Yankee goes home...

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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanza to all in this season of kindness and brotherhood.

Your humble narrator is currently preparing to spend his first holiday season at 'home' in four years. And while I am happy to be seeing my family and comrades, I must admit a certain unease at the prospect of being in America during the "countdown."

The countdown. 

The final shopping days of the year. When the greased, gargantuan machine of American capitalism explodes in one sustained orgasm of crude pressure selling and mind numbing repetition. In which the birth of a wise man with beautiful ideas is celebrated with the compassion of a mechanical trinket and the attention span of a half-time show. 

The deep rooted and all pervasive consumerism of this corrupted season is one of the reasons I left America. It makes me sick to my soul. There is commercialism in Prague too of course, more each day, but nothing like the States. Not yet anyway. My Czech friends celebrate a Christmas that is absolutely Dickinsonian in comparison. 

The whole family together, fairy tales on public television uninterrupted by ads; gifts almost an afterthought: A book. A shirt. Slippers. It is even worth eating brown carp for two days just to be reminded that Christmas is possible without gifts the size of Fiats and the ceaseless, shrill whine of department store propaganda.

Many argue that this Culture of Things is what makes America great. They admit that while it is sad that the Sermon on the Mount is swamped under Blowout Clearance Sales, this is precisely what makes the US the strongest economy in the world, the savior market for Asia, the motor of world 'growth', and so on. But this Wall Street argument entirely misses the point. 

It is assumes that 'growth' through consumption is both sustainable and desirable, and imagines that no other economic ordering principle is possible. It is the death stench world-view of the modern business school, and the results are all around us, getting louder and more violent with each passing profit quarter.

The high priests of official dogma have had considerable success in equating 'consumption' with 'democracy' in the public discourse. In America it is still possible to be called a communist for criticizing consumer culture or, like Oprah Winfrey, to be hauled into court for publicly declining to eat American Beef. 

But contrary to the claims of syndicated ideologues, it is quite possible to have a free society with restrictions placed upon the power and scope of corporate interests. In fact, America is almost alone in its near total lack of these restrictions. It is America's attempt to tear down such limits in other countries that resulted in the massive demonstrations in Seattle

For in a sense the WTO represents the idea that has made Christmas in America and elsewhere such a nauseating farce. It represents the idea that has led adherents of the biggest religion on earth to refer to America as the 'Great Satan.' In short, this idea is the purely materialistic understanding of humankind, and an American one at that. In which the economy produces goods, populations consume them, and investors die with fat, useless wads of profit stuffed into offshore accounts.

This idea as institutionalized in the WTO leaves no room for beauty, nobility, culture, Difference, communal society, or whatever else makes life worth living. The French don't want Hollywood? Too bad. Venezuelans want local corn? f*ck 'em. Uncle Sammy's runnin' this show.

It is often said that the forces of globalization are inevitable and it is useless to fight against them. Maybe. But they are also being clearly driven by the State Department and it is imperative to resist them however possible. A decent world shouldn't go down without a fight, and indeed it won't. 

I don't want New Jersey to be like New Jersey, and I certainly don't want Bulgaria to be like New Jersey. Truth told, I don't think many Bulgarians want it either. There was a time when America's greatest export was Democracy. When its representatives to the world were Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. 

Two hundred years later, American leadership doesn't look so benign, and it doesn't look much like leadership either. Thomas Jefferson has been replaced by Alan Greenspan, and the exported ideals of Democracy have been replaced by the info-mercial and the sweatshop.

When I go home this Christmas I will avoid the television, and instead try to talk to people about how sick and dangerous American culture really is: the ignorance, the pride, the waste, above all the waste, and the illusions. But please don't call me a communist. I'm actually an old-fashioned New England patriot. And I believe in redemption. In this world.

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Yesterday : Dita Today : Soňa Tomorrow : Taťána After tomorrow : Arnošt

 
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