“America is____”

There are some positions that I find to be much more trouble than they’re worth, not only to maintain, but even to try to understand. One such line of thought, for me, is that of “America is [selfish, consumerist, etc].” They’re usually accusations of taking up too much cultural space with junk and rubbish, with an emphasis on our tendency to obsess over sexual identity and material consumption. Which is fair in its way, and worth resisting. Nevertheless, this particular group of generalized incrimination turns my mind to putty if I think about it too long.

I was thinking about this because of a rather unpleasant conversation from last week, where I found myself trying to defend a generalized understanding of the current American ethos, while some other people sort of lectured me on how naive I am. Which is also fair in its way, but having one’s own experiences discounted, simply because they’ve been strikingly moderate, can result in bruised feelings. And then I feel a little guilty about caring about having my experience validated, because that’s one of the very frivolities with which, I’m told, my generation is far too concerned.

At some point it becomes a discussion of how generically American culture, by which “media” is mostly meant, is corrupting other cultures, with a sort of image of people I’ve never met, mostly speaking a language different from mine and with darker skin from me, being invaded by advertising or television shows or whatever for which they don’t have a moral immune system, with similar results to the non-metaphorical version of that scenario. It’s very sad, if it’s a true image. Perhaps it is. Tuluksak had something like that going on, with internet ant TV distorting both the life of the local culture and their perception of other places. And what one really wants is for some people from within the community — clergy, scholars, teachers, parents, artists, linguists, and so on — to speak and show and perhaps write about what’s worth insisting on and saving and embodying, so that perhaps people won’t be so attached to their digital media and even use it well — or at least it won’t hurt them so much. People like Bishop Isaiah in Nikozi, I think — and some of the people i know here. At least, that’s the only thing that’s ever worked in my own (admittedly limited) experience — to find some people who care about things that are worth caring about.

So I suppose the most reasonable response to “Western Culture is a kind of virus” thinking is something like “so embody the alternative,” but that, of course, is quite difficult.


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