Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pinter's Nobel Lecture

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

5 Comments:

Blogger David Moles said...

Ah, Pinter’s over-thinking it. Most of what’s wrong with America can be explained by the fact that the place is so damned big that to most people living in it, what goes on in the world outside its borders really does have no apparent relevance to daily life.

8:29 pm  
Anonymous Mike Cobley said...

Pinter is bang on target: I`ve come to the conclusion recently that Hollywood, far from being a hindrance to America`s campaign to run the world, is essential to it. Y`know, if Nazi Germany had had a Hollywood, Hitler (or indeed Hitler`s clonechilddemon) would still be in charge. Hollywood pours a river of darkside mindtricks out across the globe, and we`re too busy buying up the boxed set of this, or the action figure of that to bother with the torture and bombing of civilians in Iraq.

All hail the American night!

10:36 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

David: I think that ignorance of world affairs is probably a large part of why the US administrations can pretty much enact whatever foreign policy suits them; but are the policymakers acting from a similar indifference to the outside world?

It's the bit of Pinter's lecture I quote there which seems to me the most perceptive. If a politician used the phrase "the British people" in the UK it would have little of the affective weight that "the American people" seems to carry in the US. That this sort of emotional button-pushing is so deeply powerful in the US points to a Romantic idealisation of the "homeland" and the "folks"; and I think he's right that this is essentially about denying thought, snuggling under the big security blankie, slumbering in that warm fuzzy feeling of loyalty and pride.

I think that Americanism does have its darker-than-dark side too, which is where the foreign policy comes from. As soon as you have to justify your right to voice an opinion by explicitly restating your allegiance -- "I love my country (but...)" or "I am *not* anti-American (but...)" -- man, they've got your balls in a vice. You've accepted the moral authority of nationalism, as much as admitted that their fist is in your face, that the onus is on *you* to defend yourself from the old "unAmerican!" accusation... and before it's even been voiced. In that sort of situation you're talking about a nationalism that's not longer about warm fuzzy feelings.

4:22 pm  
Blogger David Moles said...

...but are the policymakers acting from a similar indifference to the outside world?

This crop? Yeah, actually.

Usually it’s just capitalism and Kissingerian realpolitik, though. No number of dead Guatemalan nuns is too high to prevent nationalization of American-owned banana plantations.

5:54 pm  
Blogger taleswapper said...

The thing with America is: What is America? Is it the government? Is it the people? Is it the people in the so-called heartland and not the people in the liberal cities?

Somehow, we have found a way to have a democratic government while completely believing that we are somehow divorced from the government's existence. So, all of us can say, "That wasn't me (or maybe not even the real America), it was all George (or Bill, or whomever)."

Mike: I think you're right, but the right-winger on the street doesn't seem to get it. It's an easy way to get votes from the Right: bash Hollywood. In spite of the fact that Hollywood is at least partly responsible for keeping the world from interfering with us. I saw a bumper sticker the other day on the back of some hick's truck:

(check) Afghanistan
(check) Iraq
(question mark) Hollywood

11:46 pm  

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