Cultural ambiguity and the American corporate identity
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
According to Paul Auster’s novel The Locked Room: “We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, and as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence.”
Democracy, freedom, cultural diffusion and thousands of quasi-American ideals saturate and dissolve into no solution that is indicative of its ingredients. Our national identity is asymmetrical, our traditions are void of meaning and our patriotism is hollow and unwarranted.
The notion of where we came from is fading.
When the idea of the melting pot became the grandiose pride of American multiculturalism in the ’20s, many individuals struggled to retain their culture while assimilating to the American way.
The issue, I believe, has been identifying what assimilation actually is – or what it is today. Perhaps watching the Bills game on a 24” flat screen TV while drinking Coca-Cola and listening to Tim McGraw is defined as an American experience, but what I see is a nation of people scrambling to find common ground in the face of lost identity.
I recognize my father came to this country from France, but outside of my FR151 course, my collection of bottles from Bordeaux’s vineyards and the occasional visit overseas, I’m not quite sure French culture is a part of my life. And I know other second-generation Americans feel the same way. So here’s what I’ve related to American culture.
Here in the States, we buy our culture.
America: the business driven, bigger-and-better-than-you, world police helps its citizens identify themselves by what they consume. In 2009, the U.S. consumer goods market was the largest in the world, estimated at $416 billion according to selectusa.commerce.gov. The ultimate success of companies such as McDonald’s, Phillip Morris, Budweiser and others is not just representative of our economy; these products have become part of our culture.
Take a look at the way Americans buy clothes. Many choose to plaster the Abercrombie or American Eagle logos on themselves, with the false precept of individuality. The pre-torn jeans and block letters have become the national garb – the uniform, the mark of corporate-instilled Americanism.
If you think buying name brand clothing sets you apart from those who wear abayas, yamakas, or hijabs – think again. The only difference being the meaning behind your clothes is in your wallet.
Television: the great American enslavement.
The U.S. entertainment industry has been quite successful ever since Hollywood’s coming of age in the ’20s. Since then, we’ve found new methods of entertainment that make our way directly into the comfort of our own home. MTV’s Jersey Shore, possibly one of the most widely recognized byproducts of American entertainment, gives a strong representation of our culture.
The message is clear: if you’re an American, you enjoy getting drunk, having sex and fighting with others about the sex you had when you were drunk. Oh land of the free, you’ve certainly set the bar high.
The media is barely an improvement. There are three kinds of stories covered by the corporate media: those that make you afraid of (insert race here), those that follow celebrities like they’re the Pope and those that cultivate your long-founded desire to buy a new ridiculous product. Participation may vary.
Finally, Americans are identified by their income. We also tend to sort ourselves accordingly. For example: upper-class dinner parties will most likely be highly-secured to make sure no one from the middle-class dirties up the place.
Who you are depends on what kind of car you drive, what you bought your girlfriend last week, how many figures are in your paycheck and whether or not you can afford a beach house.
We seem to be a country of showoffs. But I guess that’s what is meant by “freedom isn’t free.”