Wednesday, 22 June 2011

All Bottoms with you Americans



To quote the wisdom of Basil Fawlty when he has to deal with an American tourist. Said American tourist was true to American tourist stereotypes of the time: tall, strong, brash and very, very rich. Not one to take any crap from an 'aging brilliantined stick insect', brown suited pompous Imperialist nostalgist fogey in a post-Imperialist country. We’re the empire now was the pretty implicit subtext.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Americans being portrayed this way in British TV. I suppose that there’s the rather disturbing feeling that we are a post-imperialist country that has shackled ourselves to a failing empire.

But that’s not to deny that I think there’s a lot of good things about the USA. One thing I especially like is the generic fiction, especially horror and sci-fi which I think does create a kind of group culture of a sort that generally isn’t very strong in modern culture in general (I haven’t watched twilight and don’t intend to, just so’s everyone knows).

However, I did have to admit to being somewhat stunned at seeing where American science Fiction is apparently going. In fact Dan Simmons’ latest sounds like a madder version of Red Dawn.

Things I especially loved:


-The protagonist is called ‘Nick Bottom’. The fact that he obviously didn’t expect grown men to snigger at that name says all you need to know about the growing culture gap between
Britain and Middle America
-
'too many’ young black men adopt the name 'nigger'. Yes, I'm sure it really hurts Dan to type the 'n' word.
-'For all of
Israel's vaunted vigilance, the attack, when it came, was a complete surprise. More than six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens of Israel died in three hours of concentrated nuclear and thermonuclear fire'
A cynic might say he's trying to appeal to the self-pity and paranoia of the Zionist lobby, but of course, they'd be wrong. Hobviously.

-‘The new American economy with its National Identification Card and its billions of near-worthless newbucks replacing real money struggled into existence… Most people -- ex-homicide detective Nick Bottom included -- have found a way to survive in the new not-quite-real-economy. More than a few chose not to. Internet sites showing how to rig explosive suicide vests for best results -- including dipping the hundreds of shrapnel nails and tacks and marbles in rat poison -- received more than a million hits.’

I’d guess at least 75 million. But would anyone actually use them? Or would they just blubber about it like all those Randians at Mat Rodina who said they were going to move to Russia to take advantage of the flat tax, when they probably never even touched a Russian lexicon never mind looked at visa requirements.

-‘There are about 23,000,000 new colonists in the great swath ranging from the border with the Republic of Texas on the east, including all of what had once been New Mexico and Arizona, small swaths of Nevada, and irregular parts of southern California up to Los Angeles, ending at the Pacific Ocean. This is Nuevo Mexico -- pronounced in the proper Spanish-Mexican way -- and while the civil war continues to wage in the south with Hugonista rebels, trained in Argentina, reportedly occupying everything from the former southern border to Veracruz, Nuevo Mexico itself is reported to be calm and self-sufficient. Except for stories of starvation. And for stories of entire cities (such as Las Vegas, formerly of New Mexico) having to be abandoned because of water shortages. And except for Hugonista raids from the south and for Nuevo Mexico's constant border war with the Republic of Texas.’

Can I guess that Simmons gained his knowledge of Hispanic culture from a Cheech and Chong boxset?

- ‘Europe, in our not-so-far-away Flashback future, is -- more than anything else -- old. Evidently it had neither the heart, stomach, energy, or armies for struggle. The E.U., save for the convenience of the euro in parts of the continent, has ceased to exist. Most of the nations of Western Europe -- as nations qua nations -- have similarly ceased to exist. What the hell -- most of them had long since been embarrassed by anything so crass as patriotism or "nationalism". Those ideas belonged to a bloody and dusty past.’

Oy! You stole that from Red dawn. But before any of my Tory compatriots snigger about ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’

-‘So the Global Caliphate is vital across Western Europe and the U.K.

Thankyou Tony Blair, you really raised Blighty in the esteem of the Americans

-Canada, used to dividing itself into smaller parts to appease ethnic groups, languages, and claims to prior ownership, now divides itself gracefully into parts of the Umma and scores of local Canadian enclaves, many run by First Peoples, others by gangsters and terrorists, some by both groups combined. Ottawa's seat of government has control over Parliament Hill -- on a good day -- but little more. The most common baby name in Canada in the time of Flashback is Mohammed.

Yeah, Muslim Terrorists and First People pagans would obviously join forces, cause they’re all darkies who hate white folks. Sob, poor us.

-‘Medical services in America continued to be provided, of course. When your diagnosed cancer calls for chemotherapy, you get in line. (Unless you're very rich.) The first state-insurance-funded chemotherapy sessions will arrive, on average in post-Die-Ought-If America, in eighteen months or so. No one talks about Death Panels any longer. There are no panels. Everyone is truly treated equal in post-Die-Ought-If America. (Except, of course, for those who can pay in Old Bucks or gold.)’

If we don’t let the feeble die, we’ll kinda like die. Or something.

I find it amusing that such a demented, reactionary fantasy should come from a secular, self-described political centrist and science fiction author. Not that there haven’t been equally right wing ideas before, except that they are usually a lot more optimistic. And this doesn’t even sound like adrenalin pounding dystopia so much as a protracted spitting the dummy out at the lot of the middle class white man in modern America.

The curious thing is, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to some of the themes attacking monotheistic fanaticism and extreme multiculturalism. Yet theses are not apparently themes so much as skewed political points. I think it’s to Canada’s supreme credit that they have treated the native Americans with respect and helped them to preserve their culture. By contrast I think American Democracy and free speech has been greatly damaged by the ridiculously named ‘Anti-defamation league’. Yet who comes out best in Simmons’ middle American tract?

Still, be interesting to see how it is received.

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