Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Do Not Expect Anything Less
"For French writers like Kadmi-Cohen, the author of 'The American Abomination,' (1930) the threat from United States was not just economic or military. America now posed a social and cultural danger to the civilization of Europe. The greatest 'American peril' (a phrase that became commonplace in the literature) was the standardization of social life (the ancestor of today’s complaints against globalization), the thinning of the richness of human habits to the point where they could be marketable not only inside America but, because of the global reach of American capitalism, to the entire world. Hollywood movies, which, according to Georges Duhamel, were 'an amusement for slaves,' and 'a pastime for the illiterate, for poor creatures stupefied by work and anxiety,' were the Trojan horse for the Americanization of the world."


"Hamsun gave lectures about his stays in the United States at the University of Copenhagen, and then made them into a book, 'The Cultural Life of Modern America,' (1889) that was largely devoted to asserting its nonexistence. Emerson? A dealer in glib generalizations. Whitman? A hot gush of misdirected fervor. For Hamsun, America was, above all, bluster wrapped up in dollar bills. 'It is incredible how naively cocksure Americans are in their belief that they can whip any enemy whatsoever,' he wrote. 'There is no end to their patriotism; it is a patriotism that never flinches, and it is just as loudmouthed as it is vehement.'
An interesting recap in the New Yorker of over 200 years of anti-American prejudice voiced by Europeans.


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