After World War II, and until the end of the century, the United
States assumed world leadership in the creation and production of
both popular and sophisticated culture. The contradictions and
madness of life in the maelstrom of America's society provided
excellent stimuli to creativity.
The dimensions of creative cultural superiority were several:
1...The per capita production of top creators (say, Americans
compared with the number emerging from the fifteen nations of the
European Union with its approximately equal population);
2...The proportion of the sources of creativity and practice in all the
world coming from Americans;
3...The pervasiveness of the top culture of creation throughout the
population as a whole;
4...And the drive of the popular culture that was behind the
sophisticated culture and/or separately moving in its effects.
The country was largely schizoid - not only clinically, that is,
revealing, in a number of studies, about one-half of the population
to be neurotic - but also subliminally in its occupational structure,
where enormous large-scale business and military organizations
carried on office and factory routines with a
race of automatons, while, at the same time, a race of
surreal incontinents worked prodigiously at scarifying reality
and the media, emotions, cults, families, schools -
that is, human relations in general.
Whether because of the anarchical tendencies of the American
neighborhood, school and family, or because of the increasing disparity
between school life and real life, lower-school education
was hardly working well. We remind ourselves of the federal survey
in the nineties that found 44 million adults
unable to read a complex sentence like this one,
or read a road map.
Another fifty millions could not write a letter
explaining an error on a credit card bill, or read a bus schedule, or
perform addition on a calculator. In all, half of all American adults
proved to be functionally illiterate.
Scholars persist on the pedestrian path ordinarily, recounting American
culture in terms of the regions of the country. This had less and less
validity for the most important matters of the present and future,
although basically the several original subcultures remained with some
influence to this day.
By the end of the twentieth century, advanced science, higher
education, and creative culture in the USA were fairly
concentrated in the New York megalopolis,
secondly, in the Boston region with Cambridge,
then thirdly in the Los Angeles megalopolis,
next in the Middle Californian Bay Area
with San Francisco, Berkeley, and down to Silicon Valley,
and in Washington, D.C.
Chicago was hardly able to run along with these,
but was well ahead of such busy intellectual and cultural centers as
Austin, Texas, seat of the University of Texas, and Miami, which
unfortunately for its role lacked a great university, and Seattle,
where the University of Washington, Boeing and Microsoft stood.
The old regional sub-cultures could still be perceived in their
original bastions and in portions of their extensions. The small
towns and the myth-carrying media, therefore, had to be
depended upon for the survival of the old regionalism.
Doughnut, bagel and pizza did lay amicably together.
4.3 billion pizzas dished out from
600,000 pizzerias around the nation.
In voting concerning a State-run lottery, New York towns that
had been settled before 1855, often with New Englanders,
opposed the notion, whereas newer, more Catholic, towns favored it.
There was hardly a city in the nation where the Catholic church did
not count a plurality of church members, and swing a heavy weight
of buildings and beliefs.
The Church had its personnel and policy problems, as we have
seen; it needed an American Thomas Aquinas to convert both
Aristotle and Thomism to American pragmatism. The Church did
not reveal the ravages of meta-religion, such as Buckminster Fuller,
one of the principal idea-men of the latter twentieth century, warned
the intelligentsia against, because it was intrinsically such,
but its effects stalled progress in practical affairs.
The South, I repeat once more, territorially captured more than its
share of the country; its simple defiant religious cults
were part of the reason for its success; also
its people were bred for rural America and readily took over
mountainous and semi-desert regions that opened up late.
They edged Northwise across the length of the nation.
Yet when you asked what was this culture, you find
its vaguely Celtic aspect melding into
the newer aspects of American culture. It has not been
changing to Yankee so much, as it has become, like the old Yankee,
assimilated American, where the late immigration has ended,
and where the cultures of the immigrants from Vietnam,
or Russia or India or China, have been hastening.
For, if you asked what was now the White sub-sub-culture of
Southern sub-culture, of the American culture, you would find
less of what seemed once important --
less apt to regard government as the Great Revenoor?
- Would such a Southern culture exist if you removed
- If you removed its Southern accent and special
- If you washed out its obsession with the War
between the States?
- If you dissipated its evangelical religious groups?
- If you infused the people with the spirit of
savings and capitalism?
- If you changed its economy and occupations?
- If you made the Southerner less individualistic, less fiercely independent,
enclaves, coming down from the North
- If you took account of the "foreigners" in its midst, ever-swelling
to work and retire, coming in from Mexico,
the Caribbean islands and Central America, and from Asia?
The answer to all of these questions is: "No."
Actually, all of these trends have been occurring.
Together their impact has been fatal to the culture:
Southern ethnicity, then, its Anglo-Celticism a main
branch of the Region's earlier culture, has been declining;
the South has been voting Republican;
its authors and poets have turned inadvertently all-American,
even when writing about the South.
The reach of Southerness is large, even after a century of large
changes. I can count some fifteen States in which the general
cultural elite is Southern by origin and practice,
about twenty States in which the political elite is significantly affected
by Southerness, and I perceive in eleven States
a commercial elite in which Southern cultural participation
is strong or dominant. Poor white Southerness marks a
significant fraction of the population of the poor in perhaps
half of the states. With the Black Southern descendents, as many as
two-thirds of the States could be significantly influenced by the
Southern common people's culture.
Even as the reach of Southernism has been expanding and its
ideological nuisance value continues, it has weakened, just as the
New England and Western regionalisms have. As for the Pluralist
culture that went out from lower New York and Pennsylvania, it has
come out in new waves to become the national American
Cosmopolitan culture, conducting a host of new
ideas and behaviors, making it the
leading world culture.
Both education and science boomed.
In 1900, America had 118,000 clergymen and 7,000 professors,
in 1950 171,000 clergymen and 127,000 professors,
by 1979 282,000 ministers serving parishes but 461,000 university teachers;
over 30,000 Ph.D.'s were granted annually.
For a long generation, the competition everywhere was
left behind - in quality and quantity.
Surely, half the credit directly is to be given Europe along the gamut
of cultural activities - more precisely, to the 250,000 scholars,
medical doctors, jurists, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians,
physicists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, theologians, journalists,
businessmen and scamps who escaped Nazi persecution and arrived
sooner or later in America after 1933.
No college of consequence, but had its little complement of Central
Europeans, no research institution or government research project. It
was not easy - the run of Americans hated to see the stream of
refugees, and it is owing to them and to the lack of civil courage of the
political, social, indeed of all the elites, that an equal and greater
number of the intelligentsia were murdered by the German Nazis.
A poll of the student body of Harvard University - it was still a
haven of rich and properly connected gentiles - just after the Allied
disaster in France in May 1940 concluded that 91% were unwilling to
fight fascism and that 62% opposed aid to the Allies for fear of
bringing the fighting closer to home.
There was opposition on all sides, strange to say (strange because
the American creed already boasted of its universality and dedication
to scholarship and creativity), and something like the abolitionist
underground grew up to help the escapees and pass them from hand
to hand to a proper reception somewhere.
A few people had to do the job, absent a national consensus.
American Jews, longer practiced in philanthropy than any
other group except the Quakers, donated a large part of the means
by which the afflicted Europeans and their works
could be transferred to American universities and life.
They were, of course, affected by the Jewish involvement of the exodus.
Luckily some of the faculty and administration of Harvard were
sympathetic to the plight of the three types of persecuted
intelligentsia - Jews, anti-Nazis and avant-garde artists - and
brought in to teach at Harvard a score of these and, in the case of
German artists, at bargain-basement prices obtained some of the
better painting of the twentieth century for its museums. (The Nazis
were disposing of, by burning or sale in Switzerland, many
thousands of paintings and sculptures considered degenerate).
Harvard's art history department became instantly the best.
The greatest single acquisition may have been Walter Gropius,
whose bauhaus had become famous for its spare functional
structures; Marcel Breuer and other refugees joined him.
