Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Well, many of us would disagree with details rather the overall thrust of it.

Sure.  Where I essentially disagree is with assumptions that suggest people cannot desire and seek material possessions while also maintaining values and culture.  I don't think most people judge others by their possessions.  There is a word for people who do, and it's used quite often: "shallow".  I don't make friends based upon their wealth.  I do so based upon whether I enjoy being around them.  ("This person is intelligent, funny, trustworthy, etc.")  Some people do, of course, judge others on possessions, but I submit that they are a fairly small minority.  There were a few people like that when I was in high school -- usually girls who used the word "like" fifty times in a sentence -- but they were always judged by everyone else to be braindead Materialists.

I also disagree with glorifying the values and norms of our ancestors above our own.  I can guarantee than many, and probably most, Americans' ancestors were racists, that they were homophobic, that religion played much too large a role in their ideas, and so on.  They used the word "empire" as though it were something to be proud of.  Today, we hear the word "empire" and understand it -- rightly, in my view -- to be a bad thing.  The overwhelming majority of people cringe at the American legacy of slavery, even though we weren't the ones who were guilty of it.  In our ancestors' day, it wasn't simply argued that blacks were inferior.  It was assumed.  Today, most people would shout down anyone who even attempted the argument.

Values evolve, thankfully, and we can watch them evolve even today, as in the case of the same-sex marriage debate here in the states.  (Initially, people were very much opposed to it, but the polls I've seen seem to suggest that the public is getting used to the idea.)  And, in some ways, I think capitalism inherently has a role to play in this by pushing the envelope -- in style, music, and plenty of other areas related to culture.  (Whether you and I, as individuals, like these new trends is another issue.  I, for one, hate most modern music.)  There was a show here in the states called "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" -- not sure if it ever aired in Europe (knowing networks today, it might have originated there, for all I know) -- that became, for a brief period, the biggest hit in the country.  Thirty years ago, the network would've lost advertising dollars for running such a show.

It pushed the envelope, and in a great way, in my opinion, because I think traditional values were disgusting on the issue of gay rights.  And the really great thing about it is that it changes minds without public policy -- integration instead of only desegregation, as Dr. King put it (speaking on civil rights rather than gay rights, though).  I, obviously, think public policy should be involved in this issue, just as public officials were involved back during the civil rights era, but these sorts of things make the task easier for progressives in government (fewer people to convince that the old values were ridiculous).

I disagree fully with the idea that our thoughts and spirit have been robbed, as well.  It suggests, to me at least, that we are all mindless: that our thoughts are always clouded with a "Buy, Buy, Buy!" banner, or something to that effect.  I don't think that is the case.  We don't make friends because of their possessions.  In the West, at least, we don't choose husbands and wives based upon the opportunity social mobility.  We make these personal decisions based upon our preferences.  I think Marx made a mistake by talking about markets as though they only dealt with consumers, producers, investors, workers, governments, and other actors in the economy.  The concept goes well beyond economics and political soundbites.  We're also acting in a market framework when we make decisions about our friends, family, political views, religion, and so on.

Hope that made some sense.  I'm about to pass out from the heat here.  It's only April, and already the damned temperatures are getting into the 80s.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 05:46:18 PM EST
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