Culture, “the collective manifestation of intellectual achievement.” That’s a pretty broad brush considering many of us associate culture with art, theatre and literature. American culture has made a great contribution in that traditional sense, so many writers, so many, painters, sculptors, actors, poets, dancers and scientists. However one of their greatest contributions is an ability to think beyond tradition, to challenge what is possible or even correct, Americans innovate and adapt.
Non Americans tend to look down on all things American, let’s be honest. In Britain we tend to talk about American culture with tongue firmly in cheek, the war you know. America has become the worlds leader and many of us can’t quite forgive them for that so we over compensate. It’s tough at the top and as the last superpower America draws criticism from every quarter, whatever she does, good or bad and I do mean every quarter. We tend to regard Americans as loud and over confident when the reality is quite different. The old European powers have done their work well, many Americans are in awe of European culture and often overlook their own contributions. There is also a habitual tendency to analyse their own performance in pursuit of that other understated pillar of their culture, profit and efficiency. Americans are very competitive in everything they do and critical self-analyse is very necessary when striving for better results. The Americans have elevated it to a science.
Modern mass production techniques, research and development, financial control, human resources, advertising, sales and marketing. All revered by corporate Americans, refined and developed painstakingly with remorseless and ruthless critical self-analysis. Techniques that have been embraced by the world. Nowhere are these traits more evident than in the field of modern mass media which has become an American speciality. Take a moment and consider the numerous ways that American culture has directly affected you. Music, TV, literature, the Internet, work, science, food the car you drive and even how you pay for it.
Even the term culture has been revoultionised by America. Americans always, always, always, push the limits, they may not always get it right but American culture has changed the world forever. America’s contribution to human culture is vast and undeniable. They are now coming out of a huge depression, they tightened their belts and they hunkered down, they toughed it out. They are now lean and mean in a chaotic, competitive world that is constantly changing. They have a huge battle hardened military, unmatched in the world. They technical capabilities that other countries can only dream of. Their economic might is difficult to comprehend, remembering that they are now the number one oil producer in the world, no accident. There is literally nothing like them in size and scope. They face major challenges from Asia, specifically from China but also from Europe and a resurgent Russia but America thrives on challenges.
There is much talk of replacing the dollar as the worlds reserve currency and curtailing American global influence but talk is cheap. In another American cultural trait, America will always act in its own national self-interest, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. America can be single minded and ruthless, a good friend but a very, very bad enemy. The American cultural revolution is not yet at an end, it may even be just beginning.
The British learned the value of a special relationship with the Americans during the last war. It is never wise to bet against them, even when they get it wrong and they do get it wrong. However they generally get there in the end, maybe that goes hand in hand with critical self-analysis. It’s also always wise to consider the alternatives in these situations. Times are a changing, we are at war, a complicated economic war to be sure but all war is ultimately economic. There will be winners and losers and I believe the time for choosing sides is upon us.
The worlds global players are realigning themselves and squaring off, who knows where it all ends? The smart ones among you will be wondering what will the Americans do next?