Down the street in Cambridge at M.I.T. was
Pietro Belluschi, who was not a refugee, and
the two departments of these men made the area a
world center for architecture and design.
Political scientists, including former German Chancellor Heinrich
Brüning, and the jurist Hans Kelsen as well, came in. With the
exception of Gropius, the Harvard group was politically fairly
conservative, safe, by American standards.
The University of Chicago took a modest share
of escaping genius as well, but more as a matter of course -
Nathan Leites, for instance, in political science, Sigmund Leverie in music,
Giuseppe Borgese, Livio Stecchini, and Renzo Sereno
(these last three Italian, in literature, history, and political
science), Max Rheinstein in comparative law ,
Rudolf Carnap in symbolic logic- but we must not
overlook the atomic physicists, where Chicago was already strong,
and then there came Enrico Fermi .
Under the leadership of Robert Maynard Hutchins,
Chicago was in its greatest period.
Because of its novel system of general education,
and its avant-garde social science and humanities divisions,
it knew what it wanted and needed,
more than did Harvard, Columbia or the rest;
that may be one reason why its refugees were less
established and establishment.
The largest group of refugee scholars was organized under the
wings of Horace Kallen at the New School for Social Research in
New York. Here, with Hannah Arendt and others, a more diverse
set of intellectuals opened up shop.
To Southern California went writers Thomas and
Heinrich Mann, the Frankfurt social science
school's psychologist T.A. Adorno and social
philosopher Max Horkheimer (who after the War returned
to re-establish their school in Germany), and Max Rheinhardt, the
theatrical impresario. Music composer
Arnold Schoenberg, of the 12-tone scale,
the world's greatest music innovator,
barely scraped a living for his family from an
adjunct professorship and, after a forced retirement from the
University of California at Los Angeles because he had
turned 70, gave private lessons. The Guggenheim
Foundation turned him down for a fellowship.
George Grosz, savage caricaturist of the
German bourgeoisie, militarists and Nazis,
became equally full of hate for communism and
fled to America, his lifelong dream, in 1933,
telling himself, while trying to paint landscapes, that life
"is really more beautiful if you say YES instead of NO."
It didn't work. He stayed a collossus of gloom.
Germany had lost its top intelligentsia. Those
remaining were under surveillance and censorship.
Had "It Can Happen Here" happened,
as Author Sinclair Lewis in 1934 thought it might,
America, proportionately, would have lost 5000
top culture leaders - thinkers, writers, editors,
artists, musicians, scholars, statesmen and scientists -
by murder and flight. Actually far fewer than
5000 Americans were tops in the world
before the persecuted complement
had been reluctantly admitted.
Sobered by the absolute injustice and horrors of the Germans'
holocaust of Jews in World War II, Americans were at
superficially not anti-semitic for fifty years.
A slight current of animosity to Jews
ran below the surface in perhaps half of the
population, perennially and anciently there,
both the oldest and newest of gentile Americans,
various large groups of Catholics and Protestants.
Almost a quarter were quite willing to express themselves
as firmly anti-semitic. Like the herpes carried by
millions of Americans, anti-semitism proceeded
unseen except upon mild or virulent outbreaks.
was contagious if one were not careful, and
to be ineradicable.
strove to discover whence came and how was preserved this
broad, although weak, current, in the face of the very large
contributions of Jews to all aspects of American culture
philanthropic enterprises, one did not find it in
the power, and
wealth, and creativity of so many Jews
because these had been shared with and practiced,
for good and evil, among gentiles -
so we are directed to religious sources, to wit, Christianity.
Modern Christianity in America was
careful to deny
anti-semitism, and it has been erased
from the surface of consciousness
among both the greater
body of Christians and religiously
humanistic citizenry. The Catholic Church excised
offensive remarks from the Good Friday Mass
psychology of religion helps to uncover what has continued to be
operative as cause. Why is every Jew
Dreyfus Case? (Captain Dreyfus we recall
as a totally
correct, dull, doggedly loyal Alsatian-Jewish
officerof a century ago who was court-martialed
trumped-up charges of spying for the Germans and shipped,
upon conviction, to Devil's Island. The politico-religious
struggle that ensued shook up the Third Republic.
Finally he was freed and rehabilitated.)
and millions of coutnerparts
are sometimes clear but
often obscure derivations
of the messy early relations
of Jews and Christians.
religion is based upon suffering to some degree, and
demands suffering and sacrifice, but the suffering called down upon
His chosen people by the Hebrew God is worse than
most gods require. The five Books of Moses
contained in the Old Testament carry from eight to twenty
times as many accusatory, demanding, punitive and
hostile references as they do affectionate ones of love and
Half of the Books are given over to alleging
casting blame, or inflicting or threatening to
This imbalance was, during four
until this moment, an essential shaper of
character and history. (No wonder
the highly prestiged organ of English scholarship,
the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
carried no entry on
the more literally the Bible was taken,
the greater the
sense of guilt and punishment that followed.
the uneducated, took most literally the Bible and the
teachings of Jesus as Christ; they also took as
Holy Scripture the misogynous and separatist teachings of
Paul of Tarsus and The Book of Revelation of
John of Patmos, called "the Apocalypse" for its
horrifying descriptions of God's world destruction and
extermination of sinners to come. The same
elements of the population were least in control of their
unconscious minds, least understanding, whenever,
rarely, the attempt was made or might be made to
educe self-examination and self-knowledge.
The agony of being a correct Christian is considerable
(much more than a Buddhist or Muslim, for example), and
the more exacting the Christian, the more the suffering,
the greater the need to displace this self-blame and
others not part of one's group.
Who would be better situated to
catch the blame than Jews, who
were precisely the people
that in the first place
burdened the gentiles with this
Great Religious Truth
of the Bible and New Testament?
(Some deny that Jews ever sought to convert anyone
to Judaism, but I put this argument aside here,
as both incorrect and a double-edged weapon.)
Thus, the more fundamentalist a
was and is, the more inclined to
dislike Jews -
whoever these might be and wherever they
might be -
and, moreover, the less likely to probe
the source of his feelings in the Sacred Scriptures.
It occurs then, in the most enlightened of cultures,
the staunch Christian believer, when asked to
between an exposé of the insidious
of his religion, or an antagonism to Jews and
has unfailingly chosen not to be
That Jews helped mold
the leading edge of modern culture
offensiveness in the minds of a multitude,
strangeness of the intelligentsia is far greater
that of politicians or rich men.
feeds back and reinforces the
anti-semitism traceable to
religious identity, and
makes Jews seem to be more of a
a distance that sets them up for
(There are always pseudo-reasons: if a
person said to be Jewish is a stupid conservative
in all regards, then he is the enemy of the workingman,
and so it goes).
Political, legal and religious tolerance
atop personal tolerance are not enough
in any peak
crisis of persecution.
Tolerance is passive and weak,
capable of being
bullied by dogmatists, roughnecks and
What is called for is sympathy for the ideas and
of others, such that hurting the other hurts
Sympathy cuts the
connection that runs hidden in the prejudiced
between one's own hated burden of religiousness and the
supposed source of the burden. But sympathy springs from
understanding, and understanding emerges from knowledge.
Sympathy runs two ways, of course, and
Jews have not borne their burden lightly,
resorting on occasion to anti-gentile conduct, which,
although it would not normally have the bloodiness associated
with the exhortations to God's Chosen People appearing
the Bible, contains a full measure of animosity.
Nor was or is this aggression a
property peculiar to fundamentalist
orthodox Jews, but
is unconsciously displaced and expressed
non-religious Jews, even outside any Jewish community nexus,
as nervous ambition, irritable energy, contempt, self-hatred,
aesthetic ecstasy, otherworldliness, and otherwise.
