Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Greatest Show on Earth?

I recently heard a comedian, I think it was Lewis Black, talk about Americans’ persistence upon repeating the mantra that America is the “greatest country in the world”. I’ll paraphrase what he said:

Can you imagine working in an office and having some ass-hole come to work every day and announce, “I’d like to remind you today that I’m the greatest worker in this office?”

The joke was funny, but I wonder how the rest of the world feels about this perpetual hubris exhibited by Americans, especially politicians.

What, indeed, does it mean to be the “greatest country in the world”? uses the following list of characteristics in their definition of “great” (I’ll note whether a particular characteristic might define the average American’s definition of “the greatest country in the world”):

  1. Very large in size (True, but it’s nothing to brag about.)

  2. Larger in size than others of the same kind (Larger than most. Is this what Americans mean? Others can see on a map that the former United States of America (the FUSA) is large in size. Innocent people were slaughtered on behalf of that “accomplishment”.)

  3. Large in quantity or number (Definitely not the largest population.)

  4. Extensive in time or distance (This just doesn’t seem to fit.)

  5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent (This looks like something that might be in the minds of those who repeat that mantra but it’s just an abstract that defines another abstract.)

  6. Of outstanding significance or importance (The number of nukes we possess surely makes us important. Other than that, it’s, yet, another abstract.)

  7. Chief or principal (This also looks like it fits, what ever “chief or principle” means when comparing America to other nations. Does the rest of the world consider America “chief or principle”? If so, why? It is the nukes?)

  8. Superior in quality or character; noble (Another abstract.)

  9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West ( Pass on this one.)

  10. Eminent; distinguished: a great leader (American research has led to technological advances. We’ve put people on the moon. What has that done for us? Are there positive affects almost 40 years later? If this is what Americans mean, then we have to find another reason because this one has to be tapped out by now .

    If we looked to the rest of the world, would we find any other nations that have helped advance human kind technologically?

    Is technological advancement the “greatest kind” of advancement? What have we done with our technology? It was not used for the good of human kind in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
    It may be used in the not too distant future in Iran or North Korea, but it won’t be for the good of human kind no matter who’s at fault or who “starts it”.)

  11. Grand; aristocratic. (Are all Americans “aristocratic”? Don’t class and wealth present problems in the FUSA, although not only in the FUSA?)

  12. Informal Enthusiastic (Americans can be enthusiastic. They seem most enthused about war. When America is at war, that was during 60% of the 20th century, many Americans start waving flags and putting “patriotic” paraphernalia where ever they can stick it. War, indeed, helps to bring out America’s enthusiasm. Does enthusiasm for war make us great?

    Let’s go back to the comedian. “I’m the greatest worker in this office and I can kick all of your asses.”

    That would not describe a person who’s popular around the water cooler)

  13. Informal Very skillful (We used to be but American owned multinational corporations obviously don’t believe that anymore.

    They’re sending jobs to other nations because the labor is cheaper. Do they admit Americans are more skillful but they’d rather sacrifice quality in favor of labor costs? That flies in the face of Americans’ enthusiasm.)

  14. Informal Very good; first-rate (“First-rate” is yet another abstract.)
Are we the “greatest country in the world” because we have the most deadly military in the world, especially if technology is considered? We have the most nuclear weapons, those things that we don’t want anyone else to possess. That makes us the most militarily powerful country in the world and, if we have a mind to, we can obliterate other nations. It also makes us hypocrites.

Are we the most democratic, free, all inclusive country in the world?

In 1965, one hundred years after the American government said it was illegal to own human beings, Congress passed a law stating that those “newly” freed black human beings could not be denied work, housing, voting rights or other civil rights simply because of the color of their skin. That law will be up for renewal soon and there are actually politicians who want to debate The Civil Rights Act!

From Irish to Italians to Greeks to Jews, America has never warmly welcomed immigrants. Each group had to go through insult, disparagement and physical abuse before it “melted into the pot”.

Disdain for and exclusion of other “immigrants”, like Native Americans, sub-Saharan Africans, Orientals and Latinos, because of ever present physical features, have been perpetuated and are still strong today. The FUSA is not the most inclusive country in the world.

Our economic system, capitalism, actually encourages exclusion by emphasizing competition. Competition almost always has a winner and a loser and that fact is painfully obvious in the FUSA. Under capitalism, someone has to win and someone has to lose. When the “losers” turn to the state to aid them in their subsistence, the “winners” complain. Inclusion is virtually impossible under these conditions.

What is it about America that ultimately compels Americans to constantly repeat the mantra that America is “the greatest country in the world”?

To friendship,

“America is not a country, it is a world”. - Alexis de Tocqueville

The Mind Of Michael


Anonymous said...

Although I generally agree with your concept, I thought you might find it interesting that:

1. Only about 60% of Americans think we are "The greatest country on earth."

2. 95%+ of Japanese believe that Japan is the greatest country on earth.

3. Many countries residents feel that their country is The greatest on earth.

An interesting side note:
When asked, 80+% of drivers think their driving is excellent.
When asked, 80+% of drivers think other's driving is terrible.

Michael said...

Your stats are interesting. Thanks.

The thing is that the guy who said this in his skit and I are Americans. We live here and we don’t ever hear rousing speeches by politicians in Japan calling it the greatest country in the world. Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t understand it anyway.

We do hear all of our politicians revving up the crowds with that mantra. People tend to think that we’re not only the greatest country in the world, but the only meaningful country in the world.

Consequently, far too many Americans begin to give this country the “right” to do whatever it wants. After all, we’re the only meaningful country on earth.

This kind of jingoism leads to the “my country right or wrong” mentality which leads to support for invasions of nations who never did anything to the FUSA. It leads to blind obedience and an unwillingness to question one’s government. The government, like our Regime, takes advantage of the blind support, commits crimes and turns the situation around so that dissenters become the criminals. They give “aid and comfort to the enemy” with their dissent.

We have seen where that leads in condoning unwarranted wiretapping, data mining, etc.

One quick word about language.

One can travel anywhere in the world and find a fairly large number of people who can converse in English. In the FUSA, not only do “patriotic” people not speak another language, the citizens feel as if they shouldn’t have to. I’ve been told, “That’s the way it should be.” But, then, that’s another essay altogether.

Thanks for reading and responding.

To friendship,

“The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” Thomas Carlyle

The Mind Of Michael