Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cynical View Vs. Romantic View - American Spirit

One of my fellow bloggers recently posted something on her blog that was incredibly complimentary about the American Spirit vs British disparagement of same. I was resisiting a counter post but have rambled on over on her blog far too much, which is a little unfair. I did put some counter arguments up, someone else resorted to a fairly insulting track aimed at the author which was uncalled for. So rather than carry on there, I am doing my counter post! You may now switch off. Pedr, come back tomorrow I'll have something for you ;)

OK I think what got the person who resorted to personal slurs annoyed was the statement that British people have an inferiority complex due to repeated invasion and conquering. Which is only accurate if you go back about 1000 years or so. So logically we have to wait another 600 years before we can have an accurate comparison. And far from an inferiority complex I think we have an overwhelming superiority complex where Americans are concerned, convinced that we are intellectually, culturally and morally better than they are. Basically we appear to view America like a wayward teenager who is a little too interested in matches.

It's Just a Phase He's Going Through.

I am going off the point though. I am not quoting verbatim here, so apologies if this is out of context but I think I get the right feeling. Basically, the person who raised the post and I have differing views on the same facts. She sees the original settlers as hardy pioneers, with a strong spirit of adventure and a 'overcome all odds to achieve my dream' mentality. I see them as religious zealots from the 16th century, desperate not to die from myriad nasty diseases and - just like all animals - a desire to survive. That's all they did initially, and only with the help of the natives. Who they later killed.

My point I guess is that if we look back on it, it's easy to attribute these golden qualities to the original settlers of the States, but in reality (in my opinion) they were just like their contemporarys around the world. They saw an opportunity to have things, which they proceeded to take.

Another point was that they eventually broke free of British Imperial power, which is absolutely true. They did it with the use of French Colonial power. That's a conveniently forgotten fact when American politicians discuss the French though. But break free they did, there are arguments about the altruism of those who pushed for independence. Being a cynic, I can't help but notice that in the early 1770s there began a concerted effort to outlaw slavery in Britain and its colonies and in 1775 a war of independence broke out. Slavery has technically been illegal since the 12th century in Britain but in practice it wasn't until the 18th century that the law began to be clarified. Anyway, I digress. My own biased and cynical opinion is that you probably had a bunch of people who believed in freedom and independence and a bunch of people who had an eye on the profits. Again, this isn't unique to America and this particular war - there are ulterior motives for most wars, usually to do with profit or territory.

I am rambling on here, I guess the point I am trying to make is that America didn't start off that different to everyone else. There were a handful of pioneers who did some amazing things, but mostly they were just like everyone else - eveything else is just about how good the story tellers after the fact have been.

Ok so what's the point of all this? Well I've put a lot of negative stuff here, implying that the War of Independence was linked with the Slave trade, that original settlers were just as greedy as everyone else, that freedom through genocide is a morally bankrupt trade-off and lots of other things. Some of it is tenuous and I was going to go further, to the extremes of cynicism. Bascially my real feeling is that somewhere between the romantic view and this view lies something approaching the truth. I am considering doing two posts, one extoling the America's virutes as a nation at its inception and various instances since and one lambasting the same things, it could be an interesting exercise on 2 fronts :

1) Illustration of how the same facts can be talked about in two entirely different ways.

2)See if I am able to say unequivocal good things about the US or the UK!

Anyway, let me know what you think.

PS

I deliberately didn't link to the original article but if the author wants me to I will, I just thought you could do with a breather!

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