As to who struck the first blow,
we read in the Bible that aggressive racist
by the Hebrew tribes against foreign peoples
was disgustingly encouraged; however, we read in less
sacred and less popular scriptures, in a few surviving
from the ancient world, and we learn from
manifestos urging similar god-blessed
also part of most foreign creeds.
The Holocaust was in ancient
Israel a sacrifice,
in which, at least in later times,
were burned upon God's altar under the
of the Chief Rabbi. The present idea of
did not fully possess the Jews of the world
until some time after World War II
and mass murders of Jews in Europe ended.
idea grew enormously,
picturing the multitude of Jews
gassed in ovens
as well as all the rest as sacrificial
But to whom? To God by Nazis? No.
To Der Fuhrer by Nazis?
The question must beg forever for its
The word is Greek by origin. Its ordinary
is of a large-scale destruction of people in
by nature or a terrible enemy, in which
fire plays often
a part. And this is the meaning
generally given the word,
and this is what the new true
myth stands for,
not an exaggeration but, among Jews
psychically profound and obsessive..
A Holocaust Museum was constructed
contributions among the government
buildings in Washington.
Instead of a Moses-like or
Jesus-like Christ or Savior that had
always been part of
Judaic religious expectations,
the Holocaust was
subconsciously a mass self-sacrifice,
like the Passion
of Christ. But this collective
sacrifice of the Jewish
people was conducted by
Nazi believers in the name of
their high priest Hitler.
Hence the Holocaust may be
but not celebrated.
The Holocaust it was that indirectly took
so many Jews to the Promised Land of Israel.
The mass death thus became sacred, and
much of this sacral feeling, as if in a church,
affected the crowds of all faiths as they filed down
the spiraling halls of the modernistic
In some ways, the social scene in
the United States after World War II
reminded one of the
highly productive volatile world of France,
England after World War I, where the modernistic phase
of modern culture began.
By the new millennium, half of American marriages
would be ending in divorce, many others in separation.
One in four persons would never marry. One- fourth of all
households contained only one person. Household families of seven
or more persons declined in numbers from 40% in 1790 to 4%
1973. Thirty per cent of the adult population were
childless. One-third of all infants were
born to single mothers
(the traditional epitome of
sexual wickedness), a third
in their teens. French
singles came to 29%.
One facet of modernistic culture
the family was only a part of America,
most Americans did not spend most of their lives
in the same family, or in any family at all.
New large studies of American
sexual conduct were published.
Kinsey's pioneering work
of the late 1940's was buried
in a mass of new and more
precise survey material.
Married men, whose behavior was
to married women, but who were more
active than single men,
provided several statistical
1% abstained from sex entirely in the
year before the study,
13% engaged in sex a few times in
43% several times a month,
36% twice or thrice a week,
and 7% four or more
Some 56% of all
men had enjoyed five or more
partners since they had
turned eighteen, only
31% of the women. The younger the
the earlier and more frequent its sexual
Some 3% of all men and women had not had
sexual intercourse. Many others had little or
no interest in sex, could not have it regularly or
were impotent - actually 40% of
females and 30% of males in one study
the age group of 18 to 59 years.
Some 20% of the men had known only one partner,
31% of the women. But some 90% of the women,
75% of the men claimed never to have had
sexual relations. Married men were on the whole
healthier, possessed greater emotional stability, and were better off
financially than single men; but much of this difference
occurred because these were pre-marital
conditions that prompted
marriage and sustained it.
Homosexuals and lesbians were more
or less numerous,
depending upon their definition;
figures from 1% to 10% were obtained,
as the definition loosened to include any
Among the many
scientific developments that were
bent upon speeding up
social change were long-lasting
birth control pills and
abortion pills that could be safely
(but were being blocked
by pressure groups, while
womenkind suffered surgical
abortions or unwanted
birthing). Beyond these were
new approaches to human
reproduction: in vitro
fertilization and transplanting
of the embryo to the womb.
The first baby born by the
new techniques came
at the end of the seventies. More
opened up and increasingly became realities:
laboratory could make a baby by fecundating
an egg from
a chosen woman and sperm from a chosen man
in a small
dish, later transferring the embryo to a chosen woman.
Who was chosen was optional. The sperm and egg
might have been deep-frozen some time before.
Consider Sally X, who wished to become a parent:
how many ways could she take that would end up giving her a
Three factors until the 1990's were
there had to be a sperm, an egg, and a
Then cloning eliminated the strict necessity of
again, in vitro
(test-tube) growth of the auto-fertilized egg
displace the womb. However, sticking to the three original factors,
Sally X might employ four types of sperm:
one a legitimate provider (husband or in some jurisdictions a lover),
an illegitimate provider (selected out of love, admiration,
impregnated by trickery), a special provider who
was introduced and arranged for by an agency, and
an authorized reservoir (sperm bank).
In any case, Sally can herself provide the needed egg,
buy it from an egg bank, or
arrange a special
donation from a friendly or strange source.
As to the
womb, it may be her own,
that of a special friendly or
or from a collective provider
We note now that 16 possibilities are
with regard to egg and sperm, and that
the four types of womb raise the possibilities to 64.
Moreover, besides cloning and in
vitro, Sally might adopt an infant,
in whose birth
she has played no part except to arrange it,
traditionally, she might search for an adoptive child.
Lest all this seem weird and wicked to some
let them recall how cultures of the past
have done their best to arrange births by
several of the means enumerated, and
many types of social class and physical criteria,
of nursing, feeding,
bundling, carrying, training,
exercising, and imparting
religious, civic and personal
beliefs and practices
from the earliest possible time of
Every family, clan, tribe, class, and caste
system practiced its own eugenics and genetics.
Options in parenting have grown
rather than diminished.
How, then, can science be
accused of constraint
and automation of human
outstripped the oddest folklore.
With the fertilized egg
of their daughter or sperm of their son,
brought to term, and gave birth to their own
grandchildren. (Help for the working mother was on occasion
provided; professional bearers would probably come forward
Women have given birth after menopause.
It became possible to create
identical twins, and to bear them years
apart; it became
possible to have transplanted into oneself the ovary
an aborted female fetus and thus thereafter making the egg of the
fetus the biological mother of one's child.
Cloning, to recreate the physical self, is an
Warnings and horror at the prospect
began in the seventies.
It was regarded as the ultimate
expression of vanity.
Yet it would be an efficient
method of enhancing
the pool of highly valued genes.
Cloning would let love find its ultimate proof.
Cloning would practically give oneself
a chance to avoid the curses
of one's own
existence on a second round of years.
This is a vanity
that has always been present in
procreation, and its
perfection is nothing awry.
Ethical philosophers and politicians have only begun to
belabor the subject, and many foolish laws will be passed.
If the modernistic age followed through on its own, individuals would
have their own way, and it is difficult to think of what
could come of it. The same may be said of
euthanasia, which was
still being generally forbidden
despite its approval by a large section
population: those who would have to choose to die.
Oregon passed a law establishing the right.
No country in the world was so "disorganized,"
judging by old-time familiar criteria.
figures, along with all the other indicators -
job-changes, suicides, neuroses, incessant
social mobility, frequency of AIDS, etc. -
summed up to
a sure presence of "modern culture."
avantgarde aspects of American art, dance,
theater, fiction, architecture confirmed
"modern culture," not virtuous, not to be preserved
if improvements could be made,
if better were to
The rapid progress
of technology proved "modernity", too -
computers everywhere, the proliferation of cellular phones,
the clamor for Internet and cybernetic innovations of all
Literature was heavily affected. Try as one might
to out-imagine reality and win
interest with fiction,
the typical novel read
like "Mr. Milquetoast's
Adventures" in the context of the day's news,
reported in forms graphic and lurid, fresh and
unexpected, to the point where the writer of fiction
felt like quitting in despair.
The audio-visual media, ever expanding in sophistication,
were able to publish, revise, republish, edit,
fictionalize, censor, scandalize, argue -
short, do many things a book or magazine could not do.
century after "muckraker" journalists, like Lincoln Steffens,
told of the shame of the cities, investigative reporting
television superseded it.
