«We have nothing to fear, except for fear itself«
In 1997 Vicente Verdú wrote El Planeta Americano, perhaps the best analysis by an European intellectual of the Social, Political and Economic life in the USA. Written in Spanish, the cultural barrier that language creates between our continents means that this work is not known among the general American public.
Verdú is specially sharp in studying the Love of Fear that American Culture has. It is more relevant now, at the turn of the XXI century and in the middle of a Second Great Depression that in 1997 when it was written.
A short discussion of some of the chapter subjects follows.
American Pride. Most Americans do not travel abroad, are very ignorant even of their own geography and despise other countries about which they know nothing at all.
Love of God. The importance of religion and the history of the USA and their religiosity.
Love of Money. Their avarice, their lust to create business and earn money, their compulsion of shopping.
All-Powerful Capital. Social hierarchy based on the ownership of money and their consequences: a high percentaje of holdups and robberies. The objective of the American is to make money, otherwise he is a failure.
Fear of Crime. Most people are armed and as a consequence crime, hold ups, murders and rapes are the norm. A study on the industry and economics of jails and prisoners.
Obscenity and Freaks. An unhealthy mixture of Puritanism and the best developed Porn culture, with notes on overeating, curious signs on stores advising that food is not sold on the premises (seen in a dress store), overwork of the American digestive system.
Hate of Intellectuals. The simplicity and humor of the American people, their hate of intellectualism and the life of American Intellectuals and Researchers from early 20th Century.
The Parentless Generation. The American Teenager, their life, mores and destructive ways.
Edge Cities. In the understanding of Verdú Americans hate the cities as most of them live in pseudo-agrarian communities. The interminable American City all high-rises, no cafés, all cars, long distances, motels. It is The Air Conditioned Nightmare that Henry Miller wrote about.
Cybercapitalism. All aspects of this new culture are discussed. Verdú discusses the possible American Future, in 1997 as of now.
Bandera mundial, en Futurama
El Planeta Americano is an exceptional book but not the best of Verdú. His best book is probably the uncanny El estilo del mundo. La vida en el capitalismo de ficcion. (2003). The Style of the World: Life in Fiction Capitalism.
Verdú is an Economist and using the best intellectual instruments of Contemporary French Philosophy analyzes today’s Fiction Capitalism. Written before the Crash of 2008 his work is a prelude to this fugue we are living in now.
Yo y tú, objetos de lujo (2005) [You and Me, Objects of Luxury] is another important work by Verdú, about how Me and You are losing all material reality.
Verdú’s blog is here, in Spanish only I am afraid.
PS. Uncanny. After I write this I watch the History Channel, and what do they have? Mega Disasters ! The Oil Crisis. Playing on the fears of the American audience, with many doom-selling experts who predict the sure Collapse of the USA, and it is right now, they offer no solutions, at least workable, rational social solutions. They present a Mad Max future, with countries in the Middle East using atomic weapons against Western Invaders who go there to steal their oil -I think I have seen this movie, in better Technicolor- and a future of enormous carnage.
It is clear to the eyes of anybody with some level of education and some feelings of humanity that this is playing on the fears of a population insecure of their future in the wake of the Economic Crisis. The future simply is not going to be like the past, but nothing impedes a good future.
There’s a very small step from the doommonger to the warmonger.
And know what? It is old people like Lovelock, a 90 year old doommonger who is going out of this world (and I don’t mean his future trip in a Rocket by Virgin) and says the world is going out from him. A common enough disease of the old and the infirm, may god save us from it.