Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Existential angst

Posted by alifinmath on March 24, 2008

Nice piece in the Telegraph on the American experience:

But Americans are a displaced, dispossessed people. The adventure of their forebears was quite unlike the migrations of Europeans who moved back and forth across national borders: it was an existential break with the old ties that was almost always irreversible and undertaken with blind faith in the future.

That the new land offered no security, no welfare arrangements, no official mentoring of any kind meant that immigrants relied even more heavily for support and mutual help on their ethnic communities. The features of their nationhood – their constitution, their flag and their democratic institutions – are revered because they are all that holds them together.

Americans suffer from the collective insecurity that arises from rootlessness and the wilful abandonment of historical continuity. That longing for roots, and the emotional security that goes with them, divides Americans as surely and inevitably as their constitutional arrangements unite them. That is the perennial contradiction at the heart of national life.

As I’ve said before, a state not founded on ethno-biological ties is unlikely to have a long shelf life. Flag and constitution are artificial and shallow props and do not a people make. The United States is a makeshift place, nowheresville writ large.


2 Responses to “Existential angst”

  1. Anonym said

    Don’t fret, we just need to kill more Iraqis and everything will be fine. And if the Iranians don’t stop meddling in Iraq, we’ll need to kill some of them too. And if the French and Germans get in our way like they did over Iraq we’ll consign them to “old Europe” a la Rumsfeld. Add Russian opposition to the mix and we’ll “forgive Russia, ignore Germany, and punish France” a la Rice. We’ll impose our will on the world and bend them to that will. Be the country in Europe, South America, Asia or Africa, they will do our bidding or be ostracized from our new order. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. alifinmath said

    The United States is too much the club and not enough the rapier. As I wrote yesterday, the country is ill-suited to a global role. Its leaders and its people lack the adroitness and sophistication needed for such global involvement. Bush epitomises what foreigners think of Americans — ignorant, supercilious, complacent, incurious, mendacious, and with a finger on the trigger (or the red button). European physicists should never have devloped nuclear weapons for the Americans: it’s like handing an AK-47 to an ape.

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