Why do Americans hate France?
Your elderly neighbors, your irate father, and the pundit noise machine all have two things in common: (1) they are really angry about going bald and (2) they all hate France. They think France is the worst. France is beyond redemption. Even among all the anti-foreign nonsense these people spout, their statements on France stand out as completely insane.
Bill O’Reilly, for example, alleged that France is wholly responsible for creating its domestic terrorist threat – though when buses blow up in England, the same charge is not leveled. (The English know what they’re doing – England never surrendered during World War II, after all.) He, and others, also thought France was terrible for not supporting the War in Iraq and we should boycott them – but not Germany, which also opposed the war. (The Germans are honest people, unlike the French. The Germans make guttural noises and forge steel and hate Communism.) There is an anti-French mother lode in the gold mine of the American collective unconscious, and Bill O’Reilly is our dowsing rod.
This disappoints me. Sure, French-American politics may not a mutual lovefest, but that’s true anywhere: Japan, Brazil, India, China, Germany; all have their disagreements with the U.S. over important issues. And most individual French, especially those younger than 35, love the U.S. They love our music and movies. They love our Fuck You attitude, to the extent that it reminds them of themselves. They even love our steadfast – if largely rhetorical – support of democracy. (more…)
The people who rule the world aren’t supposed to be human beings. They’re not supposed to have things like feelings, emotions, families, disappointments, urges. They’re supposed to be abstract vessels into which we can pour our hopes and our hates, our victories and defeats, like distant, personal gods.
But then they go and fuck it all up by dancing.
Time and again, these leaders who ought to embody the Platonic ideal of our nation-state, insist on going out on some dance floor somewhere and strutting their stuff. It’s disgusting. It’s offensive. It’s humanizing. It reminds us that instead of being perfect in their goodness or their malevolence, they’re actually just like us, confused, awkward, and perpetually bewildered by existence.
When you see them there, shaking their butts and wiggling their legs, you’re forced to ask yourself the hardest question the citizen of any polity can ask: How on earth did I entrust my life, liberty, property, and sacred honor to this lunatic? (more…)
Japan’s coalition government of cooperative fiefdoms, held together by symbolic allegiance to the Emperor and de facto allegiance to the Tokugawa shogun, warlord of warlords, was cracking under the weight of modernity.
In the years since American gunboats forced open Japan in 1853, as the Tokugawa government scrambled to meet the trials of imperialism, the feudal domains had sensed weakness. They became warlike and rebellious, settling old grievances amongst themselves and even rising in open revolt. At the precise moment when Japan must show a strong face to the world to avoid the very real threat of being invaded and colonized, weak leadership threatened to return the country to its fractured feudal roots. If that happened – if the Japanese were fighting each other when the super-powers took interest in a new conquest – all would be lost. Japan would become a failed state like China, or even a colony.
Saigo Takamori knew this. (more…)