American Invasion

I am so sick and tired of hearing about how American movies, fast food, language etc. are damaging other cultures. I hear Americans say that we are imposing our culture on other nations, and I’ve heard non-Americans (the French come to mind) complain about American influence in their culture. Last I checked, the American governemnt wasn’t forcing other nations to watch American films. If you don’t want a McDonald’s in your country then stop eating there! These are all capatalistic ventures fueled by supply and demand. If a country doesn’t like the effects of American imports after they’ve been imported, that is their problem to deal with. Again, don’t like the movies? Then don’t go to the theater. If American businesses weren’t making money overseas, they wouldn’t be there.
My fellow Americans, we need to stop apologizing for the success of our capitalists.
To my non-American friends: Stop blaming us every time you disapprove of changes in your own culture.
OK, I’ve finished ranting and I feel much better now. I’m going to lie in my fox hole now and await the onslaught.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

I seldom hear that the US is IMPOSING their culture on us. What I mainly hear is, “we’re stupid to absorb their culture so readily”. But then again I don’t think that American culture is being “Imposed” or “Absorbed” at all to much. We take the things we like, for example hamburgers, and leave the rest we don’t like. (eventhough there are peoble who don’t like what the other peoble liked about your culture. ? Thats how peoble are) You Americans do the same you know. It’s just harder to see because there are a lot of diffirent cultures in America beforehand.

I seldom hear that the US is IMPOSING their culture on us. What I mainly hear is, “we’re stupid to absorb their culture so readily”. But then again I don’t think that American culture is being “Imposed” or “Absorbed” at all to much. We take the things we like, for example hamburgers, and leave the rest we don’t like. (eventhough there are peoble who don’t like what the other peoble liked about your culture. ? Thats how peoble are) You Americans do the same you know. It’s just harder to see because there are a lot of diffirent cultures in America beforehand.

You’re right Lucky. People here often complain about a perceived U.S. cultural hegemony, and it’s just not there. For example, people talk as if there were a conspiracy to force such “American” concepts Halloween and Santa Claus on unsuspecting children, when it’s the local media and the parents themselves who are destroying local customs. As you say, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

Somewhat tangentially: I also wonder where they get off complaining about the U.S. process of certifying nations as partners in the war on drugs, as an attack on national sovereignty. Regardless of what you think about the Drug War and whether the U.S. drug consumption is the cause or effect of the illegal drug trade, the fact is that it’s money at the U.S. Government’s disposal and it can pretty much put any conditions on how it’s apportioned.

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

You are entirely right that the US absorbs many, many things from other cultures, and it’s not that it’s ‘harder to see’, as you suggest. We just don’t complain about it. And the reason we don’t complain about it is because we find it enriching. We don’t blame, for example, the Irish for making St. Patrick’s Day a big holiday here. Instead, we learn about it, enjoy it, and celebrate with the Irish-Americans. Those who have no interest in it simply don’t participate.
I have to thank both posters for your very nice responses. I expected rants from non-Americans accusing us of being akin to the Evil Empire, but I am pleasently surprised. I’m curious: Which nation do you guys call home?

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

Well, Lucky I’m from Iceland. As you’ve noticed there have been many anti- Icelandic posts here lately. But I think it’s mostly on the frindly side, jesting.
Anyway, as we don’t have American-Icelanders as a part of our culture it’s impossible to celebrate, lets say Valentines day, with American-Icelanders. (In the same way you celebrate St. Patrics day with Irish-Americans)
So if we’re going to celebrate Valentines day it has got to be purely Icelandic event borrowed from America. That’s the thing that irritates some peoble, that it’s not an “Icelandic” custom.
For me it’s like you said, if you don’t like it, leave it.
Peronally I don’t parttake in Valentines day. I feel that every day should be the day to express your feelings to the one you love.

What I’ve noticed however is that a lot of Americans are very toutchy(forgive my spelling) about other natoins opinion of them, and get extemely defensive (and sometimes agressive) if someone non-American points something out.

Feel free to e-mail me.

I’m sorry, but at this point, all I can think of is “That’s 'cause they don’t know what a Quarter Pounder is.”


Lucky, to answer your question (one of these days I’ll sit down and figure out how to blockquote, but for now please bear with me and scroll up): I am an American who calls Mexico home.

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

Hoe, in response to your comments about Americans’ sensitivity to criticism:

America is a great melting pot, where people from every cultural, racial, national, and ethnic origin have come together to form a society. Like most families, we are quick to criticize ourselves, but, IMHO, we are not tolerant of criticism from outsiders. BTW, I think this is generally true (to greater or lesser extent) of most nationalities.

