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America: bad image, but ultimately the best show in town

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Wednesday, 6 December 2006


America has become the land of the over-sized meal, cleavage, glistening teeth, drug stuffed celebrities, instant gratification and the self-appointed moral arbiter on all things important. So what’s there not to hate about it? Lots.

We should heed the advice of Yankee convert Rupert Murdoch and Prime Minister John Howard and show a bit more loving to Americans.

According to Murdoch and the PM anti-Americanism is reaching unsavoury levels. A Lowy Institute Poll found that the only places that generated less positive feelings in Australians than the US were Iran, Iraq, Indonesia and the Middle East. (Personally, I’m very relieved that Croatia didn’t make the bad guys’ list.)

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Speaking at the American Australian Association dinner recently Murdoch said that the Iraq war had made the US unpopular but we shouldn’t allow our concerns about one policy to dominate our views about the US.

The decision by the US led “Coalition of the Willing” was an egregious violation of international law and has caused incalculable suffering to the people of Iraq. The fact that US leaders won’t be held to account in an international court for this heinous (on-going) crime underlines the hypocritical and expedient nature of international law.

Yet that is not the reason we dislike Americans. As a species we are more self-interested than ethical in our mindset. That’s why we are gorging ourselves to ill health, while thousands of people are dying each day of hunger in other parts of the World. There is more than enough grain produced in the world each day to make every person on earth fat. Regrettably we lack the motivation to spread more of it around.

US resentment stems from the fact it is culturally swamps and dominates the rest of the world. The communication explosion, spawned by the Internet, pay TV, mega advertising and globalisation means millions of mainly unwholesome images are beamed each day, mainly from the US, across the globe.

The unbridled quest for materialism, “good looks” and cheap thrills are the central messages coming from the US. The most popular web sites are those featuring porn or celebrities - and sometimes we are even tormented by the double whammy of celebrity porn. People are getting jack of that and hence an increase in global US dislike.

The dislike is greatest in nations that have a strong sense of cultural and national identity. Understandably they see themselves as having the most to lose as a result of the US cultural spread. Hence it is no surprise that anti-Americanism is highest in Europe and especially France - the once cultural epicentre of the world.

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The reality about US life and culture could not, however, be more different. Economically and militarily the US is the world’s greatest superpower. Making weapons and money are the two most competitive pursuits on earth. You don’t get to be the world’s most successful nation by luck or by mainly focusing on making music videos wearing short shorts and busty tops.

We need to take our hat off to the Yanks. Jealously is the only thing that prevents other nations admitting that they would want nothing more than to have an ounce of America’s power and affluence.

The American dream is more than an outdated symbol. Americans have a super-sized work ethic and belief that anything is possible, they back themselves, unashamedly engage in self-promotion and they’re smart too - US university completion rates are among the highest in the world.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is the author of 20 books and over 100 refereed scholarly articles. He is not connected with any political party or other interest group. He is the author of Australian Human Rights Law (forthcoming). Mirko is the author of Being Happy and Dealing with Moral Dilemmas.

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