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I'm really surprised by one of the answers on the poll I just posted, where almost everyone who responded so far has chosen

"US citizens borrow from other cultures as much or more than other cultures borrow from the US"

Myself and 1 other person were the only ones so far who did not pick this as the answer. (Although there are only 9 responses so far, which is a bit premature... could be a statistical anomaly). But anyway, I'm really surprised that so many people think this is true. Any time I have gone outside the US, it has seemed that other countries are completely obsessed with American culture, while when I'm back home, nobody is hardly even aware of other cultures, let alone caring enough to imitate them. The whole world watches American hollywood movies, listens to American music, and follows American politics. Nobody in America gives a shit about the movies, music, or politics of other countries, at least that has been my experience.

4 or 5 years ago, I was living with a guy from Finland, who was working on his PhD in History. (I believe now, he's a Professor at University of Helsinki; I may be misremembering which university though.) He was really into death metal, especially Finnish death metal. But one of the interesting side effects of him being into metal in general (and I know this doesn't count as "death", but) was that during a lecture series on Cultural Imperialism he gave to his students, one day he brought in one of his favorite songs to play for them as a demo of what Cultural Imperialism really means. It's by Rammstein, and it's called "We're All Living In Amerika". It's one of the coolest music videos ever, so I share it with you here... I wonder if this will change your mind, those of you who picked the above answer...



Anyway, I'm not claiming I'm necessarily *right* on this one, since this whole poll, moreso than the others, I feel like is stuff that I know a lot less about. (And also, there are no right answers to whether it's awesome or scary, since that is subjective... and my personal thought on that is actually that there are some things that are awesome and others that are scary, so I just had to go with one so I picked "awesome" but I don't think that's the whole story.)

Regarding the question about science... I know I shouldn't give it away because the poll results have barely started to come in, but yes, we are by far #1. I don't think there is any contest. In my field, we are so far beyond #2, that you'd have to add several other countries best universities together to even come close to the US's consistent cutting edge output. It's just no contest at all. I'm not as sure about it for other fields, but I'm pretty damn sure we're #1 overall.

Also, I wish I had remembered to include a question about Health Care, and about Art. In Health Care, the World Health Organization ranks the US at #37, while many American conservative politicians claim that the US is actually #1. I think the truth is, it depends what your metric is. If you only care about rich people (or those who work traditional white colar salaried 9-5 jobs) getting health care, then there are some measures by which we are #1 or close to it. If you care more about having everyone covered or having it paid for in a fairly equitable way, then we're near the bottom of the barrel for developed countries (and the WHO weights those more heavily than quality of care in their ranking... they also take into account things like life expectancy, which have more to do with the bad eating habits of Americans than with our healthcare system). I guess Art is somewhat covered by culture, but then again I didn't provide that many options for the culture question... I admit, there should have been more. Personally, I think Burning Man by itself puts us a step ahead on art, but then other types of art we're probably behind on... and we don't have much in the way of a national endowment for the arts. Also, most of US art tends to be more mass marketed, which is bad.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Nov. 9th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
Haven't voted in any poll (yet?), so I'm missing some context, but:

Myself and 1 other person were the only ones so far who did not pick this as the answer. (Although there are only 9 responses so far, which is a bit premature... could be a statistical anomaly). But anyway, I'm really surprised that so many people think this is true. Any time I have gone outside the US, it has seemed that other countries are completely obsessed with American culture, while when I'm back home, nobody is hardly even aware of other cultures, let alone caring enough to imitate them. The whole world watches American hollywood movies, listens to American music, and follows American politics. Nobody in America gives a shit about the movies, music, or politics of other countries, at least that has been my experience.


Where's spaghetti from? Pizza? Donuts? How about TV shows? Doctor Who? Torchwood? Being Human? Big Brother? Fish & chips? Or, how about the English language itself - how syncretic is it?

Remember, also, that Nigeria and Bollywood are far bigger than Hollywood. ;)

Yes, I would argue that the US takes about as much as it gives. It consumes, cheapens and proliferates.
shaktool
Nov. 9th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
Maybe it would be useful to distinguish between contemporary culture and historical culture? America in many ways the sum of the historical culture of other countries.

We didn't invent music, we didn't even invent pop music, although a lot of it is produced by us now.
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Nov. 9th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Actually, America *did* invent pop.
shaktool
Nov. 9th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I was assigning too much credit to the Beatles.
easwaran
Nov. 9th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
It doesn't just cheapen. You also get foreign composers like Tan Dun, Bright Sheng, Chen Yi, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andre Previn, etc. all coming to work in the US. (I'll ignore the historical work of people like Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky and just focus on the present.) Europe probably produces slightly more classical music than the US, but it's got twice the population and far more government subsidy. I assume the situation is similar for "high culture" in other arts as well. The massive dominance by the US of "low culture" isn't matched by equal dominance of "high culture", but there is still dominance there too.
plymouth
Nov. 9th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think the big difference is that when other countries borrow american culture they maintain it as american, it's being american is a predominant quality of it. Wheras when we borrow we will assimilate it to the point that we know longer remember or care where it came from, where we can pretend we invented it. I feel like we are SO used to borrowing that we rarely ever come up with original cultural elements. We're kinda like a giant cultural clearinghouse, assembling elements and shipping the finished product back out to the rest of the world. Like when you buy an american car but it's full of parts from japan and korea and south america and and and...
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elgecko
Nov. 9th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
Regarding the import/export of cultures... I think it's more an issue of single-source versus multiple sources. Yes you can spot brash, loud, logo-fied American culture in the rest of the world quite easily. But go down the main drag of any decent-sized American town or city and you can see a LOT of cultural appropriation.

Adverts on my local buses and trains are in Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Arabic. Within one mile of my house are more signs in Hindi, Punjabi, Pashto, Korean, Spanish...

Loud stereo systems in my town play Arabic pop (rai) and Mexican corridas just as likely as anything USA-grown.

Loads of examples to be had. Now if you'll pardon me, it's time for this Latino to go pick up some sushi.
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plymouth
Nov. 10th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
I think our cultural adoption trend is quite ongoing. Seems like every year at least there's some new foreign cuisine fad, some new foreign-inspired fashion trend, some new foreign musical style being incorporated into an existing style. So, I for one was definitely not just thinking of our origins. Though I do think our origins affect a lot how we adopt new foreign influences. I think they coined the term "cultural appropriation" just for us :P
spoonless
Nov. 10th, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
I have noticed since moving to California (or maybe it's just the people I've been around these past few years) that *some* Americans pay attention to foreign cultures. I guess growing up and being around mainstream America is what is making me say that they don't pay any attention. elgecko mentioned going to eat Sushi. That's not really something I could picture the people I knew in high school doing. Anyway, I think it depends a lot on who your friends are and who you're around.
(Deleted comment)
spoonless
Nov. 10th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
These are all good points. I think there's a fundamental difficulty with trying to fit complicated social questions into a single one-liner and having people select the best one. I'm actually thinking my quizzes that just had a 0 through 10 "how much do you buy this statement" worked better. I was thinking maybe this would work better because there are more options, but to really make it work you'd need a free response, and everyone would get to write an essay :)

Anyway, I was thinking of the present when I wrote the question, I wasn't considering the origin of American culture, just whether more culture is currently being imported or exported. Bad wording I guess!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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