Most of us came here because our parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, were escaping poverty and persecution and seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. (Obviously, there are many exceptions to this generalization, including black Americans whose ancestors were brought here forcibly.) We appreciate and are grateful for the freedom, tolerance, and attitude of equality that exists here…as well as for the economic opportunities. America is not perfect, but most Americans consider they are far better off than had our ancestors NOT come here.

Much of American culture is a mish-mosh of influx from diverse other cultures. We had Greek food for lunch yesterday, and Chinese food for supper.

We can be self-critical; God knows, there are many failures, and enormous gaps between reality and our ideals. But we are not tolerant of criticism from outsiders.

Most other nations of the world are populated very largely by a single ethnicity, a single culture.

  • It’s very easy to sit in a country where 98% of the population is the same race, and to be critical of the U.S. for still having difficulties dealing with racial relations.
    -It’s very easy to sit in a country where the 98% of the population is the same religion, and not understand how Americans can be so divided about issues like abortion.
    -It’s very easy to sit in a country with high tax rates and a socialized medical system, and be critical of the large number of Americans without medical insurance.

However, IMHO, most Americans feel that outsiders don’t really understand America, and therefore aren’t in a fair position to be critical.

Coupla things:
David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans”. Wouldn’t it be sunning, amazing and scary if all Americans decides to get up of their couches, out of their cars, and worked for some common goal, all together on the same page?
As I was watching Armageddon last year, I wondered why it was only the US who sent up a drill/explosives team. Duh, it’s a US movie. We’re the only country who would make a movie like that.(and ID4, Deep Impact, T2) And the other countries love them.

“On the edge of sleep, I awoke to a sun so bright…”

This will probably end up being so much mindless blather, but here goes anyway…

I think that the reason American culture has been so successful, and the reason that so many people in other countries object to it, is because, stemming from a root objective of “freedom” and combining elements from so many other cultures, American culture filters out anything that entails self-sacrifice, suffering, discomfort, and, to a lesser extent, courage and bravery.

Most American cultural products are aimed at keeping an individual warm, cozy, well-fed, and mentally stimulated, but not to the point at which uncomfortable thoughts appear.

This is, of course, a very attractive place to be. Who doesn’t want to be comfortable, well-fed and happy?

Americans have succeeded, for the most part (let’s ignore the inner cities and poverty-stricken rural areas for the time being - they don’t produce culture like Hollywood or MacDonalds), in liberating themselves from all that is horrible in the world - hunger, political oppression, fear, discomfort, daily battles against nature, etc. Forgive the generalization, but that’s what the New World was for, wasn’t it? It was a chance to start over and get things right. (Once it stopped being a penal colony, that is.)According to popular culture, it’s worked.

Other countries have objections to American culture because it makes their long-held traditions of self-sacrifice, discipline and stiff-upper-lip attitudes seem at best irrelevant and at worst comical. These attitudes arose from a world in which life was (and still is, in many European nations) harder, in which many more people had to share far fewer resources, in which you didn’t get ahead by owning a bigger vehicle (horse, whatever) and in which living frugally was the best method of survival for everyone who wasn’t a member of the nobility.

Then along comes America - sucking resources in a manner that Europe or Asia never imagined, championing the idea that everyone can consume as much as he or she wants and be thought the better of for it. Naturally, this idea is attractive, but at the same time it goes against a way of life that Europeans and Asians have learned to take pride in.

I don’t know if humanity can handle American culture for much longer. It’s fun. It feels good. It doesn’t require thought, sacrifice, bravery, discomfort or anything else that our instincts tell us to avoid. It’s based on consumption and greed, the foundations of capitalism and the natural progression of our desire to be more successful as a species. However, logic dictates that given a finite supply of resources, something has to give somewhere.

Technologically speaking, we’re not all that far from a level at which we could almost sustain this type of American culture world-wide, indefinitely. We need to re-engineer all our toys to be more energy-efficient, use energy from the sun more than energy that will run out (fossil fuels), recycle much more than we are, and accept that if we want to keep going like this then we must give up on the idea of preserving wilderness. Really, the only sacrifices we’d need to make would be accepting a few limits on what one can do to make money and maybe a limit on the number of children an individual can have.

Unfortunately, the collective work necessary to accomplish this may already be outside of our capabilities, ironically, because too many of us have internalized the American “you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do” ethic. If you want to know why Europe has had so much more success initiating environmental reforms, that’s it in a nutshell. If you want to know how Japan gets its workers to put up with more stress, fewer holidays, fewer benefits - again, less American ethic.

