Friday, June 8, 2012

A Brief Rant about America

Someone did a little post comparing the Mediterranean lifestyle (specifically among Italians) with the American.  I responded with something that I would like to keep (and so have reproduced below).  There is no such thing as a perfect lifestyle.  The Italian and the American both come with problems (and benefits).  In my own life, I would like to blend the best of both worlds.  I am still working out what precisely that means (in practical terms).

The one thing that Italy has that America lacks is a culture that is not entirely dominated by the “machine” (the technological complex that demands hours of work on a treadmill every day to keep crappy consumerism alive so that our survival becomes dependent on businessmen making money). In Italy, people aim to live like human beings: they don’t work like maniacs; they don’t eat like maniacs; they go bankrupt and don’t care. When the American dream (of a career selling crap to people who don’t need it) becomes an impossible nightmare for them, they retreat to the fields and become shepherds — instead of camping out on Wall Street and demanding handouts from their fatcat overlords.

In America, we are still living with the kind of idiotic mindset that makes work a virtue for its own sake. We work really hard at tasks, so hard that we cannot be bothered to stop when feedback indicates that we are digging ourselves into an impossible hole (creating hell instead of heaven). We value effort over achievement, profit over sustainability, size over function, specialization and concentration over tinkering and liberal understanding. We go to school to become cogs in “the machine” — to turn our brains off of human concerns so that we can dedicate them wholly to minute tasks that make money for businessmen (for the most part: some of us do dodge the bullet! but we see those who don’t in our classrooms, our churches, our workplaces, our gyms, our hospitals, and so on). We work to “do a job” that we frequently couldn’t care less about, probably because it is usually as boring as heck (with its primary contribution to humanity being the perpetuation of busywork, which we worship with religious fervor).

To summarize humorously (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek): Americans are diligent Protestants, believing loudly in grace while they work themselves into an early grave. Italians are typical Catholics, following old human traditions (even when they think they are mostly hogwash) over newfangled faith, and avoiding work wherever possible (i.e. whenever it is unnecessary).   

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