Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One clear sign of anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism, and anti-everythingelseism) is out-of-context criticism. That is, if you're talking about something completely different and you throw in some America-bashing for no particular reason, you're most likely an anti-American. You are especially likely to be anti-American if your bashing is an oft-repeated stereotype.

So get this on the back page of La Vanguardia this morning. One Lluís Amiguet interviews one Clément Rosset, who is billed as a French-Spanish "philosopher." One of Rosset's pearls is: "Iberian culture knows how to find happiness in the tragedy of living." Huh? Since when? What a dumb generalization.

Anyway, Amiguet asks Rosset, "Why are we so afraid?"

First, who's "we," white man? I'm not particularly afraid of anything I can control; yes, I'm "afraid" of getting run over by a bus, as anyone sensible would be, but I don't exactly dwell on the subject, since I'm generally pretty careful to stay out of the path of oncoming buses. And as for things I can't control, I just have to accept that shit happens, and you play the hand of cards you get dealt.

But Rosset answers,

Because when you deny death, illness, and pain, you are much more afraid of everything. You fear that a sick person or even a dead one will sneak into the shopping mall and wake us up from the dream of consumption. Look at the United States: they live sunk in continual paranoia.

For some reason anti-Americans love to think that American society lives shaking in fear and panic. It's the most frequently-repeated Yank-bashing meme I see. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth; in fact, I think Spanish society is more paranoid than American. You hear many more conspiracy theories over here; there's always some hidden power group that controls everything. Rosset manages to work in another Yank-bashing meme, that American society cares about nothing except for material consumption. And, of course, who says Americans deny death, illness, and pain? Seems to me that if we're a bunch of crazy Jesus freaks, as another oft-repeated meme goes, that means we're very concerned with the subjects of death and the afterlife, right? But with an anti-American, you can't win either way.

Amiguet replies, "The Frightened States of America."

Says Rosset,

Precisely because they have decided to hide the dark side of existence. If you accept it naturally, you are much less afraid, because you accept that someday you will get sick, die, get old, be ugly, sad, maybe you'll be alone, very alone...

1) The Americans have "decided to hide the dark side of existence?" How was that decision made? Did we take a vote or was it imposed by the Bush administration? 2) It seems healthier to me not to dwell on or obsess about unpleasant facts like illness and death that we cannot control. If you go around thinking about that stuff all the time, as Rosset seems to be recommending--he says, "The central question of philosophy is that we are going to die," and "We must be conscious of the immense joke of this existence: we are all going to die," you're likely to be miserable. Yes, we all know we are going to die, but why ruin a nice sunny morning contemplating it?

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