Emptied of expectation. Relax. (tinyjo) wrote,
Emptied of expectation. Relax.
tinyjo

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Representation

Listening to the news over the last few weeks and months I've been musing about how different America and Americans seem in the news than it does from meeting and talking to actual Americans. Not just a little bit more laid back, a little bit more accepting but hugely fundamentally different. From it's government, it's public face, America seems to me to be smug and self-satisfied. Insualar. Selfish. Puritianical. Greedy. And yet from meeting and talking to Americans, I know that that's not the only story. Still it's hard not to come away with an impression of the States as a schitzophrenic nation, torn between two very different personalities.

It certainly helps me to understand why many people in the world dislike America - I have had the opportunity to dilute the public face with the private through my access to the net and the fact that we speak a common language but not many do get that opportunity. I think that if I only saw the public face I too would heartily dislike and distrust America. It also makes me wonder what the public face of Britain is like these days. I find it hard to imagine that we come out well to an outsider watching.

When I think about it, I worry about my tendancy (and I'm sure it's not just me) to treat a whole society in this way. It seems to be somehow inbuilt, a short cut based on the fact that they do act together and it does seem that you can know what to expect from a government as a personality but it's dangerous because the temptation is to let it colour interactions with individuals, which unless they are members of the government is rather unreasonable. After all, I live in a representative democracy but I'd hate people to think that David Blunkett represented me. And yet, I do have to watch myself. The instinct, not helped by the language used in the media all the time is to say not "I dislike the American government" but "I dislike America". Luckily I have my friends list to remind me that you're not all like George Bush (or in fact, any of you - I obviously only ever meet one half of the split personality).
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