All entries for Saturday 04 February 2006

February 04, 2006

A Review on a Book That’s Not Out Yet – America Against the World

America has always been against the world, hasn’t it? Well, in the eyes of an extremist, such as myself, it has. This Monday I had the luck to be present on a discussion of the book America against the world, which is to be published this May. The writers of this book initially held the aim of studying the global response to globalization. Americans love polls of opinions. That’s what democracy is about, isn’t it? So in the process of questioning random people from 50 countries across the globe, the researches stumbled upon the fact that there was another phenomenon, much more worrying than globalization. It’s called the anti-American movement. They didn’t wait long to turn that into an ISM word, so before we knew it, we were discussing anti-Americanism.

Anti-Americanism is fun and widespread. It’s trendy and catchy. We were shown a big number of rather interesting graphs and figures, all proving that the world is now hardly bearing with America. France and the UK were among the countries where it was no longer fashionable to chase after the American dream. The love has been declining quite tremendously from year 2000, plummeting rather significantly after the 9/11 and even more drastically after the Iraq invasion. In 2003, only 1% of Jordanians still favoured the US in some way; the rest of the Muslim world was also much unimpressed.

When asked about the ‘What’s your problem, man’, most respondents said they had issues with American policies. The truth is, not that many people really know of the policies existing and practiced by the States. So what they meant to say is ‘they had issues with the American government’. Fewer people thought of American people as carrying evil and promoting intolerance. However, a staggering amount of respondents gave up their last hope in Americans (as people) after they’ve re-elected George W. Bush. Disappointed they were indeed. In the words of the presenter himself ‘As the Daily Mail put it ‘How can 54 million people be so dumb?!’’. Before you go on and argue – it’s a rhetorical question. As Justin Timberlake has it ‘oh, oh, the damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leaving’. The president was elected and there should be no arguing.

When the researchers settled down to find the answer to the ‘Why, oh, why do they hate us so much?’ question, they came up with a bewilderingly stupid answer: Americans are different. I’ve heard this ‘we are different’ crap so many times it’s starting to gently pour out of my ears. Every single country is unique. Americans, due to the prolific work of the Hollywood, have long successfully imposed their ideology on the rest of the world. Besides, being tolerant as I am, and as fashion dictates it nowadays, I’m willing to accept any kind of ideology. So, what Americans believe in is much tolerated, if hardly respected sometimes.

Another explanation provided for the un-love was the religiosity of the Americans. Apparently, over 95% of Americans take guidance from religious organizations and count with their opinion. Oh, bollocks! So now I have to blame god for all the wrong-doings of the Americans?

Third excuse: Americans are patriots. Oh, now that’s just not smart. I’m sure students around the world have experience Patriotism a la Chine and had a taste of what united Chinese students look like when someone is attacking their country. And yet people aren’t hating the Chinese, definitely not for their patriotism!

What I personally have against the States is (1) their pseudo-democracy, (2) their blatant propaganda (I mean, just watch that Bush’s speech recently: how many times have they applauded and how much of a show it was?), (3) their hypocrisy (probably above all) and (4) Bush’s accent.

Going back to the responses to globalization: the researchers have found out that the ultimate ‘Land of opportunity’ does not rest on the land of the US anymore. It’s like the geographical poles not matching with the magnetic poles of the Earth. The British are looking enviously at Australia, the Chinese have their mouths watering over Canada and the Pakistani, surprisingly, are queuing to get into China! The grass is always greener on the other side. And only the Indians are still looking up at the US and seeing buckets of green currency in their dreams.

Despite the huge number of rather peculiar statistics (which I absolutely love!), the essence of this book strikes me as another biased PR book to fix the image of the US in the eyes of its fleeting lovers around the world. I mean, why would they call it ‘America against the world’ and not ‘The world against America’ if they were to objectively speak of the phenomena? Victimizing self is just poor taste and obtuse tool to win an argument. I know it’s considered bad manner to speak of a book that’s not been published yet, but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I do promise to read the book if it’s ever out and do a proper review of it. However, with my biased extremist views I think I’ll hardly change my opinion on that book.

