Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I Saw in America.

My family and I have recently completed a nearly four week holiday in the United States. Over the next few posts I hope to write about the impressions that the country left on me; not all of them positive. I found it difficult to articulate these impressions for a while and upon return to Australia, picked up G.K Chesterton’s book on his experience of the U.S. He visited it in the 1920‘s and 30‘s,  and surprisingly, I felt that many of his observations still hold true to today.  Whilst he was very polite in his writings about the U.S., I could not help but form the opinion that the country disquieted him, seeing in it something that was toxic to the ideas of Christendom.

Americans, I have found, find it very difficult to take criticism of their country objectively and tend to impute malice towards the critic. And it is true that there are a lot of malevolent critics of America. I am not. Sometimes its very difficult to see the problems from “inside” and that what’s needed is an outside view, and that’s what I’m trying to provide. I am convinced that one of the big problems of the U.S is it’s cultural insularity. Roosh V is on the money when he urges people to travel and I think it is its very important that young American men of the Right ( who will be its future advocaes) get out and see the world. Not so much as to remake the U.S in the image of another country, more to be able to compare how other people live; in many instances better than in the U.S.

Nearly all of the Americans that we met appeared to be fundamentally good and decent persons, and in many ways, better than a lot of the Europeans and Australians. If I had to generalise however, I would say that the higher up the food chain an American was, the less I tended to like him. Prole America in its failures seemed more human that corporate America in its success. What distressed me the most however, was the erosive destruction of the American people by an economic system that seems to be literally grinding them into the dust.  After visiting the U.S. the “we are the 99%” movement is very easy to understand.

As a result of this trip I feel that I understand Roissy a lot a better, especially with regard to American women; they really are different compared to other women of the world. My appreciation of Ferdinand Bardamu has also grown, as I feel he is quite accurate in his critiques of American society.

22 comments:

Mike43 said...

Look forward to your comments. I've done a bit of travel as well, and mostly the same could be said of every countryman. They all reacted rather harshly to criticism. Now, I'm speaking of the run-of-the-mill types you come into contact with while traveling.

Most folks don't like the critiques, but I must agree that here, in your blog, is a great place to state your observations and defend them in a vigorous debate.

Looking forward to the content.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we are fat - way too fat. Moreover, despite the fact that our Hollywood movies project the idea that we are the friendliest, most extroverted people in the world, we are anything but that (with the exception of certain parts of the "prole" class). Americans, as a rule, will not, I repeat, WILL NOT, strike up a conversation with a stranger unless there is something they want from them. There are exceptions to the rule, like myself, but we almost always refuse to converse with those outside our official social circle.

Carnivore said...

Good intro and am looking forward to future observations.

Your suggestion that Americans travel abroad is a good one; something I've also suggested to my fellow countrymen. The ignorance and closed-mindedness of your average American about the world beyond the states can be frustrating in conversation.

Simon Grey said...

"I could not help but form the opinion that the country disquieted him, seeing in it something that was toxic to the ideas of Christendom. "

There's a rampant hedonistic materialism running through America, and it has very much infected the church. Most Christians believe they have a religious duty to love their country and support the military even though Christ's kingdom is not of this world and we do not war against flesh and blood. Beyond that, most churches are basically corporatized, wherein worship is mechanical and rote, with no room for variance or emotion. Worshipers are basically checking in, serving their time, and going back to their lives. And Christians focus on the most marginal of things when attempting to demonstrate righteousness. It's quite sickening, really, how little spiritual-mindedness exists in the United States.

MW said...

As a Canadian, it's always fascinating to travel through the US and see the subtle but extremely important differences between the two countries. One of the saddest things I see is that so much of Americana being so slavishly embraced by Canaduh. We truly are a country nourished on self doubt.

I'm looking forward to your musings of Americans vis a vis Australians, as I am also half Aussie on my Mum's side.

Will S. said...

Even de Tocqueville's observations about America, still ring very much true; little has changed...

Like MW, this Canadian is also looking forward to hearing your observations. I have travelled lots to the States, and I lived there once for almost a year, so I have some strong opinions of my own. It will be interesting to see how much your observations correlate with what other outsiders have observed.

Walenty Lisek said...

If you think that all of America is represented by that Ferdinand Bardamu post, then I'm guessing you were only in the North East or the Left Coast.

I lived in the North East of the U.S. for most of my life, but having moved to the Midwest I can say that things really are different here. Recently I was talking to an immigrant from India and he too noticed that people in the North East typically hate each other and don't trust anyone. I agree with him and would add that the North East has a large concentration of emotionally unstable assholes.

Here in the Midwest, the people are a lot more laid back and friendly and open to others.

I agree with the idea that Americans should travel around to see how others live, but if they can't afford foreign travel then traveling to the different regions of our own nation would be a good second best because the culture really does change.

chuckew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Social Pathologist said...

Chuckew breached my comment policy.
His comment was hence deleted.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Walenty

I was only in the US for just over three weeks but covered a lot of ground. I missed the Mid West but met a lot of people from there; people I liked. The most interesting Americans were small town people. I value both sophistication and goodness, but if I had to choose between the two it would be goodness first.

Ferdinand may go a bit rabid at times, but I feel he has a finger on the pulse. I felt that there is quite a lot of truth in his writing.

Ulysses said...

Agree with Walenty about the regional differences. When I travel toward the coasts, and I assume the NE is similar based on people I know who live there, it's as though I've traveled to a different, albeit highly similar, country. Not saying that the South or midwest are perfect, and we certainly have our share of fat people, but the culture is different. I live in a place that attracts immigrants from other states. (They like to flee to my quiet village as the taxes are low and then start demanding we locals charge much more in taxes.) One can always tell who the coastal and NE people are. They just stare if you wave or say hello.

GK Chesterton said...

Like I said earlier, I think its dangerous to take America as a single entity. The states are sovereign, even if that is being forgotten, and there are a plethora of regional differences.

That being said I think you are correct about some of the problems you allude to. I might suggest this book: http://www.amazon.com/American-Religion-Harold-Bloom/dp/0978721004

I found his critique in most spots very well reasoned and I think you would enjoy reading it.

GK Chesterton said...

Like I said earlier, I think its dangerous to take America as a single entity. The states are sovereign, even if that is being forgotten, and there are a plethora of regional differences.

That being said I think you are correct about some of the problems you allude to. I might suggest this book: http://www.amazon.com/American-Religion-Harold-Bloom/dp/0978721004

I found his critique in most spots very well reasoned and I think you would enjoy reading it.

Anonymous Protestant said...

I wonder what the original Chesterton would have to say about modern Great Britain and the state of Christianity there.

Last summer I was visiting a church that is supporting missionaries in England. I was told that London is as challenging a mission field as many parts of Africa.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Ulysses.

I spent time in both Charleston and Savannah. I also drove a bit through Georgia and must admit I quite liked a lot of what I saw. ( The prettiest girls were there as well)

@GKC

From what I saw, there is a lot of regional variation in the U.S but also a lot of things in common. To a U.S citizen there is probably a lot of variation amongst the groups, to the an outsider there is a remarkable degree of similarity.

But GKC, one thought that did occur to me since leaving the U.S. is, "What would happen to the country if their central Government failed?(financial ruin) Is there enough internal cohesion to keep the country together?" I don't think I had experienced enough of the U.S to form a conclusion about the matter. But I do think that the U.S could theoretically fall apart simply because of the large demographic changes that have happened over the last thirty years.

The Social Pathologist said...

@AP

I wonder what the original Chesterton would have to say about modern Great Britain and the state of Christianity there.

I think he'd be horrified with what he saw. In England, the people are actively trying to shed their dignity, whilst in the U.S. the people are desperately trying to keep theirs.

Anonymous said...

Why in God's name would you take your family to America to be sexually molested and abused by the TSA? I'm an American and even I won't go back there.

Brendan said...

Interesting point about travel. It's a comment I've always found interesting personally, because I travelled very extensively abroad in my twenties, lived overseas for over a year twice (as a student and, later, professionally) and really what I can say is that these experiences made me more solidly American, rather than more critical of America. If anything, they made me intensely critical of much of the uncritical Euro-worship that is so common among the American left.

So I think travel can impact different people differently, really.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Anon.

We went through quite a few airports and the TSA were quite nice actually.

That's reminds me of another difference between Australia and the U.S. In the U.S. there is a small partition between the urinals whereas in Australia there isn't any.

@Brendon.

Like you, I do think there is a lot of uncritical praise of Europe, but there is also a lot of stuff that's quite warranted. Travel has made me better see both the strengths and weaknesses of my country. Europe holds a lot of appeals to many Australians, but nearly all of them return here when they want to have a family. Most Australians recognise that Europe is cultured and civilised in a way Australia isn't, but also recognise that Europe is quite family unfriendly. My point here isn't that travel should make a man repudiate his country, rather it gives him an opportunity to compare it against other working societies.

Victor Delamente said...

Americans handle praise very well--we are used to our leaders doling it out for doing normal, ordinary routines. Hence, every red-white-n-blue patriot can reference Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. However, we hate criticism for various reasons, mostly because it takes a stab at our national identity, which is the second-most important identity behind race. With the nationalist propaganda carefully crafted in WWII and the ongoing "us against them" during the Cold War, this identity was pushed to the forefront, only surpassed by race because of the postmodern push for multiculturalism. Criticizing Americans as a group is perceived as a personal attack--much like a closely-knit special ops unit.

I look forward to your posts critiquing the USA. It is not like it was in 1830.

Samson J. said...

As a Canadian, it's always fascinating to travel through the US and see the subtle but extremely important differences between the two countries.

Yes, I agree, the differences are subtle but important. When in the US, I usually feel less like I am in a different country and more like I am in a surreal, Bizarro-version of home. In any event, I spent a week in New England a couple of months ago and didn't notice any sort of grim haggardness.

Not so much as to remake the U.S in the image of another country, more to be able to compare how other people live; in many instances better than in the U.S.

But also to appreciate American ideals. I never valued the American concept of liberty as much as I did after returning from touring Europe 6 or 7 years ago, seeing with my own eyes the history of oppression by kings, wars, other tyrannical forces.

Brendan said...

Most Australians recognise that Europe is cultured and civilised in a way Australia isn't, but also recognise that Europe is quite family unfriendly. My point here isn't that travel should make a man repudiate his country, rather it gives him an opportunity to compare it against other working societies.

Certainly very useful. My own take was that Europe is both more and less free than the US -- it is a question of what is considered "important" in terms of freedom. I can own a gun or be a Nazi much more easily in America than in Germany. I can be gay, a skinhead, or a dole-slacker much more easily in Germany than I can in America. It's about the kinds of liberties one finds important. In my own exerience, Germany was not lacking in liberty, but the kinds of liberties that were valued were less important to me than the kinds of liberties that were restricted.

It really is eye-opening and it can end up going either way. I have seen quite a few Americans and Australians as well try to "go native" in Europe, but few stick this out. Most revert to some kind of mean, eventually, as you note in your comments.