American Identity

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kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 4 Feb, 2010 11:34 am
@Pythagorean,
The term, "authentic" comes from the same root as does the term, "author". And author (of a book") is the one who created the book. And an authentic tradition of a a country is one that was created by that county. So, the United States has many authentic traditions. Many of which have been mentioned.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Thu 4 Feb, 2010 12:03 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;124905 wrote:
The term, "authentic" comes from the same root as does the term, "author". And author (of a book") is the one who created the book. And an authentic tradition of a a country is one that was created by that county. So, the United States has many authentic traditions. Many of which have been mentioned.
Interesting point. Wasn't it Dickens who said he would sit and listen to his characters and write down what they said... as if they existed externally to him?

John Fowles also drops out of The French Lieutenant's Woman and explains that he doesn't understand the main character. How could he not understand her? He created her.

Artistic production has a passive side to it... where inspiration is like a seed that seems to come from outside. The artist becomes transparent so the inspiration can come through. Being too dictatorial can result in a blank wall instead of a mural.

I think that's part of the significance of the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny... to take the edge off the stress of creating oneself. Maybe establishing the creation on something external is a basic need? The whole point of creation is to give birth to something that stands externally from oneself. Part of that is nurturing... as opposed to dictating.
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Thu 4 Feb, 2010 02:37 pm
@Pythagorean,
George Washington was a slave-owner. He left 1/2 yearly DC to keep slaves from freedom.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Thu 4 Feb, 2010 02:59 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep;124940 wrote:
George Washington was a slave-owner. He left 1/2 yearly DC to keep slaves from freedom.
George Washington was a whiskey manufacturer. His intention was to have his family's slaves learn a trade prior to be freed. At least they'd know how to make whiskey.
 
melonkali
 
Reply Fri 5 Feb, 2010 02:55 am
@Pythagorean,
Just finished reading further posts in this thread. "Rant" warning!

Let me tell you about my American identity. The ideals of our founding fathers,which I still cherish, have been twisted into their very antithesis by our present corrupt corporate oligarchy,the same one which controls our media propaganda machine -- I can't call it "bread and circuses", since there's not much "bread" for a lot of U.S. citizens these days, but the "circus" part is thriving.

While I do see pockets of regional and ethnic identity, if I were asked to describe our "nation's identity", I'd answer "consumerism, Darwinist capitalism, ruthlessly increasing economic and military world dominance. The most hated nation in the world today."

We are a nation stealing the resources of other nations by economic bullying and military means, including war; ousting fairly elected benevolent governments and replacing them with ruthless, oppressive puppet dictatorships for the benefit of our own economic interests. A nation with the highest inequality between rich and poor of all the OECD nations. A nation with the most expensive higher education system in the world, yet suffering from (per a January 9, 2010, Bloomberg report) 10% unemployment, 17.3% underemployment, almost one million non-workers not counted in unemployment statistics because they've given up looking for work, an average unemployment length of 29 weeks (the highest since 1948), and still loosing over 500,000 jobs per month, with the forecast for increasing unemployment looking dire, anticipating job growth only in the health sector.

Although we are supposedly the wealthiest nation in the world and have the most expensive health care system in the world, we are the only developed nation without universal health care. Fifty million Americans have no health insurance, 150 million have only partial health coverage. Life expectancy in the United States is 48th in the world and falling. The over-all health of our citizens ranks 70th in the world.

But we do lead the world in number of prisoners per capita; our 715 per 100,000 soundly trumps second place Russia's 584 per 100,000.

THAT'S our nation today -- THAT'S our REAL national identity.

I remember a time when an average working or middle class adult working an honest 40 hour week could expect to buy a modest home, raise a family, take annual family vacations, educate his children, and plan to one day retire from his company with a pension he could live on. Why, even minimum wage was a living wage. Can you imagine?

I remember going to the same school and church with and being friends with kids of the man who owned the company where my father worked. Their houses were larger than ours, but only about four blocks away. (Even the nation's most famous football player, quarterback Johnny Unitas, reportedly lived in a "normal" middle class neighborhood.) We were all part of the same community, similar to thousands of other communities across the nation; we were all proud to be Americans.