P.S. My dad said that a famous dead Russian journalist’s dad (sorry about that, was just being precise) said that only the stupid and the ignorant could hate America. If so, then I am the ignorant one. Oh, and I don’t hate America, like the anti-globalists don’t hate globalization. I should travel to the States some day and do a review of the country.

On Fear IV: Fear and Arts

Another thing that discriminates humans from animals is our awareness of the fact of our inevitable death. Moreover, to the reckoning of many philosophers, the knowledge of the unavoidability of our own death is what makes us humans. In his work Biology and Medicine Mechnikov wrote: all animals avoid death instinctively, without realizing it. Babies and children avoid death based on the same principle, until they later become conscious of the inevitability of their own death, which should be attributed to the outstanding development of human mind. Mechnikov argued that the Fear of death has always been ‘one of the greatest worries for men’ and being aware of death, many people couldn’t live a full life. Mechnikov saw a solution in creating a science that would on one hand help prolong people’s lives and on the other hand – help people realise the naturalness of death, thus making people more at peace with the idea of death and stop fearing it so desperately. At the end of his life Mechnikov created a study of orthobiosis – the kind of life that offers calm and peaceful old age in continuation of an active and busy life, thus helping people feel overwhelmed (even surfeited) with life and welcome death more willingly.

Many scientists argue that the basis of human worry lays in the effect of anticipation. Only humans can fear something that’s not happening or has never happened to them before. Moreover, humans seem to have proved that the intensity of Fear they experience during the anticipation is higher than the intensity of Fear during the actual moment of facing the troubling event (e.g. death).

Fear and Art

The Fear of the unknown and the Fear of death, according to a number of historians and art critics, have always served as the two major propellers of creation and art. Oddly enough, the most common therapy in treating children’s neurosis occurring on the ground of fear is the method of gradual de-sensibilization and the method of ‘drawing fears’. The former involves exposing children to their Fears by making them confront their Fears from the least worrying to the most troubling and scary ones, but only by the means of a dramatised game (e.g. using children’s stories starring scary characters). That raises the question of whether theatre, drama, cinema, opera and ballet are essentially de-sensibilizations for the grown-ups. ‘Drawing fears’, as psychologists reckon, does not deepen the effect of the source of Fear, but quite the opposite, – reduces the sense of worry related to the anticipation of the fearful object. In drawing one’s fears one is led to believe that the horror has already taken place, hence there is little left unknown or to be uncertain about.

Jose Ortega y Gasset assumes that the entirety of human culture and art has essentially been created to help us overcome the Fear of death. Of course, at the current stage of development of human society, death is no longer the only Fear we have, and thus the art now represents our moral and social Fears as well. In all art forms, we try to ‘tell our hearts’, in other words, we try to get rid of our Fears and worries. Worries that are related to the Fear of the unknown, the Fear of death and loneliness can be reduced by reproducing them in arts and confronting them in this form.

Nota Bene.

The reason I chose to translate this piece of work is because of my own curiosity and my desire to understand and analyze fear. The original work is available on link and belongs to the NTV (Independent Television, Russia). This text is a transcript from a television show called Gordon (by the name of the presenter) that used to be quite popular and aired late at night. It has other interesting transcripts talking about all kinds of random things from Stalin to Heretics. In translating this piece I have cut out some bits that were overly scientific and frankly beyond my understanding. I have also intentionally failed to convey the overly patriotic sound of this work. On a number of occasions this work has argued the originality of some theories and methods, claiming they had been discovered by Soviet scientists, stolen and/or plagiarised by the western scientists. I did not do this translation for justice’s sake, hence I chose not to mention the roots of theories and methods altogether. Also, I have not been paying much attention to back-translating names of the western scientists, because they were not important to me. The only name I can be sure of is that of Jose Ortega y Gasset. My views on the subject of fear may differ from that of the one presented by the original text.

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