Saturday, February 05, 2005

Here's Luis Racionero in yesterday's La Vanguardia. The piece is titled "American culture". These are just a few excerpts rather than a full translation, since it's a long article.

...Eurocentric intellectuals despise what they know nothing of*, egged on by the persistent anti-American campaign over Bush's wars, and also the inferiority complex of the Europeans themselves...My working hypothesis is that during the 20th century, the United States developed a culture--that is, art, literature, science, standard of living, rule of law--that, during the century, eclipsed and replaced the European in world hegemony...In the 20th century's own art form, film, the hegemony of the United States is total. Regarding science, it is enough to look down the list of Nobel Prize winners, universities, and scientific journals...

At the end of the 20th century, the heritage of all the European brains recruited by the United States--after 1945, with high salaries and good laboratories--had created cultural conditions considerably above the already high European level. Given these objective conditions, does it make sense that the Europeans--badly advised by some of their intellectuals, especially French ones--should scorn American culture and accuse it of cultural imperialism?...Why not adimt that, like the European grapevines transported to California and then returned to France after the deadly phylloxera**, European culture has been transplanted to the United States, from which it can return, brought back by those who bother to study in its universities and inquire without prejudices, openly, into that culture which has been that of the 20th century?

Notes: * is a well-known quotation from the early 20th century by the poet Antonio Machado, of the "Generation of 1898", a group of authors who lamented the decline of Spanish culture during the decadent 1800s and by their work did a great deal to revitalize it. Here's the complete couplet:

Castilla miserable,
ayer dominadora,
envuelta en sus andrajos
desprecia cuanto ignora.

(Poor Castile,
yesterday overlord,
wrapped in its rags
scorns what it ignores.)

**Phylloxera was a plant disease that attacked and destroyed all European grapevines in the late 1800s, with a lot of serious social consequences--it caused a mass emigration from the Catalan countryside into Barcelona and other industrial cities in search of work. The old dead grapevines were replaced by California ones of original European stock that had been transported over and mixed with the genes of native American grapevines, making them immune to phylloxera. To my knowledge 100% of grapevines in the world today originally come from these California hybrids.

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