The United States … cultural nightmare.


Art: Banksy

The US. Modern, fast, inventive, brash, gun-loving, a dominant power. You can have anything in the US. Oh, except a society that cares about itself. New Orleans is a prime example. The rest of America is letting that city rot. Do not therefore be surprised that Americans care even less about you. When it comes to climate change Americans are never going to listen.

Ask not what America can do for you. Ask what you can do without America .

Note: all above links are to art by Banksy.

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This entry was posted in Climate change, Education, General, Media, People, Politics, Protest, Urban, War & security. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to The United States … cultural nightmare.

  1. Pete Smith says:

    You do like your Banksy, don’t you Matt?

    I don’t think being rude about America and Americans is going to help anything. What they get up to within their borders is their business, it’s just a shame they don’t apply the same thinking to their role in the wider world.

    It’s only relatively recently that we’ve acquired a perception of how all parts of the world are inter-connected, with activity in one’s backyard having global repercussions. If the US is happy for New Orleans to rot, that’s fine. If they’re happy for their emissions and ideological terror campaigns to trash the world, that isn’t.

  2. matt says:

    > If the US is happy for New Orleans to rot, that’s fine.

    Really.

  3. Dave On Fire says:

    Thanks for these, Matt, Banksy rules.

    For my two penneth, I think we need to think a bit less along national lines. Is it really fair or productive to lump the abandoned and dispossessed of New Orleans with the monsters of the White House? For that matter, “we” in Britain did imperialism for much longer than America has, but I for one do not identify with the empire. If we are to make progress, it is by thinking a bit less in terms of Americans and Brits (and Chinese and Arabs and Africans and …) and a bit more in terms of humans.

    http://en.unpacampaign.org/appeal/

  4. matt says:

    Completely agree Dave but, we don’t have time any more to wait for the Americans.

    And yes, Banksy does rule. 🙂

  5. Stephan says:

    I tend to agree with DOF, if there’s one thing that will make the US pull up the drawbridge it’s a continuous barrage of ‘America the Depraved’. Sure the general population might be somewhat insular in their understanding of the world, but then maybe they have every right to be; with sharp tongued critics like Matt sniping at me from afar I don’t think I’d want to ‘engage’ either. Remember that it is the US – under the Bush administration – that is carrying out the vast majority of the ‘good’ science into climate change:)

  6. Dave On Fire says:

    We don’t quite agree Stephan. The Bush administration has an appalling record on most things, including climate change ‘science’.

    But you illustrate my point; if you attack and criticise people along national lines, they will react and get defensive along national lines. When people justify horrible things out of ‘national pride’, they are being led astray by a ridiculous bit of cloth flapping in the wind. Having a go at that flag will only get them going more; the best way to sap its power is to ignore it.

    However, criticising the Bush administration is another matter entirely; it needs doing, and that proportion of Americans (and others) who vote for it or champion its policies should expect more than a little “sniping” from “sharp-tongued critics”.

  7. matt says:

    Oh get real.

    It’s the American’s who have build their wall around themselves. Do not pitty them.

    Sure, we may be able to peal back a layer and find some resemblance of hope (and negotiation) there but, I’m putting forward the idea that we go on without them because, the clock is ticking. They have continuously stalled and will continue to do so.

    The world has reached too many tipping points already. We need to think outside the box and awaken from our self induced slumber. Time to act. Move everything to Euros/pounds. Embargo all US services and goods simultaneously. Financial reports in the IHT indicate that the US economy no longer drives the world economy. China does. Fact. Time to move on. We don’t need the US.

    They, if they wish, can catch up later. And of course any American citizens that wish to join us can do so.

  8. tamino says:

    I agree it’s important to act, with or without the cooperation of the U.S. government (and the Chinese and Indians).

    But don’t think it’s only G.W.Bush who sets American policy. Our congress is finally beginning to address the issue; it remains to be seen how effective they’ll be. And local governments, especially the (very large) state of California, are every bit as progressive on the global warming issue as any foreign nation.

    Time to act? A resounding yes. But we are only as strong as we are united. So *any* action to undermine unity, like “Move everything to Euros/pounds. Embargo all US services and goods simultaneously,” undermines the world’s chances of success.

  9. matt says:

    Welcome again Tamino,

    It would serve as a motivational tool for American voters however, who seem not to be motivated at present. France has just been through their debate with an 85% turnout at the polls. The US needs to go through the same process.

    The Coffee House is aware of progress at state level and moves lately by the Democrats. This is all good but the US has a very long way to go.

  10. Dave On Fire says:

    Tamino, I have to disagree. Embargoes and such would, as Matt said, send a strong message, but in the case of moving from the dollar it’s even more than that.

    The US gets up to more evildoings than perhaps any other nation today, but not because it’s uniquely evil – simply because it’s uniquely powerful. the dollar hegemony is the source of much of that power but, as current events are (quietly) proving, it’s also its weak spot.

    Unity does not mean refraining from criticising the most powerful. The US acts unilaterally, and this blocks consensus more than anything. When our consent is not even sought, dissent becomes a duty.

  11. matt says:

    And I would add to Dave’s argument that the US knows the art of the modern embargo very well. It is the main instigator via it’s own foreign polices and via the institutions it controls; World Bank, IMF, WTO and even the UN. The US is even happy to use the WTO against Europe.

    An embargo of the US would send to the US govt a very simple message …. in their own language.

    If things get tough for Americans as they lose their jobs, I’m sure EU govts could take a few more refugees. Maybe.

  12. Dave On Fire says:

    See my latest post for how certain EU govts deal with their ‘refugees’. But I’m not convinced that the interests of the average American coincide with that of the Empire. More the opposite, Hegemony Or Survival and all that.

  13. the Grit says:

    Hi all,

    I must ask, do you ever read the news? I see some trite socialist thread running through this discussion which is calling on a Global Solution. However, you seem to have missed the bit of history where the United States is the country leading the call for free trade. The rest of you, as I recall, are still fighting to give Government subsides to your own industries to keep from competing with people in developing countries.

    I’d also, with a bit of national pride, point out that the US has an increasing percentage of land devoted to forest cover, unlike the countries in Europe which clear cut an entire continent. Of course, that was long ago before you set out in an attempt at world conquest.

    I would also mention that, for those immigrants who enter our country with permission, we seem to do a much better job of making them part of our society than anyone else. I’ve seen endless reports of European countries having riots from their immigrants who were pushed off into slums. Our only problems come from people who entered our country without permission.

    As to why the US has so much say in the modern world, that’s because the rest of you took a bow after WWII. Honestly, if any other democratic country had decided to take on the task of stopping the Communists, we would have gladly gone back to our previous isolationist mood, and concentrated on making stuff. This is clearly demonstrated by our military draw down between WWII and the Korean War.

    Really, if any other country thanks they can do better, step up. Spend a few trillion dollars to develop a military that can protect the Western world, make it known that you assume the responsibility, and we, given the current political climate that would much prefer to spend our money on handouts to social rejects, will most happily hand over the reigns of world power to you. We would be most happy to shift all our military spending into industrial production.

    However, which ever nation decides it has the collective balls to take on the task, need to know that you will need to build and maintain a navel presence in all of the world’s oceans. On top of that, you will need to take over our UN peace keeping jobs, of which we have at least a dozen. What you do with the Middle East, I really don’t care. After all, Europe will suffer much more than we from any conflict there that cuts off the flow of oil. You should also note that the missile shield we’ve been building to protect Europe from long range nuclear attacks from Iran, will obviously not be at the top of our list for funding, once we have a successor.

    Really, if the EU would announce, and actually produce, that they are going to increase their military sufficiently to protect their own interests, our liberal party, the Democrats, would win and hold all branches of our Government in a landslide.

