Monday, June 16, 2003

American dream

I’m heavily tuned into the sentiment of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. It’s not exactly your average Romcom Saturday night in with a tub of Haagen Daz but it’s well worth a couple of hours of your life.

Marylyn Manson and Trey Parker were both implicated in the Columbine massacre because they played loud rock music and made adult cartoons. They were also most informed in their assessment of the situation. Manson describes America as a country built on fear and consumption. Where success and consumption are one and the same. Be perfect, drink Pepsi like Brittany, eat McDonalds, like N’Sync. Ate too much Pepsi and McDonalds? You’ll get fat and nobody likes fat people, so take these pills, or buy this exercise regime. If you become fat and unpopular you won’t get a job and there’s nobody to look after you. And where do failures go? To the ghetto, an evil lawless world like the one portrayed on TV every night, like the Bronx or South Central i.e. where black people live. Parker wisely assesses that America is so prescriptive in its approach to success that kids could easily believe that their failures at school are permanently scarring. It’s one messed up country.

America is so fearful that its empire will fall apart that it’s taking its paranoia onto the world stage. Fear of Iran? Fund Iraq. Fear of Iraq? Fund Iran. Fear of Russia? Fund Afghanistan. Fear of Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan? Threaten to tear them to pieces. Suddenly they’re threatening to kill you if you do, and kill you if you don’t. So you do, right into the World Trade Center, hell why not, there’s nothing to lose.

Stoking the flames is, of course, George Bush announcing that the Justice Department had announced “a blanket alert of a general nature”. Like that statement informs you of nothing more than you should be scared of something or other. Still, there’s always an upside; sales of gas masks, duct tape and bottled water rose again. Is it any wonder that with this constant picking away at your fear, crime falls but the fear of crime rises?

At the pointy end a couple of kids in Columbine began to believe they were already failures by the age of 16. Having cashed their chips in so painfully early, with their bleak destiny laid out in front of them I guess it didn’t really matter what they did next, so they went and got famous.

And the blame? Well that was placed firmly at the feet of ‘mixed ethnicity’ (said Charlton Heston) which is no greater than in Canada, the break up of the family unit, which is no greater than the UK, and the old favourite, rock music promoting death and destruction, which is no greater than in Germany.

What was left was fear. Without healthcare or welfare, failure leaves you working in the Orc mines eating mud for a living. A welfare system is the one thing that all the above countries have that America doesn’t. It relieves the tension by giving people an alternative and a second chance. People are too damn mean to look after others without supervision, so freedom is a dangerous game, is pure freedom not anarchy? Is America not the land of the free? Do not Mr Heston and his chums at the National Rifle Association not exercise their free rights by having guns that can kill people?

Of course wherever America goes we follow, blindly down the same path. Richard and Judy testing the latest in inflatable panic rooms telling us that terrorist attacks are imminent (ignoring the fact that this country has lived with imminent terrorist attacks for thirty years), even this morning Fiona Phillips telling us the ‘terrifying’ side effects of hay fever tablets. It all drives another wedge into your calm and your sanity. Before you know it you’re on the same roller coaster.

I, for one, am not convinced about it.


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