Sunday, November 27, 2005

Unwanted American Influence

"Then, as the American economic machine gained momentum, and our cinemas and industry were swallowed, television came into being, we began to change. Attitudes, insidiously inserted, changed us again .. and this one, whether we know it or not, has been flying over Parliament House in Canberra for quite some recent years..."

Davo, an Aussie blogger who used to go by wombat, wrote an interesting piece on the Australian flag. As you can read above, he observes that American influences are so great on Australian government and culture, that in actuality the Union Jack has been replaced by the Stars & Stripes. I added a comment to the 8 already there, opining that the U.S. appears to be universally hated JUST BECAUSE we DO seem to be everywhere. Our culture invades and overwhelms everyone else’s. I said that Americans don’t worry about OUR outside influences, and WE are influenced every bit as much by other cultures. The difference is, it DOESN’T concern us. Perhaps that’s because there are more important things to worry about?

Before getting to the “weighty” stuff concerning the worldwide influence of the United States, lets look at sports as a tiny example. Compare professional baseball in the U.S., Taiwan, and Japan. The Asian lovers of the “summer game” levy quotas on the number of foreign players allowed per team. Not so in the United States—we’d field a team of cockatoos AND root for them, IF we thought they could win us a World Series! And if all the best basketball players to be found were black and from Nigeria, and they could win us a championship, then by God we’d sign ‘em up and root for ‘em! Hey, that’s generally what happens anyway, except maybe not the Nigerian part. Still on the Bball angle, people like to point at the one or two white guys on each team, and call them “tokens.” I don’t believe it. These guys get paid HUGE bucks; if they couldn’t play, they wouldn’t be there. It’s a business after all, and NO FAN pays $30 to watch a couple of underqualified Caucasians ride-the-pine. Here’s the point, we don’t hire our sportsmen based on nationality or color; they make it because they can PLAY!

Another example is Hollywood. I just watched a movie about the American Civil War called “Cold Mountain.” Jude Law played the male protagonist, a southern soldier from North Carolina. Nicole Kidman was the female lead and Donald Sutherland played her father. It’s a great movie and I hardly noticed that those three main characters were NOT Americans. Jude Law is English, Nicole Kidman is Australian, and Sutherland is Canadian. Anthony Minghella, the director, is Italian-English raised on the Isle of Wight. Imagine the furor in most any other nation, if an important period piece came out, and didn’t have “local talent” in the leads. Only in the USA is this an absolute non-issue, and well it should be.

It’s time for the “substantial” side of this bit of writing about America's apparently overwhelming influence in the world. I’ve started a new category in my Internet ‘favorites.’ I’ve labeled it ‘Idiot Blogs.’ Quite a few of the sites I’ve saved there concern themselves with spewing hatred against the U.S.A. and they blame the United States for every conceivable international and local problem. I keep coming across the term “neo-colonialism.” Basically, it refers to the world’s “new colonial master,” that is: THE USA. And as the world’s NEW colonizer—WE seek to control and influence EVERYTHING, in ALL countries. These skewed essayists assert that via globalization and “culturalization,” America seeks hegemony over the world. Wow! What a claim!

Not long ago, I was sitting outside my gym after a workout, watching the afternoon turn to evening. I was shooting the breeze with a pretty young English girl in her late teens, a resident of London, who was visiting relatives here in the Philippines. In a beautiful London accent she asked me, “Why are you Americans in everyone’s business?” She was bewildered as to why we seemed to be everywhere and involved in everything, and although she didn’t really understand the reasons, what she did know is that she felt resentful. It’s a widespread question asked by many, even by Americans. Here’s the answer I gave her:

We are everywhere because we have no choice.”

George Bush didn’t intend to embroil us in world events to the extent we are. His intention was to reduce American interventionism, especially compared to his predecessors; and when you go back and look at his 2000 electioneering speeches, he was just shy of being an isolationist. But like I told my attractive gym pal, once he was in office, George found he truly didn’t have a choice. Our economy (and the world’s economy for that matter) demands that we stay internationally connected, and the security of the world depends on our continuous involvement. That sounds rather arrogant doesn’t it? That the security of the world depends on us? Well, call me arrogant, because it’s true.

I asked my young English friend, “What do you think would happen here in Asia if we completely disassociated ourselves from this part of the world, which seems to be your want? She shrugged. I continued, “A power vacuum would form, and in this part of the globe, that means China would seek to fill it. Would that make you feel more comfortable? Would you rather have the U.S. providing security or communist China? Because THAT would be your choice. The fact is we can’t leave here if we wanted to. China scares the hell out of virtually every country that borders it, and if we tried to leave, countries like the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and even Vietnam would go into Post America Stress Disorder!”