The explosion of multi-media computer-television
of the 1990's and of interactive, or transacting
person-to-media systems, bid fair to demoralize
and wreck an old comfortable intimacy of reader and
author. The American language changed annually,
as fresh jargon and slang barged in: how modern!
American writers were leading as innovators
in the nineteen twenties and thirties: John Dos
living newspaper, Eugene O'Neill's stern
of morals and madness, Hemingway's new-style
sentences, Henry Miller's paeans of brute
Thomas Wolfe's effusive nostalgia, William
Faulkner's dizzying moodiness. T.S.Eliot spanned St. Louis
London, elegant, deliciously well-baked on the
Of course, Ireland produced unsurpassed James Joyce and
the dramatics of George Bernard Shaw. England had Waugh and
Auden, Huxley, too, while France produced Marcel Proust
André Gide, Italy Gabriele d'Annunzio and
Thomas Mann, Berthold Brecht,
Later in the
century, innovation subsided.
Writing became more
pornographic, more violent, more declamatory.
Capote stood out for lyrical style and sensitivity,
small corpus of stories and an incredibly well-researched
book about a horrible crime, In Cold Blood.
Anais Nin, Mary McCarthy,
Joan Didion, Catherine Anne Porter, vs.
Philip Roth, Pierre Salinger, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer,
William Burroughs - women and men, the men far more
than the women, these and many more,
five times more of important writers than the
English, the French, the Italians, but shouldn't they have
so numerous, considering their population
base and resources? Western Europe and the United States
had approximately equal populations. So add then,
too, playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.
Should not Vladimir Nabokov be
among the present,
with his reminiscences of
pre-Bolshevik Russia, and
his American Lolita and Prof. Pnin? Lolita,
despite the author's
denials, could not be so
elegant a book, if it were only
nicely styled porn
and a finally boring sequence of
events, were it not
at the same time a parable of the
vulgar follies of
America, its amazing banal youth and
decline, seen through the roué's eyes
of old Europe,
a parable that in the end loses the New
is both regretful and relieved.
Ezra Pound abandoned America for
Fascist Italy, and
worked part-time as a traitor in
World War II,
broadcasting absurdities to American
His Pisan Cantos
were largely unintelligible,
but his originality and
style in his early verses put him
into the avantgarde.
His years in an American
insane asylum (in lieu of
prison or death
for treason) did not cure his
except that he cunningly stopped cursing
Like most normal persons, he went on
Pound's aberrations were not unusual.
Most first-rate writers and poets walked a tightrope
over insanity and self-destruction and social deviancy.
Ernest Hemingway (depression and suicide),
O'Neill (depression), Scott Fitzgerald and many others
(alcoholism), William Faulkner and many others
(depression, alcoholism), Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein,
Dawn Powell, and many others (lesbianism),
Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and others
(homosexuality), but these are only the obvious behaviors.
Such large complexes were perforce accompanied by
hundreds of direct and indirect twists and turns
of character that produced the unique person.
Other forms of deviancy, of cognitive disorders,
of intense anxieties, and many disabilities
like extreme unreliability would bring in
great many more. (Truman Capote, gay and
rumor-monger, was disastrously unreliable).
who created the Muppets, was gay.
So was the equally
incorruptible and genial Alan Ginsberg.
Walt Disney was
a pedophile (but so was
Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland -
so was Mahatma Gandhi).
Writers of the Deep South, Ireland,
the Indian sub-continent, and Greater New York
were wrenching English literature from the hands of the English
partly by virtue of their regional psycho-social
I have offered
instances from colonial times onwards
psychopathologies of first-class
creative artists. Going back to ancient
around the world similar phenomena are
Aristotle said that
superior soul is without a mixture of madness."
So I raise the question: What chance
of success has had a normal person to be
a top-ranking artist, writer, intellectual or scientist?
Here was a fearful challenge to democracy and
to the very idea of a good life that is also
Much of the data needed has been
lost, is unavailable,
or is unusably gathered or
Still a plausible guess might be that, as
the curve of
psychological aberration rises, it
to accumulate more and more first-rate
reaching perhaps a peak where, by
of deviance, sixty to seventy per
cent of the highly
original creators are distinctly
removed from full
conventional norms in one or more
Yet there has been no
system of education that was
generally applicable under
prevailing social conditions,
which could turn out a
much larger proportion of normal
creative geniuses. The
boasts of American educators and
institutions, even of
the highest rank, about
their role in educing
creativity, were hot air.
Society produced its geniuses
by pot-luck, and
employed them with the help of secrecy,
denial and amnesia.
could not create genius, they could not, for that matter,
create a multitude of balanced readers, either. Whatever affected the
American character was reflected in its reading habits -
lust, historical myth, gross ambition, and so
on to paranoia, such as
could be seen in the pages of
The Celestine Prophecy. A best-seller
for years, it inanely presented featureless characters
looking for a
missing manuscript the contents of which
are never revealed, which
all the authorities
imaginable, from the Vatican to the man next door
hunting for, since it supposedly reveals the Secret of Life.
A large promise was contained in Hispanic and
literature, following upon many years of
Blacks began with the sizeable contributions
of Richard Wright's
rape classic at mid-century and
ended with creations
such as Sapphire's "Push," about a twelve-year-old single
mother defying the world, possibly the best
short-story in American literature. Chicano,
Puerto Rican, and Cuban composed the largest
of American literature in Spanish.
contributors endured ignorance from the dominating
niches of American literature
if they wrote in Spanish,
resistence and snobbery
by the conventional publishing
world if submitted in English.
Literary and textbook publishing in America was
almost entirely subsidized, while hypocritically contemning
private publishing, which they termed vanity publishing.
Textbooks were subsidized in that their professorial
authors required their purchase by their students.
Poetry was entirely author-paid except for
a few rare cases where a fund had been provided by friends or
philanthropists, or in a bargain for another type of
coming along, or as a rare prestige publication,
or as a textbook. University presses were
capitalized and funded annually by their sponsoring schools and
engaged more often than not in sweetheart deals with
powerful figures on campus or off. An author
with one obviously (and usually inferior) saleable work
could usually strike a deal for publication of both
An author could make
many types of promises
in order for her work to be
that she would dedicate much of her time to
promotion, travel far on behalf of the book,
boost others of the publishers' books (textbooks,
for instance, in the circles or classrooms where she has
contract for a despicable book that the
would prefer, and so on. The business of
as with every other vocation and
peppered with tricks, compromises,
maneuvers of dubious morality, money
laundered or passed under the table,
and outright bribery.
In the 1990's a publishing company called Delphinium was
organized as an openly author-subsidized vanity press,
Harper-Collins, a onetime reputable "Old
House," which was itself
part of the worldwide
publishing empire of Australian Rupert
transmuted into an American for tax avoidance), and
headed by Ms Lori Milken, wife of Michael Milkin, a convict
on probation for numerous illegal junk bond manipulations, one of
whose devoted clients was said Rupert Murdock. The future
vanity in publishing. And in CD-ROM.
Americans were rather inept and/or uninspired painters
until late in the nation's history, the 1930's
would be the benchmark, as compared with the 1920's in
the 30's in radio, the 50's in television. Radio
television achieved little despite the frenzy
which they developed, the technological level that they
reached, and the enormous amounts of cash that they
out of advertisements basically bad but
sometimes better than the programs they sponsored,
cash that was put back into the mentally and culturally
unprogressive system). Finally, in mid-century, and
standing on the shoulders of the looked-down-upon WPA
artists of the New Deal, world-ranking artists
came into being. (Some say that the standards of France
Italy had so slipped that this had to happen).
American sculptors changed
noticeably from humdrum classicism
upon the breakout of
Rodin at the turn of the century.
