American Culture

The following is a collaboration by five alpha males. I edited. Click here for more info.

American Culture is a powerful force in the world today. It is like a conquering army that either overthrows existing cultures and values or incites strong rebellions that seek to repel its influence. The majority of the world is trying to adopt our way-of-life while at the same time harboring resentment and blaming us for the loss of their own culture.

Resentment stems from the fact that the worst aspects of our culture are the ones most likely to be spread. In Egypt you can eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut while sitting directly across from the Great Pyramids of Giza. You can walk into a clothing store in Lebanon and watch MTV on the television while shopping for American jeans. Baywatch enjoyed a long run as the most popular TV show in Europe until, much to the dismay of Deutsche Hasselhoff fanatics, it was displaced by Jerry Springer. The American sprawl of identical houses and mega-malls is well-entrenched in Canada, and McDonalds is constantly full of young people just outside Notre Dame in Paris.

The world media, quick to criticize and quicker to demand, plays its hand shaping world opinion by painting a negative picture of the U.S. For example, once the 2004 Asian Tsunami hit, the BBC and many other media outlets not only criticized the U.S. for not contributing more aid, but also for not donating the amount pledged fast enough. Even when (at the time) the U.S. had given more money than all other countries combined, the world media still berated them for not giving enough, finding fault by comparing donation amounts to GDP numbers.

These poor perceptions of American actions both at home and abroad can be traced to jealousy. More specifically, a jealous fear of being left out of what C.S. Lewis referred to as the “inner ring.” This is a fictitious ring where we place all the people and ideas whose acceptance we want most in our lives. It’s the cool kids table, with its own set of rules and mores that is exclusive by definition. If you’re out, it’s disaster beyond belief. It’s only natural then for non-Americans to scorn our immorality, our heartlessness, our selfishness, our shallowness, our ambivalence. They hate our money, our power, and our lifestyle like a kid rolling home from school in an aged Tercel resents the preppy jock driving a Land Rover with three hot blondes laughing hard at even his lamest jokes.

Yet in the end, material wealth and loose sexual mores are not the issue. The issue is freedom. The high school dork doesn’t despise the jocks because that particular table has a marvelous view of the hallway—he despises the fact that the cool kids can sit at any table they want, including that one, or the one he’s at, or any other. When a Frenchman despises your SUV, he doesn’t really hate your choice of automobile—he resents the fact that you can get a job that pays well without funneling more than half of that money straight to the government. You can afford pompous means of motivation and he can’t. He resents the fact that you got to choose your college, even one you couldn’t afford, while he is shunted to a government-run trade school. He resents the fact that your car can hit ludicrous speeds on public highways without someone three countries over declaring it immoral and thus illegal. He resents the fact that his society is too rigid and unchanging to ever allow such freedom of individual expression.

That freedom of flexibility is what gives us our strength. Try to find good tacos in Denmark. You’ll end up having wet dreams of Taco Bell instead. You can get great tacos in every state of the Union here because it’s not Danish to eat tacos—it actively clashes with their culture. Yet can you imagine someone proposing that taco-eating is un-American? What about pizza? Or sesame chicken with extra broccoli? What makes a McDonald’s in Paris sacrilege while a Thai restaurant across from the Washington Monument unremarkable?

Therein lies the true beauty of American culture: it absorbs, it subsumes, it digests all which is great in every other culture it comes in contact with while politely leaving all the cruft and baggage behind. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t last. We try on parts of other cultures, and if we like it, it goes in our wardrobe with everything else. And if an idea is too stuffy and uncomfortable we trash it, or snip and tailor it to something better. Nothing is sacred except the freedom that allows us to live like this, the freedom to foist crap like Baywatch on an unsuspecting world, the freedom to idealize high-powered litigation lawyers, half-naked slut starlets and high-school dropout billionaires with the same aplomb.

But drawbacks to our dog-eat-dog world of material wealth and consumption is obvious through travel. In Europe you’ll marvel at how elegant, playful, sexy, and approachable their women are. You’ll be confused that a mixed group of guys and girls at a club will openly welcome you to join them in partying festivities instead of interrogating you about who you work for or what your political affiliation is. You’ll be delighted by the awesome, historical architecture; mesmerized by wandering alleys with cool, hidden retail and commercial corners; smitten with the laid-back attitude and sexually cavalier lifestyle. You finally ask yourself: “Why the fuck do I live in America when I can have all this?!?” Tacos and Thai, or hot Danish girls that make all your sexual dreams come true?

Then all of a sudden it’s not just France and the contemptuous Frenchman. You need to find a working ATM? Oh shit—the nearest one is in Buda, and you’re across the Danube in Pest. You’re craving mac and cheese? Too bad—every restaurant in Prague has only one item on its menu: slop. You need a toothbrush, rubbers, and detergent at 4AM? Fuck you—there is no 24-hour CVS in Barcelona. Want a quick meal and drink under $10? Eat shit—literally, in London for $25. And there, in London, you realize how great this country is. Except for the Danish girls, it just doesn’t get any better.

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