This morning on GPS Fareed Zakaria argued that the “secret sauce” behind America’s ongoing success is its creativity, innovation, and ability to contain discontent without going off the rails. Last night while watching the Ken Burns film on Thomas Jefferson, I endured several historians preaching much the same. America is the place. Not just the place, but the birthplace of the “great experiment” of freedom.
To me, this is a bit of a simplification. Monarchal power was challenged in England and France as far back as the 17th century. And as the Burns film notes, Jefferson crystallized what had already been said by leading European social philosophers—all this taking place in (North) America while Indigenous and Black people were respectively conquered or thrown into slavery.
I switched off the Ken Burns film after a short while. I liked the old-world ambiance but too many American historians singing the praises of the apparent exclusivity of the USA just gets to be too much for a Canadian proud of what his country has achieved.
Heck, with global warming, Canada might be the place to invest instead of the USA, large parts of which could become a dust bowl before too long.
But in a sense, I do agree with Fareed. America has come up with a lot of great achievements. And until the media started banning certain political voices and views on health matters, America seemed to be fairly open to healthy public debate.
Fareed then talks about American innovation in rock and roll and flashes a pic of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.
Okay, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. I get it. It all started in the USA with the blues, which grew out of southern black music.
American TV and movies? Well, here Fareed says the revolution began in the 1970s when viewers got bored and stopped watching straight-laced films and TV shows. Suddenly the US was a hotbed of change, sometimes violently so.
Today I’d like to focus on one particular American TV show which I do think is great. The irony here is that A Charlie Brown Christmas is no longer being aired on regular TV in North America, but only for an extra ‘premium’ charge. And its central theme is about overcoming the “commercialism” of Christmas!
Here’s a segment offering a satirical look at psychiatry. Back in the 1960s, people could still think and criticize without fear of repercussions. Today as we lapse into a vulgar kind of scientism, this kind of poking fun probably wouldn’t wash. The humanities were not only respected but deemed essential. My family doctor also had a Ph.D. in philosophy. And he made house calls…
Now that’s my kind of doctor.