Later sculptors turned
in many directions -
cubism, biomorphic forms,
accentuating the sexual), fully
surreal, massive geometric shapes -
there were, of course, the communist proletarian
admirers with heavy-muscled men and monster-breasted
women. Thomas Frelinghuysen's variety of
naturalistic human and animal forms
in marble and
bronze were strikingly pure and styled.
constructions called mobiles that
intrigued in aerial space
indoors and outdoors. Their
concept and method became
a fad and could be obtained in
a great variety of
sizes, materials, and colors.
A Picasso abstraction filled a
in downtown Chicago, fighting off perpetual
squawks and pigeon droppings. There were
Life-size bronzes of
pedestrian posturings (reading
a book, lounging on a
bench) were produced by the Johnson
near Princeton and were a welcome relief
from the 10,000
cannon of the American town squares.
sculptures hardly survived vulgar
rampage. John Henry, a
Black who in the 1870's
outhammered a steam drill on a
construction site by the Big Bend
commemorated in heroic bronze
in 1972, whose site was
two decades later peppered with bullets
surrounded by empty bottles and trash.
Armenian-born Arshile Gorky,
Russian-born Mark Rothko,
Dutch-born Willem De Kooning,
Adolph Gottlieb from New York City,
Bruce Nauman, Andy
Warhol from Cleveland, and Jackson Pollock
sold well around the world, along with but a few
Pollock was productive, scrawled immense wall paintings,
was rich, wrote well and lengthily, intelligently, about abstract art
representing the "rebellious, individualistic,
sensitive, irritable" times; but he
did not really
rationalize abstract expressionism.
The modernistic and modernizing
world, excepting France,
accorded this abstract
expressionism followership; it was part of the
superpower world-dominating influence of the USA, which France,
true loser that it was, denied in every way possible, and
on most subjects
down to Millennium Eve. Still I.M. Pei
might construct his
reception building in the courtyard
of the Louvre Museum.( But then
Pei had been born in
the International Style, with its cubelike glass,
concrete, and steel. Architecture moved into the post-modern format
with buildings such as the St. Juan Capistrano Public
by Michael Graves. Pre-cast concrete
forms, as in the Burroughs-
Welcome Building broke away
from the International style.
geodetic domes attracted a clan that
tried them for
schools and warehouses.
Then came the
minimalists Kelly, Bruce Nauman and Frank Stella;
Stella's versatility led him from one novel style and set of materials
to another, each one suitable for naming as an art school
if there had
been time for others to become involved;
the same may be said of
Nauman, adding that he was
awesomely bent upon making people
nervous. Perhaps the
recent age should have been called the
Omnibus," for nothing save old-style
schmaltz was barred.
of selecting masters from the run of the mill
sculptor was burdensome; relativity ruled.
including the schools themselves, agreed that
hundreds of universities with fine art departments
not turning out fine artists. Stanford University,
beautiful and well-equipped school of art and architecture
turned out nothing worth seeing outside of an alumnae luncheon,
was pleased as Punch when Benny Bufano, a San Francisco
self-educated sculptor of heroic statues in the abstract
could not pay the storage charges on his large
and gave most of it to the University.
Hollywood continued its low-grade production
providing 90% of the world's most attended
Italian films became suddenly the best,
France a fair distance behind, with Britain on its
it began with Rossellini's neo-realist Paesano.
Italian films even captured a small portion of the world market,
but their producers soon enough became involved
in deals with the moguls of Hollywood that gave
them more capital in return for less venturesome films.
improvement of dubbing and the jet airplane brought
development of multi-national film-making, the
results of which were
at least one step up from
films gave several bad lessons to the world:
and the jitters, crude caricatures of the United States,
of sex for sale on an expensive level,
least the crooks all paid in the end, which was
case with the more realistic French, Italian, and
British films.The Russians should have been doing fine films,
but they were weak or Bolshevik, like their literature.
A Leo Rosten survey after World
of the feelings of American script writers
169 remarks by 141 respondents on the state
of American movie-making; 133 were quite unfavorable,
25 were fully favorable and 11 were some of each.
In the budgetary crisis that enveloped public
the arts, and the National Arts and
Humanities foundations in the 1990's,
Hollywood gave practically no assistance from its funds or
in public relations and lobbying,
nor but rarely
did a large corporation increase
Pontifical Council for Social Communications
list of what it deemed the 45
best films of the century
artistically and morally -
a list that a great many
non-Catholic critics would agree with
in large part, and
certainly as good as any other ever issued -
States captured 12 titles, Italy 9,
France 7.5, the
United Kingdom 5,
Germany and Sweden 2 each.
Development of a public service
radio and television
programming originated with the
Broadcasting Company. An
American system with public and
private support followed
modestly. The almost
complete failure of media
to produce respectable radio and
correlated as usual with typical American
lack of taste, and misapplication of the best
technology. Imports of the more "proper" BBC
lent public broadcasting a smidgin of
Over half of all
American television programs portrayed
some violence at
least, often a great deal of it.
pollution" the airwaves of radio and TV
called, and so they were, with perhaps five hours
worthwhile viewing out of six hundred
per week of the
major channels of viewing. I use as
a standard of
"worthwhile" here, in the absence of reliable
standardized elite cross-section judgements,
I collect from colleagues, friends,and the
New York Times' all too
plus my own opinion.
All media were formed and operated
in a reference group.
A Hollywood film, a newspaper or
a school or university, a science, a
an artistic medium, a poetry circle and so
had its stars, its elite activists, its rank and
Consciously or unconsciously, all media were set
to produce stars - those whose performances emerge
from the group to become famous within the group and
the group's candidates for fame in the outer world,
which could utter names and a few phrases about the
together by talking or attending to
the stars. The
medium persuaded the public that all that
was there, then and now; and if not there,
could not be important.
the medium would envelop itself in the profits
could be obtained by selling the stars and supporting
sub-stars and potential stars. Finally, it would make profits,
the bottom line for all this cultural activity,
high-brow or low-brow. Because of its high development
of the arts and applied sciences of advertising,
publicity and propaganda, America had every means
of bolstering the reputations of its stars
at home and abroad.
Significantly, despite the pent-up demand for intelligent and
high-level television programs, not a single
American director emerged as a signal creator of
superior video films in half a century
of over two million hours of performances.
can be little question, however, that for the illiterate,
disabled, and intellectually lazy person
come quickly to provide an infinite entertaining
resource. For whom the American appellation for the
television set, "the boob tube," applied. The radio and
moguls aped the Hollywood elite that had
experience - and, oh, yes, rich banks of
Hollywood disclaimed responsibility for its
products, blaming its beloved, benighted hoi polloi
Some Americans still ventured
In one survey of the nineties, 40%
said that they had
taken at least one pleasure drive in
the preceding year;
35% said they had swum; nearly as
picnicked and fished. Then a fifth jogged
a fifth said they had bicycled. Some watched
wildlife and birds,
some camped out, some took pictures,
had motor-boated, 9% had played a game of
tennis, 6% went downhill skiing, only 6%
rode a horse once or more times, and so on.
Likely the 35% that swam were the true universe of
outdoors people, including in their number practically
everyone else in the lower ranked outdoor recreations.
Some 11% reported golfing at least once.
Had they been President, they would have golfed
more. Golf became a favorite of the Presidents,
excepting Jimmy Carter.
Eisenhower played 800 rounds in his terms of office,
200 of them far from the Oval Office, at Augusta
National in Georgia, where a cottage was kept for him.
He also putted on the White House Lawn at every opportunity,
opining that it relieved the tension of his duties.
Nixon and Clinton cheated a bit, but Bush would not
accept an offer of a second shot.
Many millions of Americans watched games at least
twice a week on
television and other millions flocked to
the "amateur" and
professional contests, in an
increasing number of sports. Soccer, the
football, began to make headway, for example. Wherever
promoters could sense a potential paying audience, a new league
would be formed. The monetary stakes grew higher with
profitability of the sport. Baseball stars, who had
a few thousand dollars in the early
now demanded a million for the season.
