November 8, 2004 14:57 | Political

The US becomes 'situated'

Absolutely brilliant article by Nick Currie (Momus) regarding the U.S. after the Bush re-election: The US becomes 'situated'.

A postmodern national identity happens when you see yourself as The Other. Before it saw itself as The Other, the US saw itself as The Universal. The Universal is invisible, the Other is visible. The Universal claims to be impartial, the Other admits its self-interest. The Universal is adult, the Other is childish. The Universal is level-headed, the Other impetuous, prone to tantrums and whining.

There are SO many good bits in here, I didn't know what to quote. Read it read it!

I call this 'moronic authenticity', because after decades or centuries attempting to embody mature, universal values (what else is the US constitution than a document of the liberal enlightenment, an attempt to assert universal human rights?) the US has decided to become a pastiche of something very local, limited and specific. And so cowboys and capitalists and every-man-for-himself gets paraded. But it's 'fake folk', and it's moronic. Bush can't even remember what people in Texas are supposed to say. When he reaches for a proverb, he peters out half way through. His American authenticity is as fake as a theme restaurant out on the highway.

Yes! Yes! One more:

Being 'The Other' is great for tourism. Ah, exotic America, so American! As a tourist destination, you can be as folksy as you like and as fake as you like, and families come back next year to the theme park. But being The Other is rotten for imperialism. When you run an empire you have to pose as a benign universal and paternalistic force, otherwise everybody will fight you and tell you to go home. You will have no legitimacy. This is what we're seeing now in Iraq. The Americans really thought they would have legitimacy in Iraq. They don't. As a result everything is going pear-shaped. It's not military force that allows empires to be maintained, it's legitimacy -- people's sense that you might really have their best interests at heart, and that your civilisation is an exportable model for everyone. The US used to seem like that, but it no longer does. Moronic authenticity and fake folk may be a great basis for tourism, but they're useless when it comes to running an empire.



It reminds a very simple scene, I have scene on TV when I was still having one. It was a few months after September 11, a news reporter is following a couple (lawyer and doctor) to their annual trip in NY. A kind of ceremony for them, like their crazy week-end in NY once a year. They pay a visit to the twin towers site. They look at the site with big eyes, shaking the head and finally, one of them say: "Why have they done that to us? USA brings the good in the world. We are helping others."

No comment.

s/scene on TV/seen on TV/ doh!