    Do it; I dare you.

    the Grit

  14. matt says:

    Hey Grit

    Hope you’re feeling better now after your above essay contribution. And we thank you for that. This debate should not be had without US citizen input.

    I have to say Grit I’m a little disappointed. I’d have thought you would have seen this as your moment, a call to arms with all ya boys from the Mid-west. Jumping into ya SUVs, armed to the hilt, all roads to Washington. Of course with your computer expertise, a cyber attack wouldn’t go amiss (rather like Russia on Estonia recently). But no, just a puff of smoke and a little fizz.

    Which proves the point really. If ya’ll over there ain’t going ta sort things out with your own powers that be, then we’ll have to have a chat with the yakuza. 🙂

  15. Stephan says:

    Being quite pro the US on the whole (having lived there a
    for a few years), it is a little dissapointing to see the grits revisionist ideas on history, European natural resource trends and global current affairs. But he does make a good point in that without the US even partially engaged, solving the climate change issue will be a lot harder and possibly out of reach for Europe and other Kyoto signatories if they try to go it alone.

  16. Pete Smith says:

    “it is a little dissapointing to see the grits revisionist ideas on history”

    Yes Stephan, I was particularly amused by the casual remark

    “As to why the US has so much say in the modern world, that’s because the rest of you took a bow after WWII.”

    Took a bow? That sounds as if we had a choice. Europe was in ruins, the UK had fought itself to a standstill and was 60 days away from starvation by 1946. Britain was working round the clock to export everything we could produce so we could just pay off the interest on the $3 billion loan the Fed grudgingly offered us, food was still being rationed in 1953!

    And still the US had the nerve to demand that we help fight the Communists in Korea, and still we found the resources to do so.

  17. matt says:

    Yes, I guess sometimes a child (the US) just doesn’t appreciate it’s mother (the UK).

    It drifts off into the wilderness for an adventure (the great push West lead predominantly by the Scotch-Irish) and eventually sets up home. Come the first signal of distress from mother (WWII) and the child’s self importance, bordering on arrogance blinds it to its duty. Child gets hit by a bigger bully (at Pearl harbour) and suddenly child wants to siddle up to mother again. A bully doesn’t change its stripes though and since WWII the US has been on a stroppy rampage, picking fights with Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Iraq, to name but a few.

    About time mother cut child adrift and hung out with its mates in Europe and beyond …… me thinks! Memories aren’t always sweet. 🙂

  18. the Grit says:

    Hi matt,

    I can tell that my reply is going to be too long to type into the tiny comment box, so I’ll post it on our blog.

    the Grit

  19. matt says:

    Grit,

    I’m interested to see what ‘Brit’ (your conversation partner on your blog) has to contribute. He/she seems to have gone quiet. 🙂

  20. Pete Smith says:

    So what happens now? The Grit has hi-jacked the thread and diverted it over to his site. Do I respond here or there?

    Or neither here nor there? 🙂

  21. Pete Smith says:

    “I’m interested to see what ‘Brit’ …. has to contribute. He/she seems to have gone quiet.”
    According to the Grit, his mate the Brit doesn’t reckon the UK is part of Europe, so I don’t think we’re missing much. Must be one of those UKIP goons.

  22. matt says:

    The debate is here.

    Would be nice to have some considered thoughts from Americans, rather than the reactionary ‘bunker mentality’ thus far. Thought tamino had a balanced approach.

  23. the Brit says:

    Hi all

    One point before I start my friends. He “the Brit” is not a UKIP goon. Actually, geographically the UK is not a part of mainland Europe. However, that is being picky.

    In actual fact my comment about the UK and Europe, was not that we are not part of it, just that I do not believe we should be part of an more integrated Europe under its present structure. I have no problem with closer trade ties with European countries, which was the original concept of the EU, but I think that the political ties should not go any further towards integration in terms of a constitution. Unelected persons in control of laws and regulations that affect hundreds of people is both undemocratic and dangerous. Furthermore, the system of constantly changing the country that holds the reins in Europe does not make for the presentation of a continuous and controlled system of logical development.

    Whilst I think it is possible for the countries of Europe to work together on a number of issues, I do not believe that to ask twenty seven national identities to become submerged within one “non-national” culture is practical. I personally am proud of my national heritage. However, that does not mean that I am unwilling for the UK to work with other nations, including the US, far from it. But I do take exception to being told I need to give up my identity to some ill-conceived structure that has proven itself to be inept in many areas and does not allow for free elections.

    Although I accept that the Eastern Bloc was based upon a communistic regime, one only has to look at the way this regional system failed because of nationalism to understand why a federal Europe will not work. Language, cultural, political and other differences will not allow a single democratic system to operate effectively and efficiently across twenty seven unique nations. One also has to remember that we are even having trouble keeping our own United Kingdom together at present.

    Similarly, I do not agree with all this US bashing. It is too easy to look at a major power and say “it’s all your fault.” Perhaps we need to look closer to home. Historically, the UK a stand on its own in areas like the Falklands and that was not widely accepted as an honourable move throughout Europe. Irrespective of the criticism, would it have been right for us to leave a small community like that to fight on its own against the might of Argentina? Then of course there was the incident with former Rhodesia. Was that a just action from us?

    With regard to WWII, we and other pro-democratic countries actively sought the help of the US to help defeat tyranny. They could have said “no-thanks” and concentrated their efforts within their own borders. As for asking for repayment of loans, one has to also remember that the US was not partisan in its support after the war, it also helped to rebuild the vanquished as well as the victors and at a cost to itself. Look at how Japan thrived after the war and, as a result, was able to make significant trade inroads into the US and Europe, and to a lesser extent Germany made similar strides.

    Finally, let me link this all back to the original comment made by Matt. Firstly social conscience. The US societal system, like every individual nations, is not perfect. However, can we in the UK really shout from a position of strength about this? Our cancer survival rates are the worst in Europe; our care of the elderly is not that brilliant and our NHS is at present in a sick state. Can we therefore say that we have built a caring society? I would like to think so, but the severe imperfections do not support that view at present.

    The “global warming” debate! Leaving aside the debate that surrounds the “human cause” validity of this issue, let us look at the Kyoto agreement. In retrospect it appears that the US were right to opt out of this. Those countries that signed up have not been able to deliver, including the UK. Yet despite what some call their “uncaring” attitude, the US reduction of emissions has been better than a number of European countries over the past few years. Similarly, they have not made the same “remedy” mistakes that the EU has made in Basel and with Biofuels. Additionally, it has to be acknowledged that Al Gore, a US senator and ex-vice president, has done more to create public awareness of the issue of climate change, by portraying it in a way that the general public has become attracted to, than any EU politician.

    So having said all this I will probably be branded a “US puppet,” which is not the case. My stance is simple. Democracy is not a perfect environment, irrespective of the nation that is operating it. Whilst it is fair and indeed a right to criticise our own and others systems, lobbing stones at people whilst we stand in a glasshouse that has similar imperfections is counter productive. The way forward from my point of view is to accept our own faults and others; accept our cultural differences and sit down to deal constructively with issues that affect us all.

    the Brit

  24. Stephan says:

    Here are a few ‘facts and figures’ to oil the debate:)

    According to the Population Reference Bureau the US will see its population grow from its current ~300million to ~350million by 2025.

    In the UK, forest covers 12% of the land area, up ~80% since 1952; the average forest cover over the rest of Europe is steady at 46%.

    France generates 80% of its energy from Nuclear power, whilst the UK and Norway remain self-sufficient in oil.

    China’s productivity is improving at ~11% per annum compared to the US at

  25. matt says:

    Hello Brit

    Do you have a name or were you christened ‘The Brit’? It’s always nice to know who one is talking to!

    Al Gore. It’s amazing how much his film has kick started public debate in the US. But that’s the US way of doing things.

    The Coffee House doesn’t normally lob stones but occasionally it serves the purpose of awakening people from their slumber.

    Planet earth has reached a number of ‘tipping points’ regards climate change; (e.gs.) Siberian permafrost warming; Amazonian rainforest drought; break-up & shrinking of ice at both poles. Whether people believe humans have caused this doesn’t really matter.

    What we do have to do is understand the impacts of these changes and mitigate against them. If we are able to change some of our habits to help that process all the better.

    Your point about sitting down ‘to deal constructively with issues that affect us all’ is obviously sensible and one that The Coffee House has encouraged for some time.

    Unfortunately we don’t see the US doing so in any constructive fashion. If you have evidence to the contrary I’d be happy to hear it.

    Matt

  26. Pete Smith says:

    “He “the Brit” is not a UKIP goon.”
    Glad to hear it Brit. Welcome aboard.
    “Actually, geographically the UK is not a part of mainland Europe.”
    In terms of physical geography certainly. Puts us in the same boat with Cyprus, Malta and Eire. Economically, politically, historically and, yes, culturally, we are part of Europe.
    “However, that is being picky.”
    Yup. But blame the Grit for quoting you inaccurately in the first place 😎

  27. Stephan says:

    The Brit – ‘With regard to WWII, we and other pro-democratic countries actively sought the help of the US to help defeat tyranny‘
    A quick comment on this one, it is true that without the support of the US government (the American public were I believe, still predominantly isolationist during the first part of WWII), the UK would have found it very difficult to have resisted German domination of Europe. But the other side of the coin is that the US had time to convert to a wartime economy during those ‘Lend-Lease’ years and where therefore much better able to respond to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was – if I’m not mistaken the catalyst that finally brought the US fully into the War, and their ensuing involvement in the European war once Germany declared War on them. (Maybe that wasn’t so quick!)

    Back to contemporary issues, in one of our blogs the Grit comments on US productivity, I happen to agree that the efficient and equitable allocation of our scarce resource is a crucial component in the fight against climate change, and in several aspects of this the US leads the way. However, the sharing of these efficient technologies and attitudes with developing nations above and beyond national interests is what might be required if we are to put the brakes on climate change within a timeframe that will make a difference (recent research gives us 8 years to get our acts together).

  28. matt says:

    Brit’s sneaked into an old WWII bunker again. Can’t see ‘im anywhere.

    Maybe he’s a little shy.

  29. the Grit says:

    Hi Stephan,

    Our isolationist tendency is the point I was trying to get across. After both world wars we quickly cut back on our military, and did the same thing after the fall of the USSR. Even given our current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, we haven’t had the collective will to significantly increase the size of our armed forces. The three leading candidates from our liberal party are all for declaring the war on terror over and bringing our troops home. Give us five years without China and/or North Korea testing long range missiles, India and Pakistan smiling at each other, and radical Muslim terrorists hiding quietly in their caves, everyone leaving Israel alone, and public pressure would force us to withdraw all of our forces from over seas bases. Without the threat of nuclear weapons, this would have happened long ago. Now that our missile defense is coming on line, the threat from this will be reduced to the point where it won’t be seen as a valid excuse for maintaining our rather expensive military. Right around half our population is in favor of a move like this, even with the saber rattling from various places. Even a brief respite would tip the balance and globalism, free trade, and Super Power sized military would be quickly swapped for social programs.

    As to our entry into WWII, there is a good deal of evidence that President Roosevelt was anxious to get us into the war, even though public opinion was totally against it. Toward this end, he manipulated economic issues in the Pacific against the Japanese to the point where they felt it necessary to attack us, in the hope that we would not have the collective will to fight. They were wrong. However, given current events, it would seem that, if they had waited a few decades, the story may have been much different.

    As to sharing the new energy efficient technologies, we try. Heck, we’d love to sell expensive stuff like that. The problem is that, like a lot of high tech devices, you need a highly educated work force to maintain it. Leveraging the economy of a developing country to the point where they can produce and support a middle class of this sort is a long and difficult process. Just look at China or India. While they have made great progress, a huge portion of their populations still live in horrid poverty. It takes time to teach a man to fish.

    Hi Matt,

    In my opinion, the main tipping point we have reached is the world population. Reduce that, and most of the other problems go away.

    As to dealing constructively with Global Warming issues, we just had a delegation of our most liberal, and hence most likely to be able to make political hay out of Global Warming, politicians travel to Europe to meet with EU big shots and discuss what to do about Climate Change. Best I can tell, this is on a par with what has been done in most countries, so what’s your beef?

    the Grit

  30. matt says:

    > As to dealing constructively with Global Warming issues, we just had a delegation of our most liberal, and hence most likely to be able to make political hay out of Global Warming, politicians travel to Europe to meet with EU big shots and discuss what to do about Climate Change. Best I can tell, this is on a par with what has been done in most countries, so what’s your beef?

    My beef ain’t smokin’. Cause you just told me you’re a Democrat … in a patriotic kinda of fashion. Now ain’t that sweet. 🙂

    shop-til-y’all-drop

  31. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    If you can get that I’m a Democrat out of that, then I can see how you believe in Global Warming.

    the Grit

  32. Pete Smith says:

    Hi Grit,
    “In my opinion, the main tipping point we have reached is the world population. Reduce that, and most of the other problems go away.”
    I completely agree. Trouble is, it’s so difficult to establish where and when the population tipping point occurred. It’s easy to say that we as a species have exceeded the carrying capacity of our environment, but how do you quantify that? Our ingenuity mutation keeps moving the goalposts. Where do we draw the line? Hunter gatherers? 16th century agriculture? 20th century agro-industry? Science fiction writers have imagined futures where the human race has covered the earth with concrete, and trillions of people live in tiny boxes fed by gigantic food factories. It might be argued (not by me) that this is a perfectly logical and acceptable modification of our environment, justified by the survival of our species.

    Pete

  33. matt says:

    > …. futures where the human race has covered the earth with concrete, and trillions of people live in tiny boxes fed by gigantic food factories.

    Reminds me of LA & Manhattan.

  34. the Grit says:

    Hi Pete,

    It is a difficult question. I suspect it changes as our technology evolves, and as that technology spreads. Of course, history shows that as countries become more prosperous and their populations better educated, their populations tend to decline in number. Thus, it would seem, if there was a way to convince everyone on the planet to be calm and patient, we could shift defense spending into education and development. World population would quickly stabilize, and start to shrink. The expanded markets and trade opportunities would make everyone rich, allowing us the opportunity to switch to more environmentally friendly technologies as they became practical.

    Oh well, if wishes were horses…

    Hi Matt,

    In that area you would like Memphis. Despite a large increase in population, and the urban sprawl that goes with it, we are still the most forested major urban area in the US. To be honest though, I don’t believe this is due to our collective concern for the environment, but mostly because we are too lazy to cut the dang trees down and get them out of the way 🙂

    the Grit

  35. matt says:

    This is why China fascinates me. Well, it has ever since I travelled there in 1990. But seeing how they are dealing with current changes and challenges on such a massive scale in such a short timescale is captivating.

    My current post on Shanghai I think touches on many of the dynamics that you Pete & Grit are highlighting; population pressures, wealth creation, burgeoning middle class, dealing with environmental limits creatively. It’s all there!

    It’s a work in progress but agree with your point Grit that … ‘if there was a way to convince everyone on the planet to be calm and patient, we could shift defense spending into education and development. World population would quickly stabilize, and start to shrink.’

  36. matt says:

    Dave – The US gets up to more evildoings than perhaps any other nation today, but not because it’s uniquely evil – simply because it’s uniquely powerful. The dollar hegemony is the source of much of that power but,
    as current events are (quietly) proving, it’s also its weak spot.

    Looks like your predictions are playing themselves out Dave. 🙂

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