I’m not saying there’s anything intrinsically wrong with the American ethic. It may end up being our species’ limiting factor, which would make sense, given that it’s a very natural way to live and we don’t seem to have to try very hard to acclimatize humans to it. But I don’t think that at our current technological level, it’s sustainable. Picture us as a pack of wolves who have just come across a massive herd of caribou, and while we’re devouring them as quickly as we can, our furry girths expanding to an unhealthy level, we’re calling all of our friends and relatives from less caribou-dense areas, convincing them that they can come and just stand here and eat caribou until they die from lack of exercise and heart failure, happy as clams. Given the chance, any wolf would do this. I don’t think we’re any different. This hypothetical wolf population would grow tremendously and be technically very successful (although other wolves who didn’t join them might think that they were soft and fat and ugly, and lacked a connection to their old wolf cultural activies of hunting and travelling and starving periodically) but eventually, the fat wolves would eat all the caribou, unless they learned caribou husbandry techniques, which they really couldn’t be bothered to do because it would be hard and it would interfere with their caribou-eating techniques. Then they would all die, because they’d have no clue how to go back to running around looking for food.
So I guess that’s the problem with American culture, really - it’s just a little too attractive, and people on the outside looking in, people who were raised with different ideas about consumption and growth and materialism, are uneasy about that. Our instincts tell us that to live this way is good, but unless you were raised American, your cultural values tell you that maybe it’s not such a hot idea after all.

I think that’s enough babbling for one afternoon.

This is an interesting article you’ve written Eris. I agree with much of it.

I think that the success Hollywood has had in dominating the worlds movie industry has made America look lusher, happier, more apealing. When you see so many American movies you start to believe that everything in them is true to the letter. Therefore you want to move there, you want to imitate them, become like them. Please forgive me, but I think this propaganda has worked enormously well for the US.

My brother and my friend lived for one year in seperate parts in the US as exchange students. What they told me was that allthough they lived with wonderfull families and made some good friends there, they would never considder moving there. Their wiew of America changed a lot during that year.

What they also said was that Americans considder them selves the free’est(how the hell do you spell that) nation in the world, while at the same time experienced a lot more freedom at home. What they were talking about was curfew at night, cencored books in highschool, fear of being murdered, and so on. So Hollywood portrays America as the Über-promised land which in fact it is not.

So getting back to the Hollywood thing. If for some reason Hollywood was in Germany, maybe Baiern, we would all be eating sauerkraut und Bratwurst, and wearing Deutsche Lederhosen, cursing them for imposing German culture upon us.

I rest my case, waiting for the guilty verdict of trolling.(whatever that is)

Aufviedersehen, oder sonnst Mann sagen aufviederlesen…?

Maybe I’m not understanding this thread, but I think you all are missing the point.

In the rush to contain the evil Red menace, the US spent billions building up nations around the globe as buffer zones to commie aggression. Amongest the things we built were tv and radio stations. Then we slapped our foreheads and said “You guys don’t have a tv industry? Here! For a (small fee) you can have ours!” The results were to make shows like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ the most popular show in Turkey. We have without any evil designs thrust America upon the entire globe. Everybody wants to be a middle class white American.

It’s somewhat narrow sighted to then say no one is forcing these people to buy American goods when American life is being sold to them through tv. It is equally unfair to demand that these countries stop acting that way. We still haven’t forgiven Iran for trying to toss the American devil out. A “revolution” that has already failed, even if they don’t know it yet.

It gets down to the level of Americas bemoaning the loss the Amazon rain forest without offering any reason for the peasant farmers there to stop the slash and burn. It is within our means to go down and buy the land just as it was in our means to buy up all those former Soviet nukes. But that requires long term thinking and planning and in America the only thing that matters is the current market quarter.

The evil that remains is the promise that being American will make your life better. That there is some magic formula of American success. The result is the “One people. One planet. One slab of concrete” joke. Having the world owned by Wal-Mart, Disney and Ford is not in anyone’s best interest.

Mann soll ‘viederlesen’ sagen. ; )

I believe America would be largely condemned and resented no matter what we did. We are a very large, very rich country, with a powerful military. If something goes wrong in the world, we are condemned because we had the power to stop it. No matter what evil occurs, it was always “within our means” to stop it. On the other hand, when we do intervene overseas, there is always at least one group condemning us for heavy-handed interference. It’s time we stopped paying so much attention to these things and work on our processes for deciding what WE think is right. The inefficiency in this seems to be our chief weakness as a nation right now, in my opinion, or one of them anyway.

Also, I must object to the idea that America popped into existence consuming madly while the noble Europeans and Asians calmly made due with what they had. Have you looked at Japan lately, and their environmental record? Look in this month’s issue of Scientific American to see how the 1,216,000,000 people of China have denuded Asia of endangered species (the article is on turtles, but of course it goes beyond that), and are now buying wildlife from the U.S. for folk medicine and food. Why are the Asian tigers threatened? Why are the Rhinos going? Because their gonads and horns, respectively, are believed in the east to make men virile. The charge that the U.S. is consuming unchecked RELATIVE to the rest of the world doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.(Though the world is consuming too rapidly, and this is a very serious problem)
The U.S. consumes a lot of ENERGY, but we are not as destructive of our resources as many, many other nations.

