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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

The amber waves of grain. The purple mountains majesty. The spacious skies filled with the LA morning smog. Ah, America the beautiful. The fruited plain is worked by immigrants because most Americans are too proud to accept the wage, or maybe it is because landowners are too cheap to pay a fair amount. After the glitter of the Olympics everyone wants to go to Disneyworld. Cars are big, houses are bigger, egos are the biggest. Children are taught their manners by television puppets. Going to a restaurant means a greasy burger wrapped in even greasier paper. ‘Culture’ is something that one has to seek out. There is no false sense of propriety; no one has a legitimate reason to look down their nose at someone else. You can literally be anything you want to be, especially if that happens to be a soldier. This is America as Jean Baudrillard sees it, and how can we deny his view? When looking at Baudrillard’s theory about America as Utopia, both a paradise and a cultural no-place, we must transcend his tone to be able to stomach his text, which is the truth about America.

To see this truth we must first own up to something we, as a society, have been trying to downplay for years: our own ethnocentrism. We are the greatest nation, we know it, and Baudrillard noticed it as well, and so does the rest of the world.

Americans are not wrong in their idyllic conviction that they are at the centre of the world, the supreme power, the absolute model for everyone. And this conviction is not so much founded on natural resources, technology and arms, as on the miraculous premise of a utopia made reality (Baudrillard 111).

Other nations want to be us, for the simple fact that we are the cool kids, we dress the right way, we talk the right way, and we go to all the right UN summits. The citizens of American have the freedom to pierce themselves, smoke up (if they are cunning enough) and generally do as they please. We live within a world that other nations simply aspire to, “We shall never catch them up, and we shall never have their candor. We merely imitate them… and we are not even successful at that” (Baudrillard 111)

However, while countries are secretly coveting our Bill of Rights, or liberal dress and colorful word choice, they are also condemning our lack of “culture.” We exist in McWorld, nothing is sacred, nothing is historical, nothing has a base set firmly in what came before. “…[T]he audacity for what might be called the zero degree of culture, the power of unculture” (Baudrillard 112). There is no cohesiveness to our nation. We believe in freedom, but that is increasingly blocked out by our fear and our everlasting belief in consumerism. The Great American Melting Pot hasn’t quite gotten to the correct temperature yet. Baudrillard’s main downfall is that he uses California to explain his theory, forgetting that middle America is true America. Places like California, New York, and Atlanta, are anomalies. In Middle America, as much talking is done about freedom and equality there are still faint lines drawn in the dirt, between ourselves and The Other. We love God, our Trucks, and the Home Team. However, Baudrillard’s theory (however shaky it may be) still holds up here. Where are the concert halls, where is the education, where are the hallowed halls where greats have walked before us? There is nothing except the Disneyland reality of television and consumerism, and the ever-lacking sense of propriety.

A nation of migrants, of good-for-nothing ill educated media whores. A nation filled with people who have no sense of class, of judgment, ‘good’ social skills. We should all just move to France! This is a wasteland, right? A desert? Wrong. All of the things that Baudrillard finds appalling about the United States are all of the things that should be embraced and held dear. The lack of culture, of a united societal front, is exactly what is necessary in a country with majority population of immigrants. Our lack of culture is our culture, the ability to maintain unique attributes. We are not bogged down by black robes and powdered wigs, by ivy covered stone and stone faced monarchs. America is unlike Europe, and for that we should praise God (whom we do know as a nation, but in tin roofed modular homes instead of Cathedrals) that we are a satellite unto ourselves.

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