..::Previous entry: "DREAM - Peterson Street and Reocurrence"::.. ..::Main Index::.. ..::Next entry: "DREAM - Boots and Dogs"::..
12:20:2003 Entry: "Ann : Eno Article"
Thanks for telling me, Stan, that the link was broken. Evidentally the online magazine took the link down because he's not listed on the index in their front page either. Who knows why. Anyway, because my "Mail" program is sometimes fortunately retarded and doesn't always delete email older than a day (like it's supposed to), I was able to rescue it from my nervenet mailing list that I had tossed a few days earlier. Without further ado:
December 30, 2002
American Empire as Gated Community
by BRIAN ENO
The American edition of Time will not be running the piece, as
apparently they think that even the mildest criticism from our warmest
friends will be too much for a U.S. audience to handle. B. Eno
"Europeans have always looked at America with a mixture of fascination
and puzzlement, and now, increasingly, disbelief. How is it that a
country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many
very poor people?
How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to
exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the
world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy
special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a
country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so
I could fill this page with the names of Americans who have influenced,
entertained and educated me. They represent what I admire about
America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that
things can be changed for the better.
That was the America I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 until 1983. That
America was an act of faith--the faith that "otherness" was not
threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big
enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world
could throw at it. But that vision is being eclipsed by a suspicious,
introverted America, a country-sized version of that peculiarly
American form of ghetto: the gated community.
A gated community is defensive. Designed to keep the "others" out, it
dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of
disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a
Surely this isn't the America that anyone dreamed of; it's a last
resort, nobody's choice. It's especially ironic since so much of the
best newthinking about society, economics, politics and philosophy in
the last century came from America. Unhampered by the snobbery and
exclusivity of much European thought, American thinkers vaulted
forward--courageous,innovative and determined to talk in a public
But, unfortunately, over the same period, the mass media vaulted
backwards, thriving on increasingly simple stories and trivializing
news into something indistinguishable from entertainment. As a result,
a wealth of original and subtle thought--America's real wealth--is
This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of
the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left
has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective
cultural criticism. It seems content to do yoga and gender studies,
leaving the fundamentalist Christian right and the multinationals to do
The separation of church and state seems to be breaking down too.
Political discourse is now dominated by moralizing, like George W.
Bush's promotion of American "family values" abroad, and dissent is
unpatriotic. "You're either with us or against us" is the kind of cant
you'd expectfrom a zealous mullah, not an American president.
When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious.
"They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get
it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want
what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the
rest: the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality,
functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed
world. President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single
surviving model of human progress".
Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it
as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance.
Europeans tend to regard free national health services, unemployment
benefits, social housing, and so on as pretty good models of
humanprogress. We think it's important--civilized, in fact--to help
people who fall through society's cracks. This isn't just altruism, but
an understanding that having too many losers in society hurts everyone.
It's better for everybody to have a stake in society than to have a
resentful underclass bent on wrecking things.
To many Americans, this sounds like socialism, big government, the
nanny state. But so what? The result is: Europe has less crime and less
poverty and arguably higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes
a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.
Too often, the U.S. presents the "American way" as the only way,
insisting on its kind of free market Darwinism as the only acceptable"
model of human progress." But isn't civilization what happens when
people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian
struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures?
America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's
sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the
intertwined realities of the 21st century.
There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the
world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends.
Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all
the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?"
Brian Eno is a musician who believes that regime change begins at home.
This is great! It's the most well written description of the U.S. I've ever read. It has a lot of accurcy without being too harsh or condecending in its perspective. It is descrete and thoughtful in its language.
I would like to understand the new American self - rightousness, but it escapes me even as a U.S. citizen. We really need to ask ourselves as a nation where we can go from being the last superpower. I think it's quite clear that our grip on power is eroding very fast, and sooner, more than later, we're going to have to become a 'nation in a world of nations' rather than the 'policeman of the world'.
With the fascist style government we now have it looks like; by the time we do realize that the U.S. is just another country - we will surely be a third world country.
Perhaps we'll have an upper class that never payes any taxes and a poor class (everyone else) that makes the upper ruling class always fearful of being violently overthrown. And this new republic we can all thank President Bush for - if we keep going the direction we're presently headed in concerning international politics.
I guess I'm not nearly as kind and dilomatic when writing about my own country as Eno is.
Maybe it's better if people read what Eno wrote and ignored me.
Posted by Stan @ 01:05:2003:08:50 PM CST