Things we Forget as Americans

I had the chance today to cogitate on an article written in Transcend Media Services by Dr. Anthony Marsella, called: “Total War:” Weaponizing and Exporting USA Popular Culture”.  Those of you who have traveled a bit and seen the tremendous, powerful, good, and not always to the good, influence of our country’s popular culture abroad, will be interested in Dr. Marsella’s thoughtful research on the topic.  Having children, who grew up as impressionable teens in traditional Asian cultures, I was acutely aware of how other young people were seeing America, American-ism, and, how we added to that picture as Americans.

I remember once, trying to collect a group of young college age women together to help bring in a rice harvest which was in danger due to unseasonal rains.  A young man who saw many issues I didn’t, such as appropriate areas for sanitary needs, etc., and said to me, “They can’t go out to a rice field! These are high-class girls!  They wear Jeans!”

The girls however, increasingly aware that the king-pin of all human life as we know it is the FARMER, were equally concerned about the rice rotting in the fields and willing to go, but ultimately prevented from doing so.

In traditional societies, being able to be independent of traditional norms is often expressed through American clothing….and of course, along with Jeans, often goes other moral perceptions, which media from the USA  delivers on.  These comments on an article on Jean wearing in Kerala, demonstrate this issue with photos.

I found Dr. Marsella’s article to be very astute. The author has thought wisely and seriously about our global impact. Some Thoughts: The only thing I would question is the ‘weight management’ part of the antidote to Fast Foods, and that only from the angle of appearance. There is an obsession in our country with physical appearance as being an indication of many other factors. Cultivated through media, piped or waved into our eyes and ears, resulting in life long mental illnesses, particularly in girls and women, now extending to boys and men as well. Inwardly, I hold thankfulness that those who do not fit into the advertised depictions of beauty, body and facial compositions walk among us, beacons of a reality we are missing in our daily doses from media.

A recent trip to a laundromat in a Hispanic area was enlightening. I don’t have time for TV, and had not realized that a separate Hispanic media via TV was going on in Spanish. It was clearly evident that social programming was being aimed at Hispanic women. Outfits, social behaviors, etc.; an hour of viewing a stream of endless advertisements, while I waited for some heavy blankets to go through the machines helped me to understand apparel choices that are being made. It is as though specific populations in society are being targeted through media to dress in certain ways, behave in certain ways, and get their group identity acceptance from those modifications. These ways and apparel choices may be held as ‘in poor taste’ by those programmed and conditioned otherwise. They may also become ‘identity markers’, and cause a sense of ‘othering’ which is inimical to a shared participation in our democracy.

I was amazed to see in Leh, Ladakh (2010) which only opened to the public in 1975, teens in jeans and corporate branded t-shirts. To hear in a You-tube video of a car pile-up in the snows of Russia, American music playing in the car…there are few corners left on the globe where the outer signs of pop culture have not invaded. Stores in Asia: “Global Teen!”

The imitation and copying of outer symbols are also a call for some of the freedoms that we have, that people perceive. Youth in other countries where social ordering is strong, are often sick of it. They want the freedom of heart that our music and media promises.

In all my travels, I have seen no other society where the breadth of genuine willingness exists as it does in the USA to tolerate and accept others. There are plenty of exceptions, but, in an overall viewing we still have a huge buck on the hierarchical thinking.

Young Americans. Free of old world mind-sets and xenophobias.

Young Americans. From Everywhere. Enviously free to love one another, unencumbered by old world mind-sets and xenophobias.

It may not be a social reality in many places (I have little experience with the deep rural south), but, the average American does not kow-tow like those in the rest of the world (with Scandinavia, Germany, Canada, as exceptions). The rest of the world, accepts social ordering and has far greater xenophobic tendencies to an extent not seen here.

This is perhaps one of our sole remaining ethical strengths. Our ethos of social equality, however imperfect in practice, is better than elsewhere. Although social inequality is seen in jobs, education, etc. here, there is the American Heart – the one that responds humanely to all kinds of situations, that has churches throughout the country engaging memberships in creating things for those in need. That common heart rushed to help the victims of Katrina, and was literally forced back by the US militarized forces there at the time. Why were people, the deeply concerned public of America, not allowed to bring even water to the New Orleans residents locked in the astro-dome? Why were New Orleans people fired upon when trying to leave this disaster on the only roads accessible? This was not the response of the American people, who to this day cannot understand it. Nor are the wars currently raging all over the Earth in the name of oil, resources, political control, and terrorism – (whose?).

I have seen that the majority of ‘helping videos’ posted on YouTube, how-to-do, how-to-fix, are from the USA. Americans love to help one another. Its a deep part of our ethos. Its what makes us great in the real sense of our transcendent humanity. We are a symbol of genuine human universality that the youth of the world take hope in.

That our politics are odious to the rest of the world is tragically true. They are odious to most of us as well. It appears that govt. has lost sight of the exercise of ‘good will’. As a society, we have opted for the legitimacy of greed, encouraged for decades now, perhaps beginning through those mindless screaming game shows, where people are shown actually crying with joy to get new household appliances, and 10K. We have been educated into these patterns, conditioned into violence since the 1930’s. Yet, many in America, perhaps the vast silent majority of people deplore this.

Confusion on civic duty (now dropped from educational curricula for several decades) and rights is enhanced by deliberate obfuscation on things like the first amendment, freedom of speech. At present, I am observing a huge push to ‘normalize’ pedophilia, to decriminalize ‘under age sex’, drug use, etc., etc. The success of technology and media control has been able to now shift public opinions within a week with constant bombardment.

The lack or dropping of civic education has caused great damage to our alertness in the ways our democracy is functioning. We are, after all, a people’s experiment, but have forgotten it, and it is only we, who can reclaim our true individualism and functioning democracy.

PK Willey

PK Willey, Ph.D., is an American, a Gandhian scholar, author and entrepreneur, who has delved deeply into Gandhi's Earth Ethics. Willey seeks to enhance philosophical discourse around the world where globalization has altered ethical values, particularly in the USA. Willey finds Gandhi's ideas, thoughts, and example, to be invaluable in this effort. Currently, besides numerous articles and book projects,Willey is developing a new framework for qualitative research that employs Earth Ethics, guided by a Gandhian compass and Weibust's Transformative Paradigm.

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