I went further. “Do you really think the U.N. “mouth” can keep peace in the world without U.S. “teeth” to keep despots with expansionist aims in check?” At the risk of boring her, I went on: “The U.S. military has made valuable examples of Saddam Hussein and Slobadon Milosevich. Now, everyone knows that you can doubt our political will, but do NOT underestimate our military might. They know IF we want to stop a bully from invading his neighbor, we CAN do it! And believe it or not, THAT knowledge keeps the world more peaceful.” (Pax Americana anyone?)

I’m not sure I convinced her of anything, but at least she had some thoughts to mull over. I gave her a final analogy:

“I used to resent my dad’s authority and power over me when I was a young man. He was stronger and knew more than me. I knew I didn’t like it, and it was maddening that he really didn’t care if I liked it or not. I actually hated him because he was stronger and smarter than me, and THAT’S where YOUR resentment comes from as well. Here’s this big, swaggering, rich, arrogant country that does whatever it wants—who the hell does it think it is?!”

The United States is THE most powerful nation in the history of the world. Just saying that truism creates resentment and hatred toward us. But being king-of-the-hill is tough. It makes us a target and there are difficult, expensive responsibilities that fall upon our shoulders BECAUSE of our supremacy. We actively exert our influence on as many foreign governments as we can, and why not, that’s what ALL countries do! And, unfortunately, for countries around the world, like davo’s Australia, worried about maintaining tenuous control over their societies and customs, so-called American culture seems to steamroll over their music, cinema, and societal mores. We don’t do this deliberately, but that IS the reality, and it’s undeniable. (Sorry about that davo!)

So, we find ourselves involved everywhere and in everything, and we are resented for it. So be it.


Davoh said...

Um, just a small correction. In your 'quote' at the top the "it" I was referring to was the Union Jack, not the stars and stripes. I would also say that "hate" is a bit strong, at least from my end. I think that the 'dislike' is for the "influence" not the majority of the American people.

Davoh said...

I will have to respond to this. It sounds as if I wrote a "hate America" piece. Not so, "hate" is far to strong a word, at least from my perspective. 'Dislike' of the "influence" may be a little closer. Yes, I recognise that it is "a fact", but combining that to refer to the majority of American "people" (most of the ones that have met are actually quite nice) is going a bit far.

Kevin said...

Well said! Couldn't agree more.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Davo, got ya man. There are all levels of dislike all the way up to hatred. I realize that what you feel is quite low on the resentment scale. I was just using your piece as a launching point for my diatribe. Noting personal mate! Thanks for commenting...

Nick Ballesteros said...

I've watched Cold Mountain too and didn't realize that the main characters are indeed non-Americans!

There was a movie called The Great Raid which documented the rescue operation of American POW survivors of the Death March in Bataan. Filipinos had a minor role there, this film being a foreign-produced. But the movie posters that were displayed here prominently showed our own Cesar Montero. :-)

Great analogy on the American presence. I agree with you on those points.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Don't feel bad Watson, most Americans don't realize where the cast of Cold Mountain is from. As I said in the post though, we don't tend to care about nationality; it's the quality of the acting that's important. And, in a way, it's fitting; the US is a nation of immigrants, and a huge percentage of the men who fought in the US Civil WAr came from abroad.

As a lay historian, I am very familiar with the events of "The Great Raid." Without the Filipino scout/guerrillas who participated in the blocking action of that night, the raid would NOT have been successful. The Filipino fighters involved ambushed and killed hundreds of Japanese soldiers as they tried to get to the escaping prisoners.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will be very disappointed if the makers of the movie do not give those brave men their due. From what you say, there were not many Filipinos depicted in the movie, so it would seem that I will indeed be disappointed.

Too learn more about the Great Raid, read the book "Ghost Soldiers." You will then understand how crucial the Filipinos were in the successful completion of that rescue operation, the biggest and most extensive POW rescue in our history.

Duane k said...

I just watched the Great Raid not long ago. What an amazing military feat!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Duane, the Great Raid was indeed a great feat. It was feted such at the time, but only grabbed the headlines for a short while. A few days afterwards, the American invasion of Iwo Jima took place and that took up EVERYONE's attention for several weeks. I still intend to make a trip over to Cabanatuan to see the site of the POW camp. One of my veteran clients has promised to show me around. I'll be sure to post when I do.