Sports became more
"democratic"-- open to all --
yet closed to
almost all because ever more tightly
and geared to the utmost of human skill.
amateurs were not amateurs, no more
than were the
original Greek Olympiad athletes.
Women raced with men
but could not hope, yet,
to win unless the men were
handicapped. The New York
City Marathon in 1995 was
by 26,531 runners. The first woman across the
Tela Laroupe of Kenya, was 60th in the
but her time of 2hr/28m/06s
as against the 2hr/11/00 of the male
German Silva of Mexico,
was a difference of only 26
seconds per kilometer,
barely enough to argue a theory
men's physical superiority.
The main problem with famed sports was that
all of the games had originated as exclusively male.
If sports had developed to exhibit and promote
the intrinsic capacities of the female, there would be
many female world champions as male ones.
Drug abuse was common, whether for
self-indulgence or to
enhance performance - both being
violations of the rules of the
game or the league in
practically every sport. Fixing games,
car races was a regular criminal activity;
bad debts was a profitable mafia sideline and helped to
train acolyte gangsters.
Where Americans went on vacation exposed some typical
mentalities. Orlando, Florida, with Disneyland nearby,
stood first among destinations. Las Vegas and Reno
in Nevada pulled in millions of gamblers and gapers.
Some 4,000 visitors a day peered around Alcatraz Prison
in San Francisco Bay. The Betsy Ross Cottage
Philadelphia drew more visitors than all historical sites
put together, although no documentary proof existed that
she either lived there or made the first American flag.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas, attracted a million visitors
a year to see its Passion Play; it boasted
world's largest statue of Jesus, seven stories of
concrete. Still, the New York Metropolitan Museum
of Art entertained 5 million visitors annually.
School systems around the country spent 10 to
25% of their budgets on the children's sports,
kept them out of their homes until all hours, and
put upon the parents an extra cost for the purchase of
Dramatics became largely amateur in America.
Broadway, a century earlier two kilometers of live theaters
(the highest number of productions ran in the 1927-8
season, 264), ran a few plays for
tourists and businessmen traveling with entertainment accounts.
Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, and Edward Albee shone
with some persistency in drama of consequence
after World War II.
Off-Broadway theaters could do well on rare occasion:
La Mama in Washington and later New York, helped
by federal, state and foundation subsidies,
staged avantgarde theater of respectable talent
on low budgets.
theater was lively in the boondocks;
companies at vacation resorts,
high school, college and
university groups by the thousands, and
often in a town
of any size one or more companies,
expecting to break even.
A city of 50,000 would have a
playing a summer and the winter
any play ever written might show up
Nothing of large new
value befell ballet and
dance circles beyond the
dreadful and demoralizing plague of
AIDS, which may have
killed a quarter of the best
male talent in the final
two decades of the century.
Among the creative
intelligentsia it was the worst killer
disease since the
bubonic plague of the Fourteenth Century.
Music was another matter. Jazz in its primitive,
its classic, its advanced, its rock, and its rap forms
carried high into the twenty-first century.
course of jazz and its several derivatives are an
lesson in the Progressive education philosophy of
pragmatism: help people to do what they are interested
in doing provided it seems to be,
phrase, a "virtuous activity,"
and they will
learn by doing, operationally, and
display qualities of
creativity and imagination that
you would not believe
A concert at
Carnegie Hall in 1994
celebrated the music of four jazz
to which I add a fifth. The five were
Armstrong, Bix Beiderbeck, Dizzy Gillespie,
Miles Davis, and Clark Terry. And even a sixth: Wynton
Hearing this group, two major points could be
about the nature and culture of jazz.
First, improvisation in jazz was
instant composition, and
the best jazz performers were
worthy of the highest honors
for their "exemplary
conduct under fire." Each man thought
and played in
a unique style in a common world, and
about and around a
few lines of someone's song.
They were immersed in a
but world-engaging auditory
Their theory of
music can be extracted from the sounds they made.
who has listened to them a few times can mistake one
any of the others. Each was so special that a veritable
school of music originated in his style, unfortunately
unduplicable just as with a great classical composer,
even less predictable.
Now, multiply this set of player-composers
similar distinguished performers (Duke Ellington,
Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, et al.)
originating with every instrument of the jazz band, and
one has gathered together over the twentieth century
probably one thousand American men and women
who compared favorably with the stars of every other
art and scientific form that may have progressed
excellently in the country over the same century.
Classical musical composition in
ranged from the twelve-toneor atonal
following the narrow and arbitrary path of
to the neo-classical compositions of Norman
at the Julliard School. (Schoenberg worked
of musical theory; the twelve-tone was an
insistance upon using
all the black and white keys of
the piano keyboard and
moving from any point to develop
the theme or
progression; the other dimensions of music
the established tones came under attack
as I note below.)
Walter Piston worked out of Philadelphia along
baroque and neo-classical veins. Samuel Barber
plied neo-romanticism. Gian-Carlo Menotti
combined the composer and the impresario with
light operas and twin festivals of Spoleto
in Italy and
Charleston in South Carolina. Roger Sessions and
Copland were somewhat influenced by Schoenberg.
composed and wrote profusely in varied
styles and forms;
he married many a traditional
American theme to
avantgarde musical forms.
as one might, one found no American school or
but overall as excellent a set of composers
anywhere. (And we are not surprised to hear that
the group named here were homosexuals.)
influences were, as always, quite strong.
uniqueness came more with the stage
musicals of George
Gershwin and others, including a late
Leonard Bernstein with West Side Story.
Political protest music of the
commonly in country or rock form and featured
single figure with guitar, backed sometimes by a
sing-along chorus or band. The word "rap" and
circulating for a long time -
Louis Armstrong sings it in one of his
early lyrics -
but it was fully invented in the
eighties, a staccato,
often improvised, rhymed, and practically
chant. Often boastful, insolent, and aggressive, it
reminded one sometimes of the Davy Crockett chants of the early
The desperate and hostile Black rap was its original
usually demanded Black rights and expressing
attitudes; it continued with a violence and
sexualism that were
hardly bearable by most Blacks and
Whites. In the millennial decade,
White protest rap
developed, reflecting the college-level
agenda of animal
rights, gay and lesbian rights, gun control, and
Electronic music began in 1948 in
France with patchwork upon
magnetic sound tapes, and
deliberate distortion. In the 1950's,
were developed in the U.S. to produce sound
the rhythm, tones, chords, volume and timbre
as instructed by, a composer; in
effect, you manufactured your own
instruments to match
the other acoustical dimensions. By 1956 Karl
Stockhausen in Germany had produced an electronic score.
Many American works, with strong European connections,
were soon composed, by Edgard Varèse, Otto Luening,
Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbitt, Morton
Subotnik, John Cage, and Steve Reich. Babbitt played
to its utmost the serializing game, predetermining a procession of
rhythms (durations), pitches, timbre and volume.
(The effects were impressive, if "unmusical.")
Achieving melodic appeal was a
due in part to an audience's long
to conventional instruments. Too, the new
of composers - anti-classic, anti-romantic,
anti-popular, even anti-twelve-tone, impatient with
what the ordinary ear liked to hear, and
fully aroused by the technical ability now to intermarry
or chop to bits every dimension of sound and
having to create new systems of musical notations -
had to rely upon university communities and other
special groups for audiences. The intellectuality
demanded with the synthesizer was of the highest order,
while the combinations of elements of music infinite, therefore
exceedingly difficult to choose among for a composition.
A certain popularity, one notes, began to peep out
through shocker-movie sound scores.
No doubt there will be a computer-synthesizer
music of large proportions, but it will be
by the collective brain of an audience, and
a congeries of audiences
transacting to create a form, a
style, a set of sounds
acceptable to them. Only then
schools of interacting composers take off, and
in return delighted, rather than polite,
The cultural drive of Americans
extended everywhere, and
therefore may be termed
yet flanked by the persuasive
forces of material goods and
imperialism continued until
the end of the century.
Already mentioned were American
literary influence and
the near world monopoly of popular
Indian films were the most
It was easy for
American companies that had established profitably
names and products in the United States to move abroad using
the same Kellogg logo, for instance, and the same cornflakes.
Coca-Cola went out soon after the 1900's began,
Pepsi Cola after World War II, on the same principles.
The invasion or liberation of most
of the world by American forces
helped business of all
types, and with business went language
English, with lots of slang), as well as ways of dress (the
Japanese were frozen into the American business suit, for instance,
and Levis became universal and bisexual). Then
automobile styling, ice cream and pizza,
jazz, country music, the ranch house
Canada had its
own country music and it was overwhelmed,
the American, so the good neighbor canceled an
country music cable company's channel license and gave
it to a Canadian outfit for use by local boys and girls. Every nation
had its contingent or party opposing Americanization.
The French government was
particularly nasty - and here we speak
mostly of the
government, not the large body of
consumers of things
American - attempting a mostly losing
fight against the
tastes of its own people.
In 1998, 170 million tickets
to the cinema
were sold in France. 25% were to see
70% were for American films,
5% for the rest of the world.
generation efforts were made to restrict
American movies, to little avail;
as with cinemas so
with TV films and cassettes.
Films came from Luxembourg,
from everywhere that French eyes and
ears could stretch.
Francophone Africans were watching
American movies and
paying for them, although French
films were subsidized.
American government resisted wherever, as in France,
efforts to limit the Hollywood impact occurred.
France also persisted in a campaign against
the introduction of English words and phrases -
especially the American - into French writing,
advertising, and speech. American dress, manners,
politics, attitudes, automobiles, satellites, conferences,
NATO, etc. -
all were to be shunned. A bottle of
had to be drunk with a sneer, or else..
The broadest reason for such behavior lay in the loss
of confidence in their sophisticated culture, and well
might the French be worried.
Before World War II France had been quite possibly
the real source of American judgement upon
America's own literature, music and films.
French, no more than any other nationality,
perform superior jazz; but no more recondite and
absorbed criticism of jazz was to be found coming from
any other source, including America. The French
embraced Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong very early,
with the total stream of the best jazz exported from America.
They also translated and recognized Poe,
Whitman, Hemingway, Miller, Faulkner, and other
American writers, praising them hugely at a time when
Americans were uncertain whether they were producing
works of value.
thus, the latest French cultural authorities could only retard
French cultural productivity. Instead of trying to find French
equivalents for every word that expressed some new
cultural gadget or concept, putting a
burden on the very people they
wanted to build up in
French -- the modern elite -- they might have
what was happening in America to the
The Dictionary of American Regional English, an immense program
of field research into the existence and location of
dialectical forms, eventuated with 37
linguistic regions, given labels
that are partly a priori and partly post
experientia. These overlap
and resolve grandly into
the familiar Pacific Northwest, New
England and so on,
but also an Upper Mississippi Valley type, sharing space
on the map with Upper Midwest and Mississippi-Ohio Valleys, and
so on. Language was sampled by questionnaires administered
informants from 1002 communities around the nation,
population density taken into account. Thus Hawaii
community sample points, Alaska 2, New York
California, of course, a great many more.
These overlaid linguistic locales
marked the coincidence
of people from different
backgrounds and cultures.
They must signal, as well, a
much more complicated set of
culture-trait regions than
we have been able to deal with
in this book. Those
features that distinguish the speech of a spatial
aggregate can be reliably taken to indicate that
attitudinal, physical and behavioral traits
suit. The name of the regional language pattern can
reasonably be assigned to a complementary cultural pattern.
Two corollaries are suggested:
First, that mixed speech patterns signify mixed cultures,
do so in proportion of the mixing.
Second, a newly composed aggregate of regionally and
ethnically diverse people (say, San Francisco in 1855),
will contain individuals still speaking and behaving
divergently while coining common usages speedily.
The formal proclamation by authorities of a
correct language was no
longer a hurting issue. In one
of the most reasonable
settlements in linguistic
formalization, a flexible and
changing employment of
spoken and written English
was approved. To be avoided
were, at the one extreme,
the penalties long threatening
ingenious writers of the
lower classes, the sub-cultures
religion or geography,
and, at the other extreme, a language that fails,
by its very preciosity or cabalism to reach an audience
in need of the communication but
deprived of it.
pressure groups sought to have English declared the
legal language for all transactions, and occasionally other
groups, usually Hispanic vis-a-vis Spanish,
heavy support of a second language. Insofar as
the cries for
English language hegemony depended upon
ye olde Anglo-Saxonry as well as impatient "Joe
while second-language supporters
disliked being forced into "English,"
be well to make "American" the official language of the
country, thus admitting that everybody was contributing to
no matter that they originated in Havana,
Liverpool, or Lvov.
Everyone would wish to learn
"American" quickly. Too,
everybody had to
learn in each new social generation
thousands, of new words and expression
as social mixing
and technological revolution
speeded on and on.
Extensive internal migrations
throughout U.S. history
promoted a blending of speech
forms, but the process was immense.
With regard to the
South alone, of native
Southerners living outside the
South, there were in
1910 1,488,624 Whites and 444,349
In 1930, the figures were 2,748,180 and
in general out-migrant Whites
outnumbered out-migrant Blacks
two-to-one from 1940 to
the end of the century,
for a total in 1990 of
this huge linguistic challenge, the North and
to cope with greater numbers of foreigners.
accents, too, had to be merged. Thus indeed
language that was common to all groups and
parts of the
country occurred, an unparalleled historical
self-generated social forces, only partly
facets of culture homogenized as speedily
Dietary differences among the regions
exotic foods sneaked into kitchens everywhere.
caught up with ketchup. Pizzerias, hamburger joints, and
hot chicken shops dotted the 3,000 counties.
York City devoured 25% of the store of
tuna (could it be a
gentler form of lox?). The East and
might have learned to eat more hot dogs
their ancestors were more likely to be from
About 75 pounds of chicken per capita
with the South preferring it fried.
rare in earlier times.
Amateur intellectuals were few.
even two generations of intelligentsia in
a family were scarce finds, until the graduate schools
of the universities began to turn out professors
in large numbers. Foreigners continually complained of the
nobody intelligently prepared to talk to
about the importantproblems of existence.
Rich Americans used to build mansions,
have fine art bought for them in Europe,
and save Indian-head pennies. Wealth was not taken for
granted, because so much of it was recent. The number of
extremely wealthy Americans whose inheritances went back
to all four grandparents was negligible. This is said, while realizing
that wealth in America was always (and is)
concentrated in a few hands.
To repeat in another form what was already portrayed,
several thousand families in 1995 could
for a quarter of all the personal assets of the
and possessed as much as did 130 million
fellow-Americans, counting up from the poorest.
quarter of the nation's assets, because of the way
property, industrial, and tax systems were organized and managed,
controlled and does control twice its sum of assets,
that is, another 50%, directly, and
of course, had as much as all the people, or the government,
or the rest of the world, to say about how the total
of the country were employed. The proportion has
gone up and down,
but not significantly, since the
We should exclude most Indians
because, within the relative framework of
comities, Indian tribes were fairly egalitarian.
The American rich and well-to-do, like the middle
supported the arts meanly, unless one speaks
of the profit-seeking arts of advertising. Creative
Americans lived by their wits, rarely by selling their
Practically all of the expenditures and
of the rich went into the accumulation
of the art treasures of Europe and the Orient,
to be displayed begrudgingly to a small public,
then post-humously with all encomia imaginable.
