Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Culture of Fear and Persecution

No, I am not going to talk about WW2 Germany. I am going to talk about the current state of the US. When I emigrated to this country in 1997, I noticed very quickly how in the mainstream culture, there always seems to be something to be afraid of, someone is 'out to get you'. It is one thing to read it about how American television evolves around and depicts so much violence. It is another to come into the country and notice the different styles of tv programming when you come from another culture. And I even came into this from Canada where most of the Canadians live near the Canadian-American border and who already watch American television. I just never noticed it so much until I got here.

I was reminded of that part of my culture shock when last week I saw the latest bird flu film trailer on tv. It flashed that we did not need to fear terrorists (word fade out) or whatever it was (fade out, sorry,for the life of me I don't remember) or 'this' but...(drumroll tadaaa) BIRD FLU! It flashed all the things we are supposed to be afraid of in quick succession until the latest scare, bird flu.

Here in the US it seems that fear and violence sells. Not just like that. Of course, there is always the moral of the story. The good guy has to go after the bad guy. Good guy usually has a good and loyal friend trailing with him. He withstand stooping to the bad guys' level until...yep, you got it, the poor and loyal friend dies a horrible death and THEN ,well, then this bad guy has it coming. The excuse for the violent act always precedes; the bad guy or company or animal has done something so horrendous, the only way to fight it and get JUSTICE (big word in this country) is to fight the bad what or whomever it is in equal if not worse measure. After all, they got it coming.

It is a worldwide used theme for sure but it is very prevalent here. And I see connections with how people respond to controversy and disagreements of sorts. The Dutch culture for example functions on the basis of agree to disagree. The American one in my experience is one of having to one up one and other, or the zero sum game of competition. People get defensive very easily when talking politics rather than thinking, well, it's my opinion, I don't care whether you agree or not. The things that get people up on arms here leaves some outsiders, i.e. immigrants shaking their heads. It's a shame. I suspect that with all this cultural conditioning of someone's after the Americans (too bad the Cold war ended, because then they needed another 'common' enemy to feel united against), I think it psychologically plays out in real life. It's an affirmation of sorts to react, rather than to look into the history of situations and respond wisely or proactively.

For the sake of bringing across what I have been noticing since moving here, I do realize I talk in absolutes. Naturally, there always are people who exercise wisdom or behave and think pro-actively. On the whole, I just see a connection between a popculture that accepts violence above nudity on tv to attitudes I read about and see in politics. Does anyone remember how easy it was to get people riled up after 9/11 into a patriotic frenzy? Or to divide people into two camps of being unamerican and patriotic depending on your stance re. the Iraq war?

Television shows a lot of one upping. I would say the worst offenders are Fox. And the talking heads with their talk shows aimed at getting people riled up. No, one "House" does not make up for that.


Blogger le.voyageur said...

"...having to one up one and other, or the zero sum game of competition

and here is where you have hit upon an essential truth. in my graduate school we were trained in Harvards negotiation and conflict resolution methodology, and the first thing we were told was that negotiations that are zero sum, winner.loser, will in the long term fail, as one or more parties will feel resentment, poisoning future negotiations, or, in terms of international politics, may resort the subversive maneuvering to get their position higher.

ring any bells ala iran situation now, iraq situation these past decade and half, cuba, inida.pakistan.. the list goes on.

i once tried to very patiently explain to someone that patriotism in the US did not mean displaying the flag EVERYWHERE, including bikini bottoms, but believing in and upholding the constituion and its amendments. after 10 mints of being yelled at about how i was a for-jay-nar, i began to daydream about bikini bottoms...

and i would like to correct one pt. on your post, its the Simpsons, AND House (whose pt. 2 i forgot started at an earlier special time today so i freegeen ^%$%^$ missed it!!!), which do not make up for the mediocrity and garbage that is the faux network.


(ps: i am no techy, but between writing the top bit and writing this, i just added.replaced memory on the dudettes laptop...)

12:03 AM  
Blogger tooners said...

I agree w/ you 100% on this. Sadly, you're brought up in America to win win win. You don't want to be the loser because losers don't go anywhere in life - but crap, I'm off the topic! ;)

I was raised to be afraid - you basically drown in it. I guess it's that mentality of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

My mother lives in fear - it's what drives her. Maybe it's gotten better since I moved to Bahrain and since I'm married to an Arab (maybe a little), but I know that she's still affected by all the stuff in the media. It's almost like a brainwashing power they have over you.