There are no words to describe our feelings in 1969 when nearly all Americans, young and old, hippie and straight, stopped our normal activities, gathered around our TV sets and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I was especially proud. I lived only 30 miles from the Redstone Arsenal (where the Saturn rocket was developed); my best friend's dad was a physicist there, a personal friend of Werner Von Braun!

Yes, we were naive, but I remember what it was like to FEEL like a "Real American". Back then I knew nothing of McCarthy-ism, CIA and FBI shenanigans, the out-of-control defense industry, covert and black ops. I could never have imagined that MY country was built on the suffering of millions around the world.

Well, I matured as our society deteriorated, the future promise growing more and more distant as everyday life became harder and less certain. When we buried my father, he was no longer the proud, hard working, rowdy union man of my early childhood. He had become Willie Loman.

By that time, Viet Nam was in full swing and we were learning more and more "secrets" about our government's list of unconscionable atrocities, both domestic and international. Over the years I not only lost the America I had loved and believed in, watching it gradually turn into an ugly, unrecognizable, hard and barren land, I even lost my "good" memories. What "honorable real American" would accept the spoils of such dishonorable, unjust, corrupt, ruthless horrors -- for many years, I refused to claim those early memories. I was too ashamed.

So go ahead and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" (if you can hit the high note) to your heart's content and wave your flags, but don't let yourself be fooled into believing that this present abomination called the United States of America bears the slightest resemblance to the ideals and ideas upon which it was founded.

In an earlier post I said I envied the deep rooted identity and traditions I see in peoples of "old" nations. But even as a citizen of a young, growing and changing nation, I am capable of a deep love and reverence for the original ideals of this new nation. Am I the only one here outraged that thieves and lowlifes with the principles of a slug (and in this comparison I am insulting the slug) have usurped these precious, fragile ideals?

I don't know that I can precisely define "authentic identity", but I'm sure it is more than laissez faire acceptance of any status quo. It MUST involve love and passion and deep feelings for something very special. If today's U.S.A. suffices for your identity as an American, if you are content to keep her magnificent original ideals and principles buried underneath this present garbage heap, I have to wonder if you are even capable of love, passion or deep feelings -- or "authentic identity".

Rant's over. It was not aimed directly at any one person, and was not intended to insult. Just my way of screaming WAKE UP!!!

rebecca
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 5 Feb, 2010 08:33 am
@melonkali,
melonkali;125043 wrote:
Just my way of screaming WAKE UP!!!
Rage against the machine. Whatever happened to them?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Fri 5 Feb, 2010 10:34 am
@Arjuna,
Melonkoli wrote:

So go ahead and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" (if you can hit the high note) to your heart's content and wave your flags, but don't let yourself be fooled into believing that this present abomination called the United States of America bears the slightest resemblance to the ideals and ideas upon which it was founded.


I take a different perspective. The United States of the founding fathers had ideals and ideas, but it also had slavery, limited rights for women, manifest destiny and imperialism. Working conditions today are many times better then at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Materialism is a human instinct and the modern complaints are just repeating the old.

You only hate the present if you take a rosy view of history. You even said that when you felt you had an authentic american identity you didn't know the uglier truth.

True identity comes from with in. That's the only authentic identity. You can't get a real identity by saying "I'm with this ethnic group, from this country, I like this music, I'm a democrat, and I'm a colts fan". Each of those are things that people will identify with. The people who get most of their identity from a single one of those are the nationalists, music snobs, partisans, and rabid fans.
 
SammDickens
 
Reply Fri 5 Feb, 2010 10:22 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;125084 wrote:
I take a different perspective. The United States of the founding fathers had ideals and ideas, but it also had slavery, limited rights for women, manifest destiny and imperialism.

I agree with what you say here, Jeb, but I would point out that all four of these particular negatives (slavery, limited women's rights, manifest destiny, & imperialism) were inherited by the founding fathers in the world they lived in. I know some effort was made to exclude slavery at the time of the revolution, but too many slave state citizens feared that it would ruin them, and were deeply ensconced in the ideology of slavery. But what I chiefly want to point out here is that we must judge the founding fathers (and mothers) by what they achieved, by the changes they brought about including the birth of a democratic nation from an imperialist colony.

It is clearly melonkali's intent that we too must find our identities in bringing about positive change in response to the needs and injustice of our own world. This to me is the core of her message, that we must open our eyes to the failures of our nation and our world and set ourselves toward correcting them.

Jebediah;125084 wrote:
Working conditions today are many times better then at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Materialism is a human instinct and the modern complaints are just repeating the old.

I don't understand what you're implying here. Today is better than yesterday? Self-concern and avarice are human nature? The injustice of today is like the injustice of bygone days? Are these excuses for accepting the grievous conditions we have inherited as opposed to taking action against them? Surely you do not recommend capitulation to injustice and deprivation! Clearly, melonkali does not!

Jebediah;125084 wrote:
You only hate the present if you take a rosy view of history. You even said that when you felt you had an authentic american identity you didn't know the uglier truth.

We are all given a "rosy view of history," particularly our own national history, in elementary school. We spend the rest of our youth discovering how rosy that view is. And melonkali describes precisely how the propaganda of the elementary school crumbled in her experience.

It seemed wonderful to her as a child that her father and other working married men could support their family on one salary. Not only did that illusion crumble with a changing work place, but it became clear to her that the economy of one-salary families was a sham built upon such hidden evils as the United Fruit Company monopoly and the oppression of Central and South American workers and nations. She declares, "We are a nation stealing the resources of other nations by economic bullying and military means, including war; ousting fairly elected benevolent governments and replacing them with ruthless, oppressive puppet dictatorships for the benefit of our own economic interests."

So don't suppose that her views are based upon a "rosy view" of yesteryear. They are based upon a solemn understanding of the realities of today, as suggested by the statistical information she provided. Clearly, there is inequality and injustice in our nation, our world, today, and that reality is not born of any misconceptions of what was or what is.

Jebediah;125084 wrote:
True identity comes from with in. That's the only authentic identity. You can't get a real identity by saying "I'm with this ethnic group, from this country, I like this music, I'm a democrat, and I'm a colts fan". Each of those are things that people will identify with. The people who get most of their identity from a single one of those are the nationalists, music snobs, partisans, and rabid fans.

I agree with you, Jeb, that true identity comes from within, comes from character and values that direct our actions in the world. The founding fathers exhibited outstanding character and values in their historically significant actions, although their personal lives were as flawed as any of our own probably are.

I think melonkali's post did call on us to step forward and identify ourselves by our own commitment to action for liberty, equality, and justice in our own world, whether that was her intent or not.

But I think the "authentic identity" we are talking about in this thread goes beyond the identity of individuals. Societies and nations themselves also have identities, and I think this thread is concerned more with those shared identities of which we all partake by right of birth. (Hence melonkali's reference to the traditions so ingrained into the people of the country she was discussing.)

If as you say, Jeb, "true identity comes from within," what values and character is ingrained into us as citizens of this nation? Materialism and consumerism? Militarism and imperialism? Or maybe (he hesitates to laugh, or cry), compassion and an innate devotion to the principles of liberty, equality, and justice upon which the nation was founded? If the last answer is the wrong answer, has our nation not lost its own "authentic identity?"

Samm
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Fri 5 Feb, 2010 10:51 pm
@Pythagorean,
Samm, I agree with much of what you say. I suppose I am caught up on the word "authentic", my main point was that our identities can indeed be authentic.

Having a good national identity is also worthwhile. Which is what the discussion about America is about. If I had to take a stab at describing our national identity, I'd say we see ourselves as an individualistic nation, both in terms of the rights we give our citizens and the actions we take on the global stage. I think we see ourselves as world leaders. I think we see ourselves as the center of a large portion of the worlds culture.

Now, we also see our politicians as corrupt and/or useless, our businesses as being cutthroat and profiteering, our presidents as being stupid and crusading or naive and weak. But our national identity is separate from that.

What I feel like Pyth was proposing is that we cannot, as individuals, have an authentic identity in America, and that this is the source of problems. I've said why I disagreed with that.

Melonkali seems to suggest that our current problems are more due to a lack of national identity, that if we believed more strongly in our ideals and had a widespread culture behind that, we wouldn't have our current problems. But I think the history of our country has been one of improvement, and that the solutions have come from hard work by thinkers, by research in various fields, and by scientific advance. Lacking identity is not at the source of our difficulties.
 
SammDickens
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 03:11 am
@Pythagorean,
I'll have to respond more later, Jeb, but I wanted to say I'd like to ask Pyth to expand on his posts regarding "authentic identity" since we have fairly divergent ideas about what the term meant. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

Samm
 
Lost1 phil
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 08:03 am
@Pythagorean,
Add me to the list of those waiting for Pyth's response to the request to expand his thoughts on what he believes "authentic identity" to be.

Lost1
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 10:26 am
@Pythagorean,
I must admit I love to watch the Simpsons! And hamburgers my uncle makes so well. The canvas Converse and my first calculator from Texas Instruments. I love the friendlyness in general, but don't understand it has to be so loud.

Mt. Hellens was also very beautifull
 
Lost1 phil
 
Reply Sat 6 Feb, 2010 11:23 am
@Pythagorean,
Pepijn - I do not know why it has to be so loud either Sad

Lost1
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 07:43 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep;125437 wrote:
I must admit I love to watch the Simpsons! And hamburgers my uncle makes so well. The canvas Converse and my first calculator from Texas Instruments. I love the friendlyness in general, but don't understand it has to be so loud.

Mt. Hellens was also very beautifull
Loud? My German friend complains that to speak like an American, she has to talk in monotone without moving her lips. When she talks to her mother on the phone in German it sounds like they're fighting to me. German is loud.
 
SammDickens
 
Reply Sun 7 Feb, 2010 08:22 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
Pepijn Sweep;125437 wrote:
I must admit I love to watch the Simpsons! And hamburgers my uncle makes so well. The canvas Converse and my first calculator from Texas Instruments. I love the friendlyness in general, but don't understand it has to be so loud.

Mt. Hellens was also very beautifull

I agree with you about all. I cherished my first Texas Instruments calculator for many years. All my kids got TIs too, but of course they just HAD to have the kind that could program quantum mechanics for Hilbert space and translate it into a four-dimensional graphics projection. Yep, that's American Identity for you. :-)

Anyway, it shows that Texas makes a lot better calculator than it makes president, hands down!

Samm
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 09:03 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;125958 wrote:
Loud? My German friend complains that to speak like an American, she has to talk in monotone without moving her lips. When she talks to her mother on the phone in German it sounds like they're fighting to me. German is loud.


True. And Italian...:bigsmile:
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Mon 8 Feb, 2010 08:36 pm
@Pepijn Sweep,
I will try to explain what I mean by 'authenticity'.

There are two types of authenticity to be distinguished. The first type would not refer to itself as 'authentic'. This type is primitive or is found in its most pristine form among primitive tribes. These ethnic tribes were usually arranged hierarchically with war chiefs and priests or 'witch doctors' at the top. They lived according to their unquestioned, unexamined traditions. They generally believed that a god or gods were responsible for the activity in the natural world within which they lived and it's important to note that they lived as farmers or nomads in the wilderness. Largely illiterate, they posess no science as we know it. They are bound to each other by blood for life. They are violent, superstitious and ignorant.

Then there is the second, modern, type of 'authenticity' which begins with the emancipation of peasants and minority groups in Western Europe early in the 19th Century. In fact, it was Rousseau who first criticized modern society claiming that it was unnatural. But it was Nietzsche and Kierkegaard who made of modern egalitarian society their sword enemy.

Nietzsche accused 'the mob' or 'the masses' of representing the 'last man', the most contemptible man, the man who, because he thinks he knows everything and believes in nothing 'authentic', is in reality a nihilist. The middle classes or the bourgeoisie, according to Nietzsche posess no meaning. They do not represent anything redeeming, no royal highness, nothing divine, nothing supreme; they represent pure mediocrity. Kierkegaard too held that the masses represent 'untruth' and as he says 'subjectivity is truth'.

With Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as with Rousseau before them, we see the advent of a new kind of 'authenticity' on offer. This modern version of authenticity is a scathing indictment of political liberalism. This new authenticity is 'inner-directed'. It points to a profound potentiality within the 'self'. And he who can create his own 'personality' out of chaos proves that he is authentic.

