Friday, November 30, 2007

From the deathbed

A bit of brouhaha around Time magazine's article "The Death of French Culture." What, again? Though I believe the piece originated in the European edition of Time (it's hard to tell from the online version), I think it's fair to say that the American media sends out a smug, Schadenfreude-laden dispatch about the death of French culture every three or four years, so one more feels a little blah at this point.

What's new in this latest postmortem? Not much. In short, France pours money into the arts but has little to show for it, especially as its homegrown artists don't sell outside of the country. But this doesn't address two important facts.

First, culture means more to a country than what sells abroad. There's tons of successful French movies and singers, but they express themselves in French and don't export well. They themselves seem fine with that—why is bigger necessarily better? Besides, is it so weird for people to enjoy culture in their own language and not English?

Second, judging a country's culture by what makes it to the US is completely misleading since self-obsessed America is closed off to anything it doesn't generate. Perhaps it would be worth wondering why America has so little interest in anything other than itself—a problem that has tons of obvious geopolitical repercussions.

And frankly, the US isn't really in a position to be contemptuous of other countries' efforts and interests these days, considering America is awash in corruption, fraud, obscene consumerism, voyeuristic celeb frenzy and the constant trampling of the small, poor and weak by the big, rich and powerful. Perhaps Time should look into "The Death of American Culture" next?

1 comment:

judy said...

I remember overhearing an American tourist in Amsterdam scoffing to her son that the idiot Dutch insist on pronouncing Van Gogh as "van-goff" instead of the obviously correct, "van-go." That pretty much sums up most Americans take on culture—our way or the highway.