The Epic Story of Humanity: Part 1, Spring

How Cool Is This?

The world once dreamt American dreams.
CHRIS HOLLO/GETTY IMAGES

It used to be common for even the most bitter and vehement ideological foes of America to nonetheless admit that America’s consumer culture was compelling, entrancing, often interesting, but above all else, cool.

We were critics of the American way of life — over consumption, spectacle, hierarchy — but we were also in love with the movies, the books, the fashion, the Halloween parties, the Super Bowl rituals, the Oscars, the bombshell blondes and the smells of Los Angeles, Manhattan, the windy city and a host of other places that epitomized the highest that capitalist civilization had to offer.

The best food. The best talk. The best sex. The best drugs. The best of everything we could ever want, said the multibillion-dollar-a-year culture industry — and it wasn’t all a lie. America had verve; America was the leader of cool.

But how many of us can really say that about America anymore? Television is beyond bad, it’s boring. The best English language shows are British now, such as the genuinely thought-provoking Black Mirror. American movies are worse and the most exciting books are translations from abroad. Supermodels don’t arouse. The Super Bowl didn’t really matter much this year and the Academy Awards felt like a momentary distraction. CNN and The New York Times pump out increasingly banal, vague and deceptive articles while more and more Americans are turning to The Guardian and Al Jazeera for hard-hitting, fact-driven news.

There is still Silicon Valley but that too is starting to be so bedazzled by the logic of advertising and monetization that it can’t produce more than iterations of virtual gambling, social anxiety and meme inanity. Even the American consumer’s purchasing power isn’t as important as it once was… pretty soon it’ll be the Chinese middle class that will define what ketchup tastes like globally. That leaves the U.S. military, an institution that has become disgraced by unrepentant acts of torture and assassination while perpetrating unpopular civil wars.

What the hell is going on? Why are the rituals of American life losing their veneer? And most importantly, what will the decline of American culture do to the rest of the world?

The world once dreamt American dreams. We became dependent on America’s cool-makers for a vision of how to live and what to strive toward. It may have been a wrong-headed vision but it was still a vision most of the globe chased. Few are going that way now.

Who or what will rise up to fill the imagination void?

- Micah White

17 comments on the article “How Cool Is This?”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 17

Page 1 of 2

Jonathan di Christi

You obviously haven't spent much time in Cuba. Yea US style capitalism breed death and apathy but Cuba is not the land of restricted and oppressed people. Cuba's beauty and vibrancy is noble and admirable despite their government certainly not because of it.

Jons

The further "liberalization" (in modern definition) of our popular culture plays a big part in the dulling of our culture. When you try and go out of your way to please everyone you end up pleasing no one as time goes on. Like it or not, things were more interesting when much of our culture was more conservative at its surface. Now everyone is separated/divided into some sort of victimized group that needs to be catered to and the only byproduct is ruination. Culture has gone from being pleasing to everyone and more towards selfish pleasing of this group or that group.

jmxm

that logic works only if one was part of the conservative crowd being catered to. i'd wager that the 'selfish pleasing' you refer to is the half-hearted and patronizing attempts by the aforementioned conservative crowd to capitalize on the wallets of the communities/demographics they didn't have to care about in the 'good ol' days.'

Anonymous

Why celebrate what was, and remains,
of our trudge to serfdom?
How filled with greenbacks was my valley?
Dismantle, uproot, and plant anew, a better crop ...
And spray it not with bitter tears.

Nick Mould

Most British television is dire, as it is in the USA. Black Mirror is unfortunately largely flawed, though its format is something of which there should be more of. I'd argue that there is currently more worthwhile television produced in America, even if its far from representative of the 99% of dross that exists.

Anon

100mph winds means the American Dream is over. You lost. The new game is post-cultural survival. You need a house in a mountain. And a house on the other side of the world. Now where did I put that billion? Oil wealth builds the means to survive the damage from oil wealth.

Pages

Add a new comment

To comment or reply please Log In, Create An Account or post as Anonymous.