No country is without problems and in many ways, the modern United States has proved that the bigger the country – the bigger the problems. However, in spite of this, modern America had traditionally been a country in which politics always came second to entertainment or as some would say, to culture. The latest Arnold Schwarzenegger or Star Wars film, the latest episode of Dallas, MASH and Seinfeld or the score in the big game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers always seemed to capture the public’s imagination more than domestic politics or world events.
Far from being a bad thing, the fact that Americans in the 20th century tended to be more preoccupied with film, television, pop music and celebrity gossip rather than politics, was a symptom of the fact that not only was America’s economy the richest in the world but that it was a fully fledged first world society. Likewise, in modern Singapore, possibly the most socially harmonious of all first world countries, politics remains mostly non-confrontational yet highly functional. As such, people devote their times to non-political pursuits whilst entertainment tends to be mostly apolitical and socially embracing rather than divisive.
By contrast, in development countries/third world counties, politics tends to be highly dysfunctional yet incredibly confrontational and even a major source of public entertainment. As a rule, the more economically prosperous and socially stable a country is, the less exciting its politics are. This is why political events in countries like Singapore, China, New Zealand, Japan and Germany tend to be less dramatic than those in The Philippines, India and many emerging African democracies.
For many Americans who came of age in the latter part of the 20th century, the idea that a political figure or party could regularly fill stadiums that are normally reserved for the likes of the NFL or Major League Baseball would have seemed rather fanciful. Americans in the era from Eisenhower to Clinton were generally too busy spending money, making money or considering ways to do both to take time out of their lives to get exorcised about politics.
This contrasts sharply with developing countries in which party political loyalties, loyalties to individual politicians and loyalties to political dynasties are defining qualities in one’s life that can effect one’s employment, long term wealth and social status. As such, political rallies in many developing countries tend to be rowdy and even violent events that can match any apolitical post-ballgame beer fuelled riot in the United States.
One of America’s past virtues was that the country tended to carry on irrespective of who was in the White House and what was being said in Congress. Today however, America’s political and social culture has devolved to such an extent that in spite of its world leading GDP, America’s cultural environment is as politicised and debased as the most politically shambolic third world nation.
The fact that people are experiencing social violence, bullying and even social isolation over political alignments is something frightening and new in the contemporary United States. At yet, these “brave new realities” in the US will be incredibly familiar to those in the developing world where political rallies are a place to make money, gain social connections, enhance one’s prestige and even engage in physical confrontations.
This is a very dangerous trend because not only does it pose a threat to social harmony within the United States, but because of the power of the American military, the country has the ability to vent its internal angst on the wider world in such a way that most weak third world countries are not capable of doing.
In the past most Americans were never quite sure of the politics of late-night talk show legends Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. By contrast, today’s American television stars are forced to wear their politics on their sleeves in the way one might do in a country where one’s civil liberties are contingent on one’s particular political loyalties. The fact of the matter is that wealthy America is inflicting upon itself the very grotesque social characteristics that those living in developing nations are desperate to escape.
Politics as sectarianism, as blood sport and as a means of social apartheid are all the worst symptoms of the developing world whilst politics as something secondary to commerce and other positive social activities tend to be the most positive trends that are commonplace in the first world.
While the snobby intellectual elites of the coastal United States tend to celebrate the fact that their society has become more politicised, such unhealthy feelings are clearly the result of total ignorance when it comes to understanding how people in the developing world are desperate to live in places where politics is a social afterthought, just as it was when America was more of a normal country.