GLOBALISATION - A NOTE FOR STEPHEN SEWELL
not being anti-American
On a bus at the
Vancouver Expo in 1986, a
party of U. S. American seniors welcomed a lone Australian to “our
country”. Nothing he said to them could make them understand that they
had crossed the Canadian border. Their graciousness was grounded in
That problem begins
with names. The United States of America is only part of the Americas,
yet that minority of landmass and people determines appellation. When a
news reader says “America invaded Iraq”, we guess that the attack
came from “the U.S. of A.”, not Venezuela.
To escape blaming
whole peoples, we need to do more than eschew the shorthand
“America”, to speak instead of U.S. Imperialism. That shift in
vocabulary exposes an even broader target.
The enemy is
monopolising capitals, irrespective of the nation-market-state that
rides shotgun for one corporation against another. The French
oligopolies in the Middle East are less culpable than Halliburton only
because the French nation-market-state is now less able to project its
force than is the U.S. one.
Each imperium can
still generate its own sort of arrogance. U.S. imperialists presume that
the rest of the world was created as U.S. American mind-space, thereby
populating the planet with “virtual U. S. Americans”. Belief in this
cloning of global aspiration is not innate. It flourishes as an
extension of the pretence by corporations that marketing does not
implant a need for ever expanding consumption. The advertisers picture
themselves performing a service in awakening us to our “latent
wants”. Spokespeople for U. S. imperialism apply this stratagem to
their dollar diplomacy.
The policies of
every government colour the character of its citizenry. The obesity of
the stereotypical “American” embodies the needs that U.S.
corporations have to bloat resources and sales. These individuals have
been socialised never to ask Jesus for the strength to resist the
temptation of buying. They are made into caricatures of the forces that
exploit them. The marketing media laud the distraction of shopping as a
patriotic duty to absorb the excess capacity from the anarchy of the
over-production driven by competition between oligopolies.
blizzard of commercial signals, the sternest critics have always
included U.S. citizens. For that reason alone, no socialist critic of U.
S. imperialism would think to ban the plays of Arthur Miller because of
his country of origin. When the Australian government in 1936 banned the
anti-Nazi drama “Till the Day I Die”, by the U. S. American writer
Clifford Odets, that censorship had nothing to do with Odets’ place of
birth. The local officials were suppressing the idea that communists of
any nationality could be admirable.
How free are
Australians of these failings? In Kangaroo
(1923), D. H. Lawrence pondered whether Australia was younger than
Britain, or “one step further gone”. Criticising the dynamics of
destruction driving U.S. imperialism at home should help us crack that
conundrum. In which aspects does our way of life reveal the future of