I personally can't stand it and don't watch the news and such when I'm in the States... and there are others like me! ;)

1:35 AM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Dude, isn't it amazing that when you try to have an intelligent discussion, this 'ugly' patriotism rears its head and cries foul. You're talking apples and oranges but they don't understand plus do not seem to be raised (perhaps cultural thing again)to understand distinction when discussing politics or philosophy. Everything gets simplified and equated with this weird form of patriotism. I never liked patriotism anyway. Whether American or Dutch or Canadian. One can be proud of their country for all the right reasons, but one definitely needs to NOT be asleep at the wheel and know when to be critical for the right reasons as well.

Tooners, I imagine that after reading more of your posts, I'll get more of an idea of who you are and how you think. From what you mentioned, you've gained a healthy perspective caused probably by looking at your own country from a distance. Happens to everyone. You see your family, your friends your own culture so much better when looked at from a literal and emotional distance.
How long have you lived outside the States?

9:31 AM  
Blogger le.voyageur said...

yeah, tooners, i am curious too. i am also wondering where these "others" you speak of are... i have been looking for normal, heck, i'd settle for a one eyed alien from pluto at this point (not that this is what Ingrid is ofcourse!!) just to seek out reasonable rationale voices.

Ingrid, i think i am done with you know where, looks like the inmates have taken over the asylum again, maybe for good, and its just too tiring to read through all the rubbish to seek out real perspective versus "this is my blog, even if i dont write it" mentality.

if you dont mind, i think i am going to hang around here, put my feet up, have a few shandies, tickle the dog behind the ear, put my hat over my eyes, and take a nap... waking up every once in a while to take some pictures...

PS: why does no one have quirky, yet tasteful buddy icons? just upload anyold pict... like a smurf, or einstein or something...

10:10 AM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Dearest Dude, mi casa es su casa. The dog doesn't bite (I'd go pet psychic on it if it would), the kids like the attention (bring your own), the view from here is very green (so many doggone trees and grasses everyone is allergic to something) and the booze is free. For now. Speaking of naps. I did not sleep well last night and I am going to have one before picking up my whenchlett. Icons..oh yes. I need my tag team in place to do more serious blog work (sprucing up mine and actual post research) but he's been working over time and my mom is so bored being here, I don't feel I can leave her on her own in good conscious and need to be a good host..
know what you mean about 'you know where'. It's a shame. They've become very proprietary (if they were before I do not know) and act as if they own the place. I expect you to be better guest if we get more traffic. Show them where the fridge is, the food and the patio where we can conduct our fun discussions (and agree to disagree) outside since it's warm already.
Welcome and welcome i.e. achelan wa sachelen..welkom.

11:21 AM  
Blogger tooners said...

Well, I've lived in Bahrain for 3 yrs now. But... I've never been a happy camper w/ American politics nor happy w/ the way life is in the States, I'm sure that's why it was easy for me to leave - altho I do miss living there.. wouldn't you know it!?

As far as others like me... hmmmm.. there aren't many, sadly. Most of my friends deserted me after my move - there seems no possible way of them understanding for so many in the good ole U.S. of A. are racist... or... hmmmm... they just don't take kindly to foreigners. I find many in the U.S., even the well educated, to be close minded, and for the Americans here... I've only met a couple (and I mean two) that have impressed me - not being loud, obnoxious, rude - but a large majority of the Americans are Navy ppl, so that explains it (sorry all you navy, army, and such ppl).

Me, I'm just an artsy fartsy chick (kind of a hippie/granola girl) that loves music, poetry, writing, painting... the likes. :) But am stuck working for the govt here and I hate it.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Dearest Tooners. sorry to hear about the bad reception of your move from your 'friends'. How weird is that.
When I lived in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years (husband #1-Canadian), I did not live on a compound and plenty of Western expats thought that to be strange. I did have a few good (Can+Am)couple friends who also lived in an apartment in the city of Alkhobar. I'd just walk over to them to visit and I'd just walk over to the green grocer to shop for veggies. I got asked once, isn't that dangerous? My thoughts were that those who lived on compounds always kept that 'us vs them' mentality and could/would not be able to see distinctions and subtleties amongst people like you do when you live among them.
I found a lot of 'compound women' to be stand off-ish and cliquesh. Most of my friends were Indian and Pakistani (our neighbours were Pakistanis) and one or two Western bachelor guy friends.
Interesting how some people, when they make more money for a job they would not make that much money with in their home country, let things go to their heads. Attitudes never change for those.
Btw..hippie/granola girl.Austin would be 'the' place for you. Very diverse, people wise and politically. A little progressive haven in a big see of red Texas.
If you're stuck working for the gov..perhaps you can do something with Mahmoud's group of entrepreneur. I don't know if you'd be allowed to own a business (could do it through your husband like some saudi women do), but perhaps you could start up something a whole lot more interesting. I have an idea for you but email me sometime this weekend and I'll expand. It's just a brainstorm idea, just a thought. Never say never, ya never know..