Inner-directedness eventually become an egalitarian dream. The liberal masses who had shed the older form of traditional authenticity in the face of science and freedom eventually accepted the critique of liberal society that was developed by all these anti-liberal poets, philosophers, anthropologists and psychologists. The middle classes began a romance with dark versions of the self.

The new authenticity is purely selfish as well as essentially irrational and anti-liberal. Rock and Rap music, for example, are anti-liberal 'self'-expressions. And in a regime founded upon reason we see the appeal for sexual rights: all of these appetites of the self have gained widespread social acceptance. This is the new 'authenticity'.

The paradox of the new authenticity is due to the fact that our regime is founded upon a rational quest to conquer nature (the sciences) and secure liberty for average people with average lives on a rational basis. The authenticity sought for in sex, drugs, tattoos, gangs and all manner of irrationalisms can find no absolute basis in the world. It is mere selfishness disguised as a liberation. The new freedom is not reasonable.

America has become a land of value relativism. Relativism lets everybody do whatever he wants and call it a substantive life-style. But in the light of reason their life-styles are at least as pathetic as the illiberal third world dirt eaters they admire so much.

The thrid world dirt eaters represent the first type of unexamined authenticity. At least they have an excuse for anti-liberal life-styles. With the new pursuit of authenticity by the rich Western middle-classes there is no valid (rational) excuse to reject reason and liberty except for their own selfishness (boring, inane selfishness disguised as authentic life).

--Pyth
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 02:41 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;123944 wrote:
It is universal on the left end of the American and European social spectrum. I actually find it hard to believe that you're not aware of this.

And I would also add that it will be in the name of a longing for cultural identity that the American people in the future will embrace a leftist pseudo-absolutist form of government. I think we are already far down that path.

--
:eek:

Consumentism would describe the last 40 years. The Democratic merits of your form of the government are vanishing slowly. It is not the end of History, maybe Chinas might become democratic; or India for that matter.
 
SammDickens
 
Reply Sat 13 Feb, 2010 07:41 pm
@Pythagorean,
My-my, Pythagorean! Your description of "authenticity" was quite vivid, but it still leaves me confused. I don't understand what all the talk of selfishness and liberal-antiliberal attitudes has to do with authenticity. I have thought of authenticity as meaning to be authentic, to maintain fidelity toward essential values maybe? Anyway, I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered its application in philosophy, especially existentialism, as meaning to live consistent with internal, personal values rather than the values placed on one by his society, religion, etc.

I am not an authentic person. I have lived my life by the constraints placed on me by society and other external factors. I have tried in many ways to conform. In my mind, I want to believe that I am authentic because I have maintained strong personal values and have lived consistent with them often--as I suppose many of us live partially authentic lives, at least in our opinions of ourselves--,but I know that the essence of authenticity is to live life in a manner that clearly and consistently manifests our internal and personal, I would even say spiritual, values. Is this about right?

Samm
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 01:19 am
@SammDickens,
Samm;128044 wrote:
My-my, Pythagorean! Your description of "authenticity" was quite vivid, but it still leaves me confused. I don't understand what all the talk of selfishness and liberal-antiliberal attitudes has to do with authenticity. I have thought of authenticity as meaning to be authentic, to maintain fidelity toward essential values maybe? Anyway, I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered its application in philosophy, especially existentialism, as meaning to live consistent with internal, personal values rather than the values placed on one by his society, religion, etc.

I am not an authentic person. I have lived my life by the constraints placed on me by society and other external factors. I have tried in many ways to conform. In my mind, I want to believe that I am authentic because I have maintained strong personal values and have lived consistent with them often--as I suppose many of us live partially authentic lives, at least in our opinions of ourselves--,but I know that the essence of authenticity is to live life in a manner that clearly and consistently manifests our internal and personal, I would even say spiritual, values. Is this about right?

Samm


Authenticity, as practised by liberals -i.e. middle class Western white people - is, in my opinion, largely a fraud. These liberals are using the thoughts of great Continental thinkers who argued against the values of liberal society.

We, in the West, are supposed to live according to rational self-interest and not irrational selfishness that tries to pretend that it is as authentic as someone like, say, Nietzsche was. Nietzsche called for war and oppression of the weak. Yet he is the idol of the Western liberals. Do you see the contradiction here?

--
 
 

 
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