too busy trying to make money so they can buy an RV and find a new way to afford to put gas into their tanks.
Now,. if Americans lack any semblance of “cultural roots” it is because of the sheer age of the country itself--- which is still in its adolescent
phase in many ways, still grappling with basic questions of morality (cf: the modern debate about gay marriages which shouldn’t be as divisive an
issue as it seems to be in the US, is still being discussed in relation to the clan god of Israel in the Torah of the Jews for some reason).
When one pauses to consider it, “America” is a kind of “artificial construct” a “conglomeration” of many countries (“e pluribus Unum”, after all,
means “One [nation forged] out of the Many”] as opposed to a single cultural entity in its own right,. One might even say it is a hotchpotch of 50
little countries [“states”] with no real single cultural heritage or cohesion except on the surface.
It is true that the idea of having a central government in charge of radically different separate and independent States was borrowed from the
Amerindians (cf: the Iriquois League and the Sioux Nations), but very little of what Americans call “culture” was home grown: almost all of it came
The result is as many have pointed out on this thread, a mass of confusion at times, with different political, cultural and social agendas all
bumping into each other like a crowded Freeway with no lanes and traffic running in 4 different directions at the same time. The end result is that
Americans simply do not know who they are, or what their true role in the world is, and end up getting caught in the maelstrom of the American Media
Jungle which seems to dictate culture to the masses, who greedily swallow it up.
Even America’s very name was said to have been borrowed from somewhere else (the Italian Amerigo Vespucci is the current candidate, but there are
other explanations out there) and the country as a whole has always been a theoreticl construct without any central Kultur (the cultures and
subcultures that do emerge from the pot often display contradictory ideals) but admittedly many of the Founding Fathers had some very high minded
idealism [“all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”] .
Unfortunately, America has not lived up to many of its Founder’s creeds, but suffered over the centuries with some very poor application of their
original high mindedness, as Rev Martin Luther King often said [many of the US Founding Fathers like General George Washington owned hundreds of
slaves and several of them even fathered half-breed children, like Thomas Jefferson—so much for all men being created equal, and of course the US
Founding Fathers would never have allowed women the vote…let alone discuss gay rights initiatives or Freedom of Choice when it came to abortion].
In fact, this “theoretical Experiment in Republican Democracy” [the curious term used by the US Founding Fathers] was actually formed from its
beginning [often by brute force] by wealthy European and American born Freemasons [who bankrolled the Revolution against Great Britain] along with
some well heeled “self-made” businessmen in the late 18th century who established what later became the “acceptable religious Morals of the new
Nation” planned the general political and cultural Weltanschauung of the US and wrote the US Founding Documents and Laws governing the country,
including that overarching document, the US Constitution….
The US Founding Fathers were a race of entrepreneurs and money making businessmen whose goals were to establish a free market without the restrictions
set by the Nobility of their European brothers. But before long, 200 families were in control of most of the country’s wealth, e.g. even John Hancock
owned the monopoly licensing on all the Flour and Bread in Boston…
Everything America has today of course has been borrowed from somewhere else, and there is very little that is actually “indigenous” to the US.
But Americans have curiously transformed everything that comes into their country in the process, as all cultures are wont to do, not only culturally,
economically, socially but also technologically.
Most of the Americans are blissfully unaware that the US had imported most of its “brains” and invention-talent from other countries before being able
to “improve upon them” ---for instance, they tend to forget that Basketball was an invention of the Canadians, (Naismith, 1891), that Henry Woodward
(also of Canada !) sold the patent for the Electric light to Edison, that NASA was at one time (and still is to some extent) full of German rocket
scientists (gee, wonder why…?) that photography was the invention of a Frenchman (Daguerre) that Alexander Graham Bell was NOT an American (he was in
fact born in Scotland), that Radio was the invention of an Italian (Marconi) or that Television was invented by a Briton (Baird) Or think that it was
the Greeks (Archimedes) who apparently invented the idea for the common Screw…(go figure) …and this list of cultural and intellectual “borrowing” in
the US is long -----and generally ignored by Americans who automatically think they invented everything.
The US “genius” [if one can use such a term] lays in its abilities is to take thousands of ideas from Genii from all around the world, and give
provide intellectually and economically “fertile land” to improve upon their ideas and in many instances allow these ideas to be put into practice.
We speak the “foreign” language of our original conquerors (e.g. English and Spanish), we dress in “foreign” clothing (originally imported from our
European cousins), worship a “foreign Middle Eastern clan-god” (Yahweh, the local god of post Exilic Israel, i.e. the “god of the bible” and R.
Yehoshua bar Yosef, the Galilean [which the Americans call “Jeeezuzz” preferring a Latinised version of the Greek rendition of his name for some
reason] and everything we see and touch has in fact come from another “country” or culture.
No wonder the Americans have no single "Kultur" of their own.
The US is still in the melting pot phase of its adolescent youth—which begs the question, are they Old and Wise Enough to be leading older and more
sophisticated cultures into theie own contradictory ideas of "freedom" when the ultimate the question is, what junk (or gems) will all this melting
Maybe the US should sort itself out first before imposing its jumbled mix of contradictory philosophies (that it does not even fully understand
itself) upon the larger world, which most of its citizenry can barely find on a map.