Thursday, September 25, 2008

When you're hot, you're hot and when you're not, you're not

The US is poised to lose its role as a global financial “superpower” in the wake of the financial crisis, Peer Steinbrück, German finance minister, said on Thursday as he called for a regulatory crackdown on financial markets. “The US will lose its status as the superpower of the world financial system. This world will become multipolar” with the emergence of stronger, better capitalised centres in Asia and Europe, Mr Steinbrück told the German parliament. “The world will never be the same again.” Financial Times

Remember the mood music of eight years ago. The greatest power the world has ever seen. Rome on steroids. An international system said to be unipolar, and Washington's unabashed embrace of unilateralism. The US as "Prometheus unbound", according to the neoconservative commentator Charles Krauthammer. Wall Street investment bankers bestriding the financial globe as Pentagon generals did the military globe and Harvard professors the soft power one. Masters of the universe. Timothy Garton Ash - Guardian

My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted. "Busted" - Ray Charles
David Seaton's News Links
I think now that the USA is really going to be down and out, I'm going to stop kicking it.

What I hate is the stupidity of imperial hubris, the bloated idiocy of it all. I think that most of us, or at least me who writes and you who read this blog, are hurt and angry at being identified with all of the swollen, bullying imbecility and not one bit in contradiction with our language or culture, curious religious habits or the smell of our earth.

There was a wonderful Spanish song about a woman that wanted to be "the bride at the wedding, the child at the baptismal font, the cadaver at the funeral", just so that she could always be the star of the show. I think that is what all the world and even many Americans are mortally tired of... I know I am.

I am panting for a multipolar world: one where the shops smell differently in one country from the shops in another country, where the hotels don't look the same... different odors, different tastes, different sounds.

I detest it that everyone everywhere tries to speak our language and knows so many useless (for them) things about our "way of life". I envy people like Romanians who can speak their mother language on a crowded bus without anyone
else understanding them... Small countries, whose local dishes are family secrets, private pleasures waiting to be accidentally discovered and not unhealthy travesties pitifully and methacrylicly replicated on street corners all over the planet.

What could sound more foreign than the following phrase:

"Down with the empire, long live America!"

World, forget you ever knew us.

I'll drink to that. DS


Anonymous said...

dont know about all that.

a multipolar world is a fine thing, but only if all of the poles are democratic. that hasnt happened yet, especially in China. a multipolar world must have a unifying framework. should it be based on the Chinese model that crushes dissent? the rest of the world has only become better "capitalized" because of a embrace of "americanization". other countries can only fill america's role if they are as open a society as our's is. they've embraced free trade, but not political freedom.

is it even possible for all aspects of our way of life to be a private pleasure when so many people around the world are so obsessed with american culture? the most popular drink around the world? a "jack and coke", cuz they all want to be cowboys.

as a true believer in american exceptionalism, i wonder now if the only way to preserve it is to withdraw from the world stage. let the rest of the world handle it's own affairs. but i worry about how peaceful that "multipolar world" would be. i wonder if people will look back on the "pax americana" with nostaligia.


Anonymous said...

another question, since your old enough to know something like this, is there any similarity to people claiming in the past "this is the end of america's dominance" and now?

after all, our economy is still larger than anyone else's.


Anonymous said...

God, yes. When I first immigrated to the U.S. from Europe, I got my introduction to the country by driving coast to coast from New York to San Francisco, largely along the old route 66.

At the end of the journey, my brother-in-law asked me what I found most striking about America in comparison to what I was used to, and I told him that I just couldn't get used to the fact that every city on the way seemed to be the same city with the same shops and chain stores and the same malls and the same restaurants. And he was so pleased I said that! He said "Yeah isn't it great?". He thought it was a compliment. He was really proud.

That brother-in-law's dead now. Died two years ago - aged 42 - after tripping and cutting his leg on his front door step. Didn't go to a doctor because he didn't have one: self-employed, in debt, no health insurance. Took ill a couple of days later, thought he had a bad cold, took to his bed and died within a week of multiple organ failure brought on by septic shock... from a small cut in the leg that had become infected. Never said a word to any of us about what had happened till he was already dying.

The funny thing was, he was a real dittohead. Loved Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell. Used to lecture me about us Europeans and our hopeless inefficient socialized medicine. He was so domineering. He just knew with absolute certainty he was right. And then he died from something that could have been treated with a course of antibiotics, which he didn't have: because he didn't have health insurance, and was scared of going to the emergency room without it. He wasn't a stupid man, he was an engineer from Penn State, but he swallowed every myth about American-ness and lived it out like a caricature.

