Sunday, December 17, 2006

Culture American Style

America is good for a lot of stuff. Mass production, central heating, the car, entertainment, medical advances and a whack of other things that make living a lot easier. Some of these things are well-worth sharing with the world, they'll make it a better place.

But then there's the other side of America - the side that causes America's credibilty problems.

Dating. America has a fixation with dating. I don't know exactly when they figured that dating is an important social function, but they did and it's on TV all the time. One of the latest resurrections has an anorexic black entertainer, who wears a viking helmet and a large wall-clock around his neck, spend six or eight weeks with a bevy of 'beauties' as he tries to decide which one he'd really like to give the clock to. If this was a one-off, it might be funny. As it is, this is the third series in which I've noticed this stooge. Like what contest did he win to become a 'houshold name' in America? He certainly ain't no poster boy for higher education, but he appears to be a magnet for 'de wimmins'.

Survival is another facet of American interest. I guess it harks back to the pioneer spirit that opened the land. The kind that reappears from time to time when someone takes the wrong road in a snow storm, or finds themselves atop a mountain in a blizzard. Like the Romans who fancied themselves great warriors as they watched the Coliseum displays, America has a love affiar with 'ordinary' Americans roughing it for a million bucks. After 8, or so, different reincarnations, 'Survivor' appears to be on its way to challenge Star Trek for longevity.

And what glorious viewing! Last night's episode had the two surviving bimbae in a burning grudge match. At least they were supposed to be lighting a fire to burn a string and ring a bell. For two hours they'd tried with flint and steel. Then the host gave them matches. The loser lost because she ran out of matches. No bells got rung. After 28 days on a desert island these gals don't know how to light a fire? Give them both a million bucks they need all the help they can get.

Another 'biggie' with the Yanks is religion. For a country with a well-separated church and state, they certainly do have their reformation moments. Every politico who seeks reelection makes sure to let everybody know that he, personally, has seen the Lord. And the other part that goes along with this, is the sex, or money, or combination thereof. Some of the biggest thieves in history were Americans who believed that the Lord had chosen them, from all humanity, for the opportunity to enrich themselves for doing little or nothing - legal that is. Characters like Tom Delay, Abramoff and the guys who pulled off the savings and loan jobs, the Enron crooks - good Christian men all. Then there's the pastors - they get wealthy doing the work of the Lord. Preachin' the good news o' salvation, screwing Old Nick and asking the audience to send in their cheques. And all too often the 'screwing' gets carried on when the cameras are off. Testosterone runs high in the Lord's vineyard I guess. Testosterone runs high in America - it must be the food additives.

I'll close with getting rich. Americans evaluate success with money. The most successful - gets paid the most. The people with the most crap - houses, cars, etc are the most successful. Real estate is the great 'everyman's' way to get rich. And so the current round of home-makeover shows. No longer done as an overblown exercise in corporate charity, or the often 'funny' aspects of decorating somebody else's house, the current rash of programs are all about the money baby! Buy a fixer-upper for close to a half million , spend a budget of 75 000 to 100 000 thousand and flip it back into the soaring real estate market. Listen to the realtor tell you you'll make a quarter million! If everybody did that, there'd be no 'dumps' left. Everybody would live in plasticized splendor on a manicured lot. A lot of people buy into this - maybe that's why property debt is at record high levels and mortgage foreclosures went up 100 percent last year. Manufactured greed is another of America's not-so-nice attributes, but it's shared world-wide.

It's not reassuring to know that somewhere in the back country of Wazirstan anybody with a portable TV, a generator and a satellite download can 'see' firsthand what America is all about - crooked politicians, wolf's-clothing ministers, too much of everything, general stupidity and Miss Americas gone 'bad'. Maybe that's why so many want to go to America. And maybe why so many don't want America, or Americans, to return the favour.

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