Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who's Got Cultcha?

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center has created a minor stir. It seems that a mere 49% of Americans agree with the statement, "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others." True, this is higher than other countries, but it's down from 60% in 2002. Fox and Friends wasted no time in blaming this on Obama, despite the fact that the figure had already declined to 55% by 2007.

It's time for someone (i.e., Obama) to take on this whole Republican thing  about "American exceptionalism." The Republican idea seems to be that because we're Americans we're exceptional, without the need to actually do any of the things that made us exceptional. For example, America used to have the best-educated population in the world. Not any more.

That aside, there were two odd things about the Pew survey. First is the whole idea of Americans thinking of themselves as having a "superior culture." Offhand, I would've said that the American attitude is better expressed as, "When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my remote."

Second is the international comparison. Wouldn't you think that Germans would be a little reluctant to describe themselves as having the Uberkultur? You'd be wrong: 47 percent felt their culture is superior, almost as many as in the US (though 52 percent disagreed). The real stunner, though, is France: only 27 percent thought their culture was superior. I thought the whole point of being French was to feel culturally superior to everyone else, and to see France as the  fount of enlightenment for the whole world. Maybe they're discouraged because they haven't been able to produce a talent to equal Jerry Lewis. Or because they've realized John Lennon really is better than Johnny Hallyday.

Courage, mes amis. I mean, just the food alone...

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