He left a son in high school, who is now in the US Marine Corps Reserves, and just back from his first tour in Iraq. He went to Iraq to get back for what they did to us on 9/11 (sic). Now he's at community college, studying history for the first time, and learning about colonialism. He treats my husband - who is a military retiree and was really close to his deceased brother - like a replacement dad. He asks him privately what he really thinks about Iraq. He doesn't believe anymore the stuff about hating us for our freedoms, and he's troubled now because he came home from Iraq with confirmed kills. He killed people and doesn't really know why but has a sick feeling it was for a bunch of lies. But he'll vote for John McCain because McCain was a POW and Sarah Palin's a Christian. (And maybe a little because they're white too).

True story.

It's all such a mess here, I don't even know where to begin to change things. Maybe better to let it all crash and burn, except it's real people's lives - good, decent people - that are crashing and burning, and we're so far gone I'm not sure anything better will rise out of the ashes anyway.

Anonymous said...

wow, what an unfortunate isolated incident. i'm sure there isnt a whole back story that your omitting for effect right?

are you still living in the US? why is that, pray tell?


Anonymous said...

People dont imitate Americans. For example the English language thing, it is used for practical reasons because it is so simple(-minded) and easy to pick up, it makes a good lingua franca. Pretty much any other language has a greater range of expression, more subtleties etc..

Nobody is obsessed with "american culture" either. Thats a very wrong way of looking at it, but keep it up if you want to lose everything.

bay/paris said...

I still have an IT co in Seattle so I go back twice a year. Every time, I hear the tired refrain, 'this is the best country in the world', I cringe a bit...well, maybe for about 50 years..i had a great childhood, experience, company, etc, for 35 yrs, then left. It's not the best, at all.

My Italian husband, my maltese friends and business associates (i'm now a maltese resident) and my french friends/acquaintences are all quietly offended by such a stupid assumption....even for those 50 yrs...and guess what, the EU works just because there are no you very well know david....fewer than 10% even get the passport and for the few that actually do travel or do business, they are absolutely stuck in a myopic reality, they wouldn't know what a quality life was if it hit them....look at the global economy/crisis...the italians are as fucked up as ever but they're still having a great time..I lived there for 3 years....

America's going communist, not that it's a bad thing..bologna is communist and doing quite fine, indeed.
the europhile/bailey alexander

Anonymous said...

saying english is simple-minded shows how much you know. english is actually one of the more difficult languages to learn if it isnt your native language. lots of words with different meanings in different contexts (like the whole "plane", in the air, or "plane" such as a flat surface). the english speaking world is actually richer and more powerful, that's really more why everyone speaks english.

if you have guys like brad pitt and other celebrities hawking products in other countries, that shows an interest, if not obsession, in american culture. my roommate was in afghanistan and pakistan and over there apparantly rambo is quite popular. one pakistani he met said "usa! i love woody woodpecker!" and then he did the laugh. we do the same thing with japanese culture, it's just every other country does the same thing with us. we're just an interesting, charming people i guess.

there are no wars in the EU because the US protects them. if the EU had to fight to protect itself from a country, like say russia, you cant afford those generous social programs going. really the one living the myopic reality is europe. a more centralized social system may work better for a small country like say france, but we're to big for that. we're not going communist. we're too entrepenuarial of a culture.


RC said...

One wonders what topic you will remorate now, David, with your avowed intention to avoid finishing off the corpse of Empire.
Someone should bury that thing though, it's putrefying the breeze.
I suspect you will now double up your efforts upon the political ambitions of the Democratic nominee.
Only 33 days left, act now.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I never said English was "simple minded". It's a wonderful language, I just get tired of so many foreigners mangling it.

And Russia, 140,000,000 people, is never going to attack the EU, with 430,000,000. Who would buy their gas?

Anonymous said...

Adam you sure your woodpecker friend isn't called Borat?

Anonymous said...

that's very understandable.

Anonymous said...

nah, he was in afghanistan fighting this so-called "war of american imperialism". rambo is everywhere in that country. you have heard of woody woodpecker right, the symbol of american power abroad?

the guy he spoke to was a pakistani soldier. he spent some time there too. just for the record, my roommate is very critical of the war. fortunately he grew out of his whole "socialist" phase, unlike some people who post on this blog.

i would assume that borat would be more offensive to a foreigner, even when he's trying (and suceeding) to make americans look dumb. cohen seems to be kinda digging on everyone, like any good comedian.

"my sister was voted best mouth sex in all kazakstan!"


Anonymous said...

are you still living in the US? why is that, pray tell?

Yes. Because - warts and all - it's my home.

Anonymous said...

And no Adam, there is nothing omitted for effect. When you do medicine for profit, people in whom there is no profit to be made die from treatable conditions. That is the back story.

Tom Over said...

Hello David,

I wrote a post about US society coming to terms with the inevitable-(if history is to be any sort of guide)- decline in the super-power status of the US.

At , it's the 9th link when you scroll down.
Initially, I named the post "Letting go of the empire to save our nation".
Now, the link to the post reads
"What do you think? US leaders, US allies, and the US public planning for the decline in US global power: defeatist and perhaps treasonous or a requirement for the well-being of our nation's people, or neither?"
I wrote the link that way so as to get people's input.