8:40 AM  
Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Just discovered this blog, thanks to AlH. Have already passed on your quotes to a friend of mine, crediting you, of course. As for the comments about the "American way' of staying peaceful, then the friend dies and wham (which is the plot, btw, of most of the Shah Rukh Khan movies, not just American stuff), the funny thing is that if you look over the major wars of the past century (ignoring absurdities like Grenada) that IS the way they've gone.
The rule has been that the aggressor/invader winds up losing. (WWI -- I think most of the preliminary Balkan Wars, too, but am too lasy to check -- WWII, Korea, the Serbian invasions, the Gulf War, the various attacks by Arab countries on Israel, Afghanistan (taking ObL as, in this case, part of the Afghan govt for Afghan II, and the USSR for Afghan I), Vietnam (taking it as a predominantly Civil War with the US being the outsider) -- am I missing any, or any couter-examples? You could include all the colonial wars as well.

And when a country uses strong pressure on a government to change, like the US has done with Cuba, the pressured government tends to get strength from this (which is why I am so worried about our treatment of Hamas, as awful as they are.)

As for 'you know where' are you talking about a certain 'snarky' Egypt-based blog? If so, gotta agree. He was fun for a while, but his politics are getting to me. Seems like everybody but me swallows the neo-con line whole. Just isn't worth fighting there any more.

(On the other hand, if you mean an English-based "Mutt" can't agree at all. He's simply one of the two best writers I've run into on the blogosphere (Jon Swift
is the other) and while some of the cross-talk in the comments gets tiresome, there's enough range of opinion and friendliness I can't stop adding my two cents -- and Les V, our food commentary probably annoyed a few people there too.)

9:45 AM  
Blogger le.voyageur said...

true, probably did, i am sure, its the personal attacky mentality and the i own this place mindset that i got tired of. as for the content, yes good, but hardly new, or amazing if one is aware of politics and culture of the region, and.or aware of sources like arab news etc. no doubt he is definitely a funny writer, on matters not so funny.

too many good blogs and sites out there to waste on commenters who live in their closeted worlds. just my view, s'all. i like this and mash's, both offering interesting viewpoints, not just 3rd.4th hand news, and both well rounded.travelled individuals (yes, Ingrid, your're welcome!!) btw, jim, NO, i dont do that sort of thing, to answer your inquiry, so would not know. i dont read anymore, but try sepia mutiny, south asian blog for the south asian diaspora, they could do with a non-deshi voice there for sure, and you will definitely like the food and culture posts as well as HIGHLY charged commentary by readers, who you will find a bit more knowledgeable and more on the intellectual side.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Hey Prup (or should I call you Jim)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting too. It's good to get feedback (critique and all) because as you can tell, I haven't been doing it for too long and you need to get a sense of how you measure up in a way. Not to compete (heaven forbid after this post ha) but to see if you're articulating your thoughts right or not. Opinion accepted or not. I have been thinking about stuff for so long (sleep deprived mom, blech blech and triple blech) that I found myself having trouble to speak properly. I literally had to collect my thoughts in more ways than one! Now I sleep a whole lot better and what a difference it makes.
And yes, I do have to agree. It is a universal theme re. the avenging death and destruction thing. However, put in this context of living in the US, I see other connecting threads, subtle and not so.
As for the concern re. Hamas. My sentiments exactly. Playing the zero sum game never works (read Dude's comment somewhere here re. the Harvard course in negotiation if memory serves me right). It polarizes people and you have to wonder if that is not ultimately the desired result from these people who play it that way. That is one very frustrating thing about the foreign politics here. In a way, too bad that the US is the only super power, because it's good to be tempered by others when you're the only big thing on the block.
Re. the you know where lol. We're trying to be discreet/diplomatic here. No, it is not that Egyptian based blog (should I check it out, haven't heard of it let me know) nor the jon swift one. I will definitely check that one out.
Also, don't know who you're referring to as Les V. I am not privvy to people's real persona behind their handle.
I guess that leaves just one place doesn't it? I'll most likely not leave RP because he's one of the best writers around (said she with little blog experience) plus as an expat..I will always feel connected in a weird sort of way. The commentaries referred to is something that is a big downer to me. I'd love to have everyone discuss and comment,but there is a real exclusinary clique that have taken over the RP comment section. Considering the many many entries, it takes so much time to weed out their 'stuff' from the discussions sometimes, that I just by pass the whole thing and only comment for the sake of feedback to Alhamedi. Overall, I don't get uptight if someone says something outrageous (aljack) or what have you and ignore it. People who go on and on and respond to trolls in my thoughts need to blow off some steam but should do it in a more conducive way privately. If I ever get a troll here, I would never acknowledge him/her and advise everyone to do the same. It's a good 'snuffer outer'!
So hey Jim/Prup, let me know about that one site,just for curiosity sake. If you have any other suggestions for blogs, please, I'd love to check them out.
Thanks for the feedback!

10:47 AM  
Blogger tooners said...

I'll send ya an email this weekend. I start back to work tomorrow... so I'll do it either when I get off or on Sunday.

I really don't interact w/ anyone here. I'm around my in-laws mainly and I work out at a gym but there are mainly Arabs there. Actually, I met two Americans there who are teachers and they were quite pleasant, now that I think about it. I hope they're still there when I go back - since I've been gone for over a month now.

I find the British here to have an air actually... I think they tend to be snobbish and clickish as as well. But the girl who cuts my hair is British and she's pretty friendly. I guess it just depends on the person and the circumstances as w/ most.

11:38 AM  
Blogger le.voyageur said...

but tooners, you have the world wide interwebs to make friends, and chat, and have pretend cups of chai with, and keep taking pictures, and we can keep up with your sights as well.

as for your who sort of dropped you, well, best to be dropped by that sort isnt it?!!! i can speak from experince that people who stop interacting.talking to you, for no justifiable reason other than their tiny tiny little worlds.minds, in the long run, were people you were better off not knowing.

looking forward to those pictures btw...

11:47 AM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Speaking of pictures. Tooners, are those pics on your site (by way of Flickrs) your own or someone else's? They change every time I visit (pardon my ignorance).
Also, Dude, there is a dutch saying; better a close neighbour than friends who live far away. I can totally understand that Tooners needs real live friends to go out and visit with. It gets to be lonely and when I was in saudi, I had one really good friend. Whenever she left to visit family in the States, I had no one to hang out with. (the other friends worked at Aramco, I was merely a dependent save for a short stint at saudi tv) I found out after emigrating, you really need to go out of your comfort zone and it takes effort to make/find friends.
Good luck T! Looking forward to sharing my idea with you, who knows if it is a good one but it doesn't hurt to see if it could work

12:39 PM  
Blogger tooners said...

hey there... yes, those are my pics. i love to take pics... it doesn't matter of what or who, if it looks good, then i take it. le.voyageur... you have some fab pics btw!

i will say this, it is good to talk and meet ppl via blogging. i love talking w/ u guys. and it's like having friends, but.. there is something to having someone you can be around and such.. altho, i'm kinda partial to myself and home and to the hubby. i enjoy being by myself really, and it doesn't bother me, but sometimes i long for that g/f, you know. but i don't trust all that easily and i've had my probs w/ the girls here... so i tend to stay to myself. it's easier that way.

i agree also w/ those ppl that leave ya. if they can so easily drop you, then they're not worth having.

4:48 AM  
Blogger le.voyageur said...

dag nabbit, i missed the bird flu film!!!! stupid american idol!!! i wanted to watch the bird flu movie, the dudette wanted to watch the 4 american hopefuls..


what i do know is, in case of pandemic, bend over, and kiss ur ars (not the latin for art, but the lazee for butt) goodbye. the mader is a pathologist, we grew up with vile threats of deseases we would catch on various occasions, i.e. not going to sleep, not eating, not washing hands, washing hands too much, etc...

i do likes the movie specials, which i ALWAYS miss!!!

on the other hand, HOUSE was wicked cool as always...

11:40 PM  

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