July 27, 2004

America and Discontent

WE ARE GRATEFUL to Sasha Castel for bringing to our attention a particularly horrid little book which spreads gross mistruths about the United States and American culture. This vile little volume, entitled "Culture Shock! USA" contains enough distortions, half-truths and outright falsehoods to rival an edition of Pravda from the Thirties. We borrow from Ms Castel some of the more egregious examples:

From Page 86: "The American dinner has fallen under medical disapproval due to its high cholesterol content. The meal typically consists of a large piece of meat, ketchup, vegetables with butter, potatoes (fried or with butter), and a sweet dessert."

From Page 19: "The Puritans would not have smiled on the conspicuous consumption of today, but they would have admired the unrelenting effort that goes into the acquisition of goods. Americans have much greater admiration for businessmen than most other peoples do. An Englishman who has made enough money may well be happy to retire to his country home. The American only wants to go on making more money, driven as much by the Puritan work ethic...as by the desire for more money."

From Page 24: "Expect also to find innumerable exceptions to any of my claims about Americans. Just as not every Japanese is hard-working and deferential to superiors, nor every Chinese devoted to family, not every American is ambitious, patriotic, money-grubbing or even unsophisticated."

This last one particularly annoyed us, as we have this thing against comparing the United States with Gomorrah.

Anyway, Ms Castel has noted many more examples, and she understandably writes that even a quick look at this book prompted her to become enraged. We are not amused either, although we note the publisher is based in Oregon, and we suspect that might have something to do with it. (Hey, if you had spent a weekend in Eugene on business, you'd feel the same way).

Now, we admit our first reaction upon reading these awful excerpts was a feeling that turnabout was fair play; but on reflection we felt such a reaction was patently unfair. After all, it would not be fair to blame the Europeans for a work that is entirely American. However, because we are concerned that Europeans might read this book and draw erroneous conclusions from it, we encourage Europeans to read plenty of U.S.-based blogs -- like, say, ours -- to get a full understanding of American life.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 27, 2004 09:47 PM | TrackBack