The Cynicism Of American Culture

in Culture/Philosophy by
   

Last week, I wrote an article discussing why the fabled “Great American Novel” will likely never come to pass. In said article, I posited that the main reason this is the case is because American culture is a heavily guilt-laden culture. Most unusually, I posited that, contrary to the old claim of Americans being super-fanatically patriotic, this guilt/cultural cringe has always been a part of American culture and, indeed, one of the biggest motifs of the American arts.

And I stand by that claim: while there is certainly a lot of low-brow Walmart-level “patriotardery” being produced in the United States, the fact remains that not only does no American artist of note produce anything that can be remotely considered “patriotardism”, but this shame/guilt complex is taught to American children in schools. If those two things alone weren’t bad enough, I feel that these are the reasons why America was the first nation to fall to globalism and become its armed enforcer, despite modern America not having any substantial imperial “vision” to compare to empires of the past.

A Brief Analysis of American Arts

I cannot stress this enough:  there is literally not a single American artist that is praised by serious critics who is the stereotypical “rah rah”-ing, flag sweatsuit wearing, fatbodied patriotic idiot. Even more surprising, this low-brow intellectual trend has never existed in American high culture.

Like I said last week, James Fenimore Cooper is probably the closest that American literature comes to it, but even he portrays the natives as being superior in many ways to the colonials, and overall portrays the conquest of the United States as something of an inevitable tragedy that MAY have something good come out of it at the end.

From there, American literature is a hard and fast series of criticisms of every aspect of the United States: Even at his life’s happiest, Mark Twain criticizes aspects of American culture both at home and abroad, and his tune certainly didn’t change with the death of his son or America betraying its ideals in occupying the Philippines

Sinclair Lewis and HL Mencken brutally satirized the American culture of their day in works like Babbitt and various criticisms of “Boobus Americanus”, respectively.

Scott Fitzgerald? Whether it be at home or abroad, he certainly pulls no punches in criticizing the American nouveau riche.

Tennessee Williams? Yeah, those plays full of repressed homosexuality, the culture of the Old South futilely fighting against modernity, and Southern belles being dragged off to insane asylums are totally celebrating wholesome Americana…and yes, I’m being sarcastic.

And the list just goes on: Bukowski, Kerouac, Vonnegut, and Faulkner, to name a few of my favorites. The only great American writers that aren’t explicitly criticizing the USA are the ones who don’t even bother setting their stories in the United States and thus avoid having to analyze American culture: London, Hemingway, Melville, and Poe, to name a few more.

If you want to look away from the “highbrow”, HP Lovecraft is another exemplar of this American sort of cynicism (I personally feel the man should be heralded in the same league as the ‘high art’ detailed above, but that’s a whole different issue)—after all, he created an entire fictional pantheon and mythology that I consider to be a distinct American mythos—a pantheon characterized by fear, paranoia, insanity, and futility. Where is the alleged naivete and eternal sense of Manifest Destiny with Lovecraft?

What can be said of literature can be said for the visual arts: painters, filmmakers, etc. None of the “highbrow” visual artists can be described as patriotic.

Ignoring the criticisms they make (a good amount of which are valid), and whether or not they are worth reading (in most cases they are): does nobody else find it odd that no other country’s literature or art reveals such a negative self image?

Of course, I’m not going to say America has never committed wrongdoing. But with all the deconstructions and criticisms over the last 200 years, you’d think the USA would have collapsed by now!

School

But the literature is only one piece of America’s “cultural cringe”—perhaps it would be a bigger piece if we were taught anything about them in school.

Instead, the American public school system goes out of its way to not discuss any of these great artists, or any other objective achievements of the United States. The point I always make when discussing this is the fact that the USA has won more Nobel prizes than any nation on Earth, and yet there is not a single child that is taught this fact—I didn’t know it until l got to college.

“But if American writers are so anti-American, wouldn’t the schools teach them?” You would think that, but I suppose preventing white American children being taught that their ancestors were capable of creating great works of art (cynical though they may be) is a more important form of deconstruction than the already extant deconstruction created by “Dead white males”.

Indeed, as a young child, I distinctly remember being made to cry over the “shame” of America’s history

And yet, at the same time, there is an undeniable sort of infantile patriotism that goes on in the United States. It’s concurrent to the constant deconstructions detailed above, and just thinking about it creates a massive sense of cognitive dissonance: One part of the media bombards us with the basest patriotism, while school and other parts of the media constantly mock the very notion. Then we’re never given any legitimate reasons to be patriotic, so anyone with half a brain realizes how stupid all of that “America for America’s sake” patriotardery is, and they hate America because of it.

It’s a lot like religion—in that a lot of the activities that go on in the church/temple/whatever are completely pointless, but there is truth and edification in the core of the religion (after sifting through all the crap), just like there is greatness in America underneath the nonsense. This is the conclusion I came to, and likely many other readers on the “New Right” have come to this conclusion as well.

Why?

So the question remains: Why does America have this split-personality, one an artificially constructed fanatical patriotism, and the other a very real cynicism/fatalism? Indeed, why is America the only country in the world where the majority population openly welcomes its dispossession?

If I had to posit a guess, I would assume this dichotomy in the United States (slowly growing to include other Western countries) is part of the overarching globalist agenda for all nations: You pump up the left-side of the bell curve with talk of “muh freedoms” and “spreading democracy” so they run off and get killed in pointless wars (how much of the military genuinely believes in American nation building nonsense, and how much of them are just in it for a paycheck, is a matter of debate. The military men I know largely did it for a combination of getting into college for free and the desire for adventure/testing their mettle).

Meanwhile, the intelligentsia basically have no choice but to dislike their country (and looking at the Wal-Mart crowd that buys into that AMERICA FUCK YEAH crap, can you really blame them?), and are allowed to vent their frustrations with anti-American intellectual properties.

Thus, rich and poor, tidewater and backwoods, are set at each other’s throats in endless squabble, while the “cool” corporations and jet-setting cosmopolitans tighten their grip on the US (and other countries). Because blue and white collar are fighting each other instead of seeing themselves as one united country and fighting their common enemy.

So, understanding my theory that this “split personality” was deliberately engendered in this country, what is to be done? Judging from my own experience, I would say:

America should be looked at exactly as it is, and presented exactly as it is from the time a child starts his education: as it truly is: warts and all, but its sins in relation to other countries’. Those warts should be acknowledged, but also its greatness, glory and failure taught equally. Sadly, I was given a “nothing but warts” education, and only on my own time have I grasped a truly nuanced understanding of what my country has accomplished and failed at.

It is only in this way we can remove ourselves from the morass of guilt AND infantile patriotic chauvinism, and start making this country the way it ought to be.

Larsen Halleck is best known as the fitness and nutrition writer for Return of Kings, but also writes at his own website The Barbaric Gentleman, and also makes Youtube videos You can follow him at his aforementioned website and Youtube channels, as well as on Twitter, and on Gab