The Underground Lady [Page Twenty-Three]

It is a bizarre and prejudicial notion of Americans that their government is either better than all the rest (American conservatism) or worse (American liberalism).  This reveals a lack of knowledge on the part of Americans about almost anything that happens beyond their own country—quite a trick in a global media village—and an appalling lack of experience of the world on the part of their leaders and pundits.

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Anyone who has ever traveled, that is, beyond the safe bounds of tourist zones where one is only told, not surprisingly, what one wants to hear, and anyone who has paid some attention to what the locals in each nation has to say, will realize that governments are all the same.  They are either a source of annoyance, or a source of grief, especially when they try, cloyingly, to be helpful.  And anyone who doesn’t think that this is what governments are, merely because this is “only” what people feel them to be, has spent too much time close to the workings of one to have any perspective left whatsoever.  This includes especially academics who study government, for they are inseparable from the machine.

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America is a European nation.  Of course, it always has been, but the myth of American uniqueness and trans-historicity, which grew up in the nineteenth century and reached its zenith during the Cold War, is hard to crack.  The so called “boomer” generation of Americans, conservative and liberal, still go around glassy-eyed and muttering about “vision” and “empire” and other dangerously premodern concepts.  Really it’s just the same old story of the crow thinking it’s a swan.  But if America is to become a member of the family of nations, it needs first to become aware, and this means, it needs to historicize itself accurately as European.

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American history is a branch of European history, from the beginning.  Even if non-indigenous and non-European groups dominate its future—as it appears they may—America will remain quite European for centuries to come.  The tone of Europe, after all, does not go away quickly. 

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Patriotism is the deadliest and dumbest form of bigotry.  And we  need it to some extent.

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The transmigration of souls is a sexual metaphor tied up with ethnicity, with the concept of keeping spiritual transitions within the national bloodline. 

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The phallus is not at the center of traditional Western society, like some feminists think—care is the primary cultural referent.  This is what makes paternalism so difficult to fight, its folded-in element of maternal love.

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This is what William S. Burroughs had to say:

“Intellectual uniformity is more and more necessary as the contradictions and failures of the society become more and more apparent.  It has reached the point now where it’s practically a criminal offense to express a sensible opinion.  You express a moderate opinion about drugs, and you’re accused of advocating their use, and denounced as a criminal.  Suggest that anything’s basically wrong with society, you’re an anarchist striking at the very roots of organized civilization.  They cannot allow any leeway because the contradictions are too blatant.”*

He said this in 1969.  Now one can imagine how much worse things have gotten, on every score, in all the time since then.

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Burroughs also said in the same interview, when asked about America:

“I don’t think there is any country where dissent is so widespread or where dissent has a better chance of effecting basic changes.”

But what happened?  For an explanation, look a little further, where he was asked, Is love a solution?  And he answered:

“I don’t think so at all.  I think love is a virus.  I think love is a con put down by the female sex.  I don’t think that it’s a solution to anything.”

This is prescient.  For it was love that was used to re-enslave people, especially in America, where the commodifying of Hippie culture, around the simple-minded formula of Love=Liberation, reached its zenith.  It continues today, in the form of the “mommy culture” which refuses to allow adults to act as adults.  Adults have a habit of thinking for themselves. 

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* William S. Burroughs in The Job, with Daniel Odier.

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