Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

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Why do they hate us?

I just caught a few minutes of Peter Jennings' "In Search of America" thing on ABC, in which people who work for the Pepsi/Frito-Lay empire talk with evangelistic zeal about conning people the world over into eating more junk food. These people are sincerely convinced that what they're doing is good and important and promotes world peace, or at least have mastered the trick of faking sincerity.

And Americans wonder why people hate us.

I believe in markets. I think market capitalism does a damned fine job of developing products and technologies that can make people's lives better. But that's not what always happens, and I would hope that people who find themselves in the business of selling people things that aren't so good for them would feel a little bad about it — would innovate by coming up with better, more beneficial products. But instead they have all these clever people innovating to find new ways to sell the same old shit. Listening to the guy running the Dutch Lays operation gushing about getting their products into schools, I could hear the thing he wasn't saying: "Hook them while they're young."

Admittedly, it's not on the moral level of tobacco: I don't know how people who work for tobacco companies can stand to look at themselves in the mirror. And I'm too much of a realist to expect people to feel bad about working at companies like Pepsi or Microsoft that make products that are really not good for their customers. But to watch people celebrate that sort of work, with almost religious zeal, was too much for me. I watched about 10 minutes of it, and turned it off, muttering something to myself to the effect of "this is Satan" — a very strange thing for me to say.

This is what America is to most of the world: we come into their cultures, and we manipulate them. We sell them bland, crappy food, and bland crappy entertainment, and convince a lot of them that they like it. At least at first, until they — maybe — develop a little immunity to marketing, or see some treasured native institution die.

I'm not saying that the export of American business techniques and products and ideas is an unmixed curse — but neither is it by any means an unmixed blessing, and I don't think most Americans have the first clue about that.

In my own limited travel, and from all I've heard from people who've traveled to far more distant places, they don't hate us. Americans seem to be greeted warmly around the world. It's not americans, it's America they hate, because of what America imposes on them.

I think we owe it to those people, who treat us so warmly despite how they feel about our country, to try to better understand their feelings, and maybe to put some brakes on the American cultural steamroller.

Tags: meditations
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