And with tax avoidance nowadays a prominent motive,
and, too, the performance of classically acceptable
music and dance. Financier J. P. Morgan was exemplary,
a diseased bulbous nose probably prompting
his obsession for old art at any price, while his
hirelings begged him to attend more to his
of great wealth and power.
Not until after
1950, when they could afford
to buy title (though
encumbered by mortgage) to a house or farm,
did 3/4 of
the American people own more assets than could be carried
on a pickup truck. The fact and/or illusion of the "family
was gone, and a family's only stake
was in a member's job.
"Without a job a man is nothing," was (is) one
way of expressing the general mediocre prosperity
country. But of this I have said enough in
A job was what somebody else gave you,
almost never was any part of your time
on the job to be given over to the "useless"
thought and "toying
around" from which the
arts are generated and bred.
Most people had a poorly developed and low sense of
aesthetics, hardly improved by 250 years of material and
technological growth. Time and time again,
back to the Depression, the New Deal's subvented cultural
workers, and harassed immigrants as the major sources
of higher American culture.
High-culture consists of more than individuals;
is a conglomerate of creators, their source materials, performers,
settings, audience, and public formation and communication,
their community. In America, more than elsewhere,
it may have happened that the overlapping of popular and
culture was unusually great, and one can
at this distance in history, what people then
might have considered true,
that a sharp boundary
divided the two,
as it did and still does somewhat in
In America we can see
that jazz was
overrunning classical music and,
foreshadowing what would happen in Europe -
a precursion that was rare -
ordinary Americans both could wax
learned over jazz as well as classical music,
modern as well as classic ballet,
over soul food as well
as haute cuisine,
"primitive" art and Indian
art as well as salon art.
That is to say, that the
contempt of lower forms
of culture was much less among
than among the European's upper
this boded well for the continued
cultural leadership of America.
About 1965 the word "hippie" came to designate
the growing body of young Americans who were
cutting loose from as many of their traditional ties as possible and
forming or finding new associations in what could be called
Perhaps there came to be a million of
No locality escaped their presence or visit, no
how hostile people were to the highly mobile
men and women cruising about the country.
The world, indeed, was their home, their patriotism was
minimal, the communist countries their foreign foes, and
they beat paths to favorite spots - in Morocco, Holland,
Afghanistan, Nepal, Tangier, and Thailand.
They found predecessors in the so-called "Beat
Generation," a much
more limited group of poets,
writers, and drug addicts
who could fill a hall with
supporters in any city or university
community of the
land. Names that stepped into hippiedom and
were Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and
an irresponsible guru named William Burroughs
wrote startling stories and dallied in exotic places.
Kerouac's sage counsel was, don't do anything unless it's worth doing.
Advice which, if Americans followed it,
would make for a sounder economy, kempt environment,
reduced crime rates, and a lower birth rate.
The hippies were strongly reinforced by the arrival of the
culture, the term for the increasing number of
in the generation roughly between 1955 and
started smoking marihuana and then
taking up heroin, LSD, cocaine and just about
every other chemically potent substance that would give them
kicks and alter their psychic identity.
However, far more people ended up with a weak or
habit, not counting alcohol and tobacco,
than moved into the hippie
culture; there were some
millions of them, with effects
-- direct and indirect
-almost totally adverse
to social productivity, high
achievement, and the possibilities
of a decent life for
declined in the late seventies, partly owing
to the end
of the Vietnamese War, which had inspired in youths
draft age and the girls of their circles a rare defiance
of all values of the older generation, and energized a movement
to escape conscription into military service.
A proven drug habit earned an exemption from service;
a manifest drug habit warranted discharge from service:
in either case the drugee could join or rejoin the drug
with its fellow-addicts, and networks of places
to find drugs.
been hardly creative of worthwhile values
many hippies abjectly surrendered to social mores
they grew older; no new hippie art or communal style, or
political philosophy emerged. The many hippie
desertions from colleges and universities (as part of the
general student rebellions) deprived these places
of some of their higher potential, although they would not
admit it, and the hippies would not admit that
they had lost anything.
Still, the hippies lent support to all that was new and
counter-culture in America; in fact, they were the main
identifiable counter-culture force, and
especially operative in the White middle and upper classes
where they destroyed many a patrimony and parental dream.
Insofar as they ended up often in American backwaters
living by artisanal or typical local occupations,
they brought in new breezes of novel ideas and opinions.
Being individualist, escapist, sexist, Americans
succumbed easily to temptation. "Hot items"
exhibits in pornography cases, which a government
barring from the mails or banning,
into the offices behind the marble
of the nine August justices of the United States
The games were played endlessly, while
the country engaged in every form
of sexual activity,
display, perversion - and men and women
testified to such when asked about their habits
pollsters, strangers, how many times a week
at what age
did you do what?
Justice and Supreme Courts around the country
this string of foolish cases and gravely, lengthily
considered whether the line between allowable near-pornography
and obscenity was related to whether a book had been
merely a lust, or contained some twinkle of
Then they broke into two or three
divisions each to
venture with all the accumulated power
they could muster to vote up or down these
sometimes even great works - nor did one
whether to be ashamed of the scene when the petty
books of cheap
sex throes were hammered upon, or when it
was the fate of
masterworks like James Joyce's Ulysses.
Fully free writing was tested in the crucible of
police suppression and costly court cases.
Miller's Tropic of Cancer,
Allen Ginsburg's Howl, and William
were shown to be of some social importance.
the movie, I am Curious -- Yellow.
The problem seemed largely to have been solved when the Supreme
Court decided that the distinction between hard and soft
pornography was essentially unfindable, hence
art with serious pretenses was deemed
the Constitution. It was not a
coincidence, but a part of the whole
wide advance of the
nation into modernistic culture - from the
motherboard to Motherwell: a flood of sex movies reeled
off the cinema screens, television late shows and rent-purchase video
shops. Rap music in some cases could hardly depict
sexual action more lucidly.
The U.S. government was not above book-burning, when its
officers considered material fraudulent or obscene.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a German Jewish
refugee, invented a large
"orgone box" which
he believed could excite and collect from its
vital energies, among them sexual potency. The Federal
government not only jailed him at the Lewisburg Penitentiary,
where he died, but axed his boxes and experimental
burned six tons of his literature.
Such a fate evaded Immanuel
Velikovsky, a Russian Jewish
psychoanalyst, trained by
Wilhelm Stekel, who spent the latter half
of a long life
developing a neo-catastrophe or quantavolutionary
of natural and human history. His sin was to convert the
planetary system, especially Venus, hitherto generally regarded as a
model of cosmic stability, into the source of global
recent times, as during the Exodus led by
Moses, and to claim that
science's modern dismissal of
such ideas was a form of scatoma or
And that this amnesia lay at the root of human
bloodthirstiness and war.
His work was strongly attacked and condemned by conventional
scientists. Still, with the help of several well-qualified
and his work impelled even a few
conventional scientists to push into
catastrophic geology and astronomy, such as the
extinction of the dinosaurs by meteoroid explosion and atmospheric
pollution. Space explorations of these years helped greatly
promote the quantavolution viewpoint, for they
the planets and moons to have catastrophized
derelict electrically engaged systems.
Such cases aside, the United
States from the late 1960's onwards could
claim to be
the freest nation in the world with respect to cultural
activities and life styles, and at the same moment the most
diverse. As with ethnic complexion, there was nothing in
of the world that could not be found readily
in America. Hispanic
music abounded, grew its own
composers and singers,
added instruments, introduced
beats; the USA was
no Brazil of Latin music, but had an
ear cocked to it.
(But, look!, Brazil found itself at
this time with a
large Malcolm X movement organized
fight for Black rights there.)
The typical newest America boiler room engineer
might be a
computer-robot engineer who played computer
games and read
high-intensity fiction and journalism
concerning spaceship Earth,
with manuals about
computers, who was indifferent to traditional
issues and historical religions, regarded
irrelevant jerks who committed
dangerous nuisances by
piping backward sectors of the
population to an exