With the recent controversy surrounding the NFL ‘take a knee’ protests and the scandals currently emerging out of Hollywood, I’ve noticed American people are beginning to ask quite deep questions of themselves – questioning whether the culture they believed themselves to be part of really exists in the way they’d always thought it did. Different people, supposedly part of the same body politic, view these events in irreconcilably different ways.
Leftists and black people perceive the NFL protests as the valiant stance of an oppressed people, whilst the white, right-leaning, predominantly non-coastal dwelling population sees it an entirely different way – as an insult to the very symbols that represent their culture. Hollywood, and the culture that has been built around the entertainment industry – the very people responsible for managing and filtering the way Americans see the world, managed to run for decades on a system of vice, exploitation and corruption, the like of which seems incomprehensibly ghastly to the average, home-making American.
American people are questioning whether their culture really is as cohesive and united as they once thought, or whether there may, in fact, be multiple Americas, each a reflection of the different cultures, ethnic groups and social classes that make up the USA.
As an outsider to America, who nonetheless falls within the cultural hegemon of the USA, I’d like to make an observation about two versions of America that I see; two Americas whose existence are fundamentally at odds with one another. Let’s call one: America; and the other: Murica.
America is made up of the actual people that live in the country and form a continuity from its 17th century colonial founders. It consists of their traditions, their values, their families, their way of life and its relationship to the landscape and environment.
Murica is a media constructed fantasy.
It is patriotism and community expressed through substitutes like watching professional sports, and a sense of nationhood that relies on hollywood and corporate media for its mythology. It’s archetype is the urbanite tech worker, happily providing web support for facebook whilst consuming soy lattes and stars wars memorabilia. It has no real rooting in a people or place, thus signals universality over loyalty or heritage. It is a giant cultural supermarket.
Murica is phrases like ‘a nation of immigrants’ ‘land of opportunity’, Murica is Zangwill’s melting pot and Emma Lazarus’ latterly added inscription on the statue of liberty beckoning the worlds ‘tired, and poor’ to the country’s shores.
America is the Mayflower, the exclusive 1790 immigration act, a spirit of self-reliance and family values, and a blood connection to the civil war, the war of independence, the pioneers and the Oregon trail.
Conservatives in particular like to think these two Americas are the same thing – Hollywood and George Washington are part of one and the same cultural lineage. Leftists, increasingly, notice the disconnect, but do not look fondly on the latter or the culture that he represents.
I should note by the way that with this dichotomy I’ve set up I’m not denying that other, parallel Americas exist: for instance there is the America that African-Americans inhabit, and the America that Native Americans inhabit, which despite decades of propagandising and attempted integration, clearly remain separate cultures from that of white America. If anything, Murica is the lie that these disparate and very real elements all exist as one nation – that despite their differences they all ultimately put everything aside and find common identity through watching football, and consuming burgers, light beer and high fructose corn syrup.
I’m also not going to gloss over the fact that the ‘America’ I’ve proposed as a counterpoint to ‘Murica’ is a thoroughly white, gentile construction, that exists in part because of the conquest of other peoples by white European settlers. ‘Murica’ may in recent times have taken to guilt-tripping whites quite heavily for the aggressions and transgressions of their forebears, but it is fundamentally a colour-blind fantasy: one that sees the erasure of ethnic differences and integration as a good above other goods. But the question is: integration in to what? What is the ‘host’ culture that will absorb these different groups and make them one? As well as this, one can ask: is this integration ideal really something being lived out in the lives of the people that make up the present day USA?
The answer to that first question about what culture to integrate all these people into is: a culture of indulgence and atomisation, where an individual does not express their connection to the world through their heritage family or community, but rather through what they consume – through the television programmes they watch, the trendy political causes they champion without any self sacrifice, the food they consume, the holidays they take and the sex they have. The ‘American dream’. To me this sounds more like a living nightmare, and I pin the blame for the pervasive anomie that stalks western culture on this sort of outlook. For although America is a country and a people with borders and a place, Murica is potentially world consuming in its aspirations, with certainly any English-speaking western country now living almost totally under its dreamy spell. For sure, the USA is not the origin of the worldview and values that plague the modern west, but it is certainly its most powerful agent for spreading them.
As to the second question: do most people in America really strive for or act out any desire for integration with the other cultures inhabiting the same land mass: the answer is a resounding ‘no’. An overwhelming number of neighbourhoods throughout the country are majority one ethnicity. The phenomena of ‘white flight’ is testament to the often unconscious desire of white Americans to live away from other ethnic groups, and the hatred African Americans have for ‘gentrification’ speaks to their desire to be away from whites and other groups who would change their communities into something other than what it is.
The illusion of Murica is created by the likes of Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood corporate entities. The mythology is woven into the cinema and the artwork of that culture, all of it sustaining the idea of a nation sprung from anti-national ideals. A culture that is headed nowhere in particular, but is committed to a world in which people can follow their individual appetites into whatever personal abyss they choose.
It is from this emptiness that the culture of anti-white masochism we are currently witnessing can spring. When nobody has any personal bonds to a people or a past, it becomes ‘moral’ to show how willing you are to spit upon your roots and signal your devotion to the universal but surface-deep ideals of individual freedom and consumption.
Perhaps I am being a little cynical, and I am overlooking just how much the multiculturalism and bourgeois consumerism of the west is coalescing into a new culture, with new potential in a technologically advanced world. But I sense that the outcome will not be so utopian. What is lost when this becomes our ideal vision of ourselves? Can a community or nation exist whose only points of commonality are shopping, spectator sports and movie-watching?
If the future of a Murica-led west looks like the overweight, oestrogen-laden, Super-hero franchise t shirt wearing shadows-of-men I see shuffling timidly about western cities – then I don’t want it. If America however is to rediscover a sense of itself in this present identity crisis, if it re-learns the hardy but humble values that sustained all European cultures for many generations, then it may project another vision of civilization on to the west, and we may yet wake from the American dream.
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