At the bottom, I think most American’s resentment of criticism from abroad stems from several things:

  1. Few foreigners in my experience have any knowledge of American history.
  2. Not surprisingly, foreigners tend to relate America’s problems to what they know - their own country. Unfortunately, this oftens translates as an attitude of “you’d be so much better if only you were, well, more like us!”. We do this, too, and other countries rightly resent it. Well, so do we.
  3. Foreigners I’ve met tend to view all countries with the same tools, even when they do not translate. For instance, if I went and lived in, oh, say, London for a year I’d have a pretty good idea what England is like; most of what is interesting in England happens in London. It is the center of government, culture, education, business, finance, commerce, industry, etc. etc. But there is no such primate city in the U.S. Washington is the government center, New York is the financial center, Boston is the education center, the culture we export comes from L.A. mostly. Chicago has a very different culture from New Orleans, which is nothing like Seattle. Heck, even San Francisco and Los Angeles are very different. Much more different than, for instance York and Liverpool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “Oh yes, I know all about what America is like - I lived in Los Angeles for two years!”. I think you can see why Americans find this hopelessly naive. It’s a tool that may work in some countries -England, Russia (I’m guessing), Japan, - but it simply doesn’t in other countries like the U.S. (it wouldn’t work in China either, for similar reasons, or Australia either). There are other tools of assessing a country that fail as well, but you get the idea.
  4. There is a tendency to pick and choose to make criticisms work. I’ve heard Europeans say that Europe is a more secular place than America! When you pin them down, they are comparing Denmark to Louisiana. But that’s silly. Does religion not intrude in people’s lives in, oh, Ireland? Does the main church not have enormous political clout in Greece? Italy? Spain? What’s that little to-do in the Balkans these days between Christian Serbs and Moslem Albanians? When Europe is viewed as a whole, religion is much more socially important in people’s day-to-day lives than it is here (mostly in bad ways). But Europeans tend to think of “Europe” as whatever part they are from, and compare this to whatever part of America allows them to feel superior. The parts that don’t support the argument are dismissed as peripheral to European identity. As though the Scopes trial represented mainstream American thought.

Ahhhhh yes, but do know what they call a Big Mac?


He who walk through airport door sideways going to Bangkok. - Confucius

Eris mentioned the evils of Capitalism.

I don’t even know a concise way to adress that except to say It works and the alternatives don’t.

Of course, it would be nice if we could live frugally, sharing resources so that all may live in comfort. Equitably distributing wealth, living sane lives without buying whatever thing we want. Perhaps having a government that can enforce this type of behavior, making factories produce sensible products that people really need and making sure that entertainment has some social value. But then, the countries that have tried this haven’t fared so well.

Even the poor in America live better than the middle class in most countries. Our rising tide lifts all boats.

Don’t whine about capitalism!

This is an oft-repeated maxim with absolutely no basis in truth.

What if you don’t have a boat?

Wouldn’t it be a fascinating experiment if the U.S. was really capitalist? Remember when it was, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and we had sweatshops and child labor and no environmental controls and 18 hour workdays and . . .

You can take a snapshot of any system in motion and say “Look at all the problems”… but one thing that I love about the good ole U.S. of A. is that things are always changing, and I’d say for the better.

Child labor, unfair work standards, and environmental hazard are problems that plague all countries and societies on this planet. But the U.S. is making progress on all counts. Show me a country where people have the level of safety for their persons and their property, the level of opportunity, and the level of freedom enjoyed by Americans. I recognize that American society has its problems, and there are some who do not have equal levels of or access to these concepts, but systemically I’d venture to say that the United States economic and political model is superior.

Yes, there is materialistic decadence, yes you run in to unbridled greed, but I think the U.S. demonstrates as well as any society the truth to Smith’s Invisible Hand.

I forget the exact quote, but Jefferson said something to the effect of, a revolution is needed every now and then to keep things interesting… when things stay interesting, the system stays dynamic. And the U.S. system (and the human component thereof) is such that it allows for a social revolution every now and then, without changing the fundamental framework of the system.

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

Thor and Pldennison;

I challenge both of you to come up with some statistics regarding the standard of living for the poor in America vs. the middle class of most countries.
I don’t know about ‘most’, but my experiences would suggest many. I do a lot of charity work in the Third World, and if America provided to it’s welfare recipients the lifestyle of the Third World middle class, they would be screaming of inhumane treatment.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization