America from various points of view

In this “America”, the author, Jean Baudrillard, who is a philosopher in France and is famous for the work of “The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures” had a great influence on a number of thinkers in his field. He wrote this book after visiting several cities in the US, such as Philadelphia and New York. If you already finish reading this “ America”,  you could understand that this work is considerably sophisticated and complicated. Actually, I couldn’t get the main point of this chapter “Astral America”. So, I want to share with you what I grasped and a few ideas I found interesting.

  I’ve thought that America and Europe has much in common and they are almost same. I regarded the US and Europe as a single one, because the US as a country was started and westernized by some European immigrants and there have been a lot of immigrants from Europe, especially east European countries even after the founding of America. So, I have roughly categorized the US and European as the country of western culture. The authors in this “ America” thinks similarly in the same way as me and he states that “ In reality, you do not, as I had hoped, get any distance on Europe from here. You do not acquire a fresh angle on it.”(29, Astral America) and he claims that “the point is that there is really no need to adopt a single critical stance on Europe from here”. He also considers the US similar to Europe. But, after I begun to stay in the US, I came to realized that the US is different from European countries. According to the article of “What differentiates Europeans from Americans” on Jul 21st, 2009, they differ in several points. As an example most familiar with you, their food is completely different. Europeans eat more nutritious and healthier food and Americans have more fast food. As I mentioned above, they are greatly different and it is not possible to regard them as the same single western civilization.

  The next one I found interesting is about smile. Jean Baudrilland describes smiles Americans do as the sign of “emptiness”(34) and “profound indifference”(34) and he states that they smile when they have nothing to say. It was surprising for me because I had assumed that Americans give a smile only when they have a funny thing or only to show the sign of kindness, friendliness and goodwill. Comparing with the meaning of smile Japanese people do, in my opinion, Japanese smile is similar to American smile of “emptiness”(34). Japanese smile includes the meaning of not only fear, anger, sadness, and pleasure, but also “emptiness”(34). For example, when we, Japanese people, are talking with those who speak other language, not Japanese, we sometimes give a smile during the conversation. The meaning of this smile is that we don’t have anything to say because we don’t understand what they are talking since they speak very fast or they use other language they don’t know.

   The contents of “America” includes a lot of things about America seen from various points. So, the methods of this writing was somewhat unfamiliar with me so I was little confused. But, I think the author thinks negatively of the US in this chapter. For instance, he refers to the “mania for asepsis” (33), which means the US keeps clearing out those who have different ideas, beliefs or religions. As this example, the author mentions a progressive sect named “MOVE”, who was completely eliminated by the US police at that time (33). This is also true for Red Scarce, which took place in the era of Cold War. In addition, the author also points out obesity, over richness and ill-treat for children in the end of the chapter. So, in my opinion, Baudrillard wants to give the message of warning to the recent American culture.

My discussion questions are :

1) why does the author mention the smile American use?

2) what do you think is the “America’s problem” author refer to?

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One Response to America from various points of view

  1. hollywen says:

    Firstly, I think the author use the smile as an example to reflect the fake and pale side of America. He wanted to express that although Americans look nice and friendly on the surface, they may just pretend to be like that and it means nothing in deed. I agree with Baudrillard to some extent because I think most of the Americans are easygoing and always wear smile on the face but it does not mean that you can easily become friends with them. Because developing a friendship needs to be more familiar with each other. And it is pretty appropriate in the field of politics because many politicians may use the smile to appear a friendly face in order to win the election. But I do think smile is a good thing because it is polite and pleasing and it can bring joy to both the person who smiles and other people.

    Secondly, I think the “American problem” may be referred to the loss of true love and the spiritual fulfillment of oneself. Since people are overwhelmed by the high speed, virtual Internet and advanced technology in the modern society. Many of them have less time and space to think deeply and develop relationship in the reality.

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