Thursday, February 19, 2004

This post might be a little controversial, but I had a thought and it’s been nagging at me for some time. This site is the arena for my thoughts and I therefore have a responsibility to deliver them. That’s my excuse anyway.

My thought is that the United States is a bit like a Third World country. In fact, the more I have thought about it, the more convinced I have become. Don’t get me wrong; I like much about what Bill Hicks called the United States of Advertising – for a start there is, or sadly was, Bill Hicks. The good part of their culture is very good indeed: fabulous film, music and comedy. Most Americans I have met have been lovely, friendly and sincere.

Albeit these are the ones who have been bothered to leave their country. And many of those are fat tourists yielding fat wallets. And others regaled me with tales of the idiots they have to counter at home. One American I met told me he was browsing through a shop when asked by the store attendant where he got his sneakers from – for that is what they are called over there. When he replied “Europe”, he was asked if that was a place in Nebraska… You have to wonder. But nevertheless, nice enough people on the whole.

Like in fact all people absolutely everywhere in the world regardless of creed, religion, climate and skin pigmentation. Everyone’s friendly – some people seem to be shocked by this when they venture into the wider world and discover it for themselves. Venture outside of Britain and people will smile!

Yet the US is a third-world country in many things apart from their businesses - which are ran by people spawned from the black worm jism of Beelzebub himself - and the nice big fat fucking economy produced as a result.

Now it may occur to you that these are the two main factors necessary to attain the status that comes with the word “Western”. Well perhaps But there’s a cultural and social side to it that separates the US from virtually every other advanced Western country but which it also has in common with classical third-world nations. Which is a shame really because historically speaking, the United States has been the foremost modern force in the development of progressive liberalising politics and international unification. It seems to have gone a long way backwards very quickly in this respect under the present White House incumbent – the utter twat that he is, but the trends I speak of are more fundamental and long-term within the US psyche.

The first and perhaps most immediate reason is capital punishment. Hardly any Western democracy in the world still executes its worst criminals. Third World countries are mostly the only states that still do this. Since the late seventies, the US has executed over 700 people. I’m not going to write an argument about the rights and wrongs of the death penalty here – I just want to point out the trends.

Hardly any countries in the world put juveniles to death – even amongst the Third World. The mighty old US of A do though. The only other countries in this happy little club are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Only two countries have not signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The US shares this dubious honour with the great state that is Somalia.

As it stands, the US has two million people in prison. The US has the highest percentage of its population behind bars - more than any other country in the world, Russia is second followed by Belarus, Dominica, Montserrat, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and then Botswana! The first industrialised nation on the list is Portugal at no. 34 with 1.28 per 1000 people in prison. The UK has 1.09 per 1000 people and is no. 40 in the list. In the US the statistic is 6.41 per 1000!

The other obvious example is Defence spending. Per capita the US spends more than anyone else on defence except for Israel and Singapore. Next come Brunei, Kuwait, New Caledonia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and then Saudi Arabia. But look at this stat regarding spending statistics! Jesus H. Christ!

What I find so terrible is that one day of global arms spending would be enough to provide a year’s education to every uneducated child in the world. Hmm, now I’m neither a rocket scientist nor a brain surgeon but it seems obvious to me that perhaps if we could provide even a bit of that education it will go a damn sight further to reducing international terrorism than all the recent wars put together. But such a thing is a long-term solution – no government will benefit in the ballot box from an effect that might be felt only in a generation’s time. And it would probably be very difficult to gather the money, distribute it and set up the education programmes. I bet not nearly as difficult as putting a man on the moon though.

I would love it if the UN could suggest that just the 0.274 per cent of global defence spending suggested above could somehow be collected and used for teaching the world’s uneducated children. Not exactly a massive tax is it? Ignorant young people are a fanatical recruiter’s dream.

Religion – religion is a fundamental part of the US’ makeup. Okay fair enough, each to their own. Personally I think it’s a little cuckoo, but that’s just me. Nearly half of American’s polled believed that the USA was actually blessed by God! HA HA HA HA HA!!! Like God would give a toss about a country. Listen to the President’s speeches - or any other US leader for that matter - and see how many references to God you get. “God bless the United States” and all that entirely utter wank.

Now listen to the speeches made by any other modern state’s Premier.

Now listen to a speech made by an African or Asian leader of a poor Third World country.

Compare and contrast.

I bristle with smugness.

For that matter, how many Western nations have a Presidential system?

Perhaps it is all a result of the rampant nationalism that the US experiences amongst its citizens. I cannot blame the American population for this - I’ve always believed that people are essentially the same everywhere. Such nationalism is the result of their peculiar style of education and the terribly commercial and self-interested media pandering to popularist notions about country. To find similar levels of nationalism, travel to the Middle East, Africa, South America, or nineteenth century Britain. Nationalism is a negative force in my opinion although those who espouse it regard it as a very positive one. Self-deluded fools to a man.

The other obvious example is the gun culture. If you want to carry a handgun around, live in the Middle East or move to the dodgy parts of Africa. Don’t live anywhere in Europe – except for some eastern European states where you can go to a shooting range. Don’t settle down in the Far East either, or in fact Australasian region. But you can try the US. I believe you can still go to Vietnam and shoot a cow with a grenade launcher for $300 though.

Give the rednecks their guns. It’s all about freedom. That little word that is used like it’s a weapon or a thing itself rather than a concept pertaining to an idea.

“Why are we arming our citizens daddy?”

“Because of freedom.”

“Why are we bombing that town?”

“Do not ask questions son, that explosion is the sound of freedom. Here, watch American Gladiators. You are free.”

The US is a relative baby of a country with a very short history. I think this goes a long way to explaining the apparent innocent of the American system of life. Perhaps I’ve no right to pass judgement, but the US impacts my life and many others around the world because of its power, so such intimate scrutiny is an inevitability. Regardless, the US is a curiosity and such is its cultural and political influence, I cannot help but reflect on its way of life. Besides, I get the impression that American’s are so insulated from any objective view of their own country that I feel that they should see others views on their country. All of the points above boil down to politics in the end. America’s politics is so far right of anywhere else in the Western world it’s untrue. A lot of this is due to the influence of capitalism insider the very system of government and the morality that comes with deep religious beliefs.

Perhaps a change of government will change the outside world’s view of all this. In which case perhaps we are being reacting to short-term trends rather than long-term.

Basing a major part of one’s political philosophy around a religious one is a bloody ridiculous idea to anyone outside of that religion of course.

Also using statistics to prove stupid points is also a bloody ridiculous idea, as you can make a good argument for anything using stats. But this exercise did lead to me finding the wonderful site I have been referencing today:

No comments: