I earnestly resist the lazy temptation of casting it all into the “American” mould (and they would spell it as mold). As much as I use several American inventions and thank scores of them for making life easy, I also look around myself and try to figure out which aspects of humane life have they really touched and enhanced. Now, when I say “they” I really mean the West.
A friend of mine and I were discussing how the “Americans” have made everything so vulgar (including the words they seemed to have invented). Junk food, to start with, is very tasty but devoid of nutrition and only worsens the health of an individual. Nuclear power transmission was well conceived (although mostly as a part of the notorious Manhattan Project) “there” (though the transmission to a grid was first done in USSR who don’t really form a part of “them”) the current state of nuclear warfare and devastation owes a lot to “them”. Art has become crass and silly thanks to “them”. Jokes are better when they are laced with “American” words for various anatomical parts. People consider themselves cool and the like only when they speak with a false accent and use four letter words as punctuation. MTV, Ms. Spears, Janet Jackson, divorce (if you wish to believe that the man with the higher rates is responsible for your son following suit)… name it. The tone seems to be of “do whatever you feel like doing” which only brings us closer to our animal self which we alternately justify or condemn depending on which side of wall we are on (and sometimes the same person condemns some of them while rooting for the others). Why, a perfume brand is now called FCUK. Like I need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why the lady in red was smiling when her eyes fell on that vial of vulgarised aroma!
But then that would be silly (no, not the rocket scientist part). I think what “America” has done is to take their philosophy of capitalism beyond the industry (and capitalism is so misunderstood to its own undoing). What works in the context of an industry (create goods in demand and sell them for a profit, re-invest and continue to grow the business) doesn’t work well in facets of life outside the industry. Art is also created based on sheer market forces. How else would we justify Harry Porter, chick-lit and other short-lived sensations aired on the Big O show? Look at the crazy world of movie making (there was a post about this, a while ago). Look at how children interact with their parents in the West (they want to do what they want to do and are entitled to their individual rights with least concern for their parents). Old age homes are justified on the simple rational that it doesn’t work out to be worth one’s while (and one’s time and energy are vital and valuable as resources in the capitalist scheme of living). With notions like “only you matter” and “you are the most important person in your life” a possibility of cooperation based on intangibles is wiped out (and what might they be?). Life becomes a sheer barter and profit making venture which cannot be censured on the grounds of logic for what simpler logic can a man call upon than the need to satisfy his hunger which seamlessly extends into satisfying his needs and like one cloud merging with another at no particular point, into a satisfying his wants. No argument on earth can logically deny a man the means to satisfy his wants unless it brings direct harm to another person. But extrapolating that to every walk of our life doesn’t always make sense. That “they” have actually made a business out of nearly everything “they” touch (academics, visual arts, sports, music, journalism, etc.) has ushered in a lot of good and professionalism but doing the same to several other aspects of life (interpersonal relationships, entertainment, sense of worth which is quite a senseless thing, etc.) has overshot the possibly intended purpose and has become a moral famine where everyone seems to be doing well based on what they own or achieve but a dirth at the core.
When I look at the commercialisation of nearly every aspect of life, I tend to wonder whether this makes any more sense. Surely the commercialisation of human sentiment and pride (which goes by the name of self-help and positive thinking and a lot more) feeds immorally on people. People are more comfortable at a material level and have gradually allowed their finer side to be corroded by the tell of the West. Undoubtedly, people in the West have a fine finish and many (and many more, though the Joshua Bell episode still makes me smile) have retained their suave side of conduct, but as a philosophy the West has contributed and promulgated a lifestyle of irreverence and short-sightedness, focusing on the gains and profits of today and this lifetime rather than on moral correctness. This is not an attempt at preaching from the moral high-horse (or rather, condemning à cheval) but at trying to go beyond the obvious rawness in display to the underlying motivation.
I read Ginsberg’s “Howl” and I see no sign of anything beautiful though irreverence screams out in glitzy neon. All that is described in there, if it were true, only speaks for a highly irresponsible world made possible because everyone is free to do what they want. While great industries and movies are made there, the need to educate the individual into becoming a responsible individual is clearly lacking and where dropping out of school to found a company is considered sensible and right as it makes an Ellison out of wannabes. But is that the point and purpose of life!? What is!? The lack of a holistic approach and lack of inculcating patience and restrain is the hallmark of present day education. Although this is the case with education systems all over the world (as far as I have bothered to seek and find out), the “American” way of life itself popularises the “go-getter” attitude which, again, is fine in commercial business but falls flat in most other aspects of life.
I think it is vital to realise that no one philosophy works well everywhere. That faster processors sell more is fine, but that sex sells and hence have skimpy women in advertisements for coffee or wheat flour doesn’t make sense and only takes us closer to our animal nature. “As long as it sells it is ok”, doesn’t work everywhere. What is the point of prosperity in a void? Popularity and prosperity are good motivators for certain things but when applied to every aspect of life, it doesn’t really work well.
When a person caters to the banausic and base needs of one’s animal side, what one essentially is doing is making righteous the pursuit of such needs and hence causes an entire generation to sway in confusion without a firm spine to provide direction and robustness. It is not a matter of morality in the religious sense but morality in the core fiber of being human. Such a rapid degradation can only be herded in when the lack of strengthening the core is associated with success of various sorts and one mistakingly marries them together and makes the former essential for the latter’s realisation. The sheer rawness that “they” demonstrate in every aspect of their presentation only facilitates several generations of incomplete individuals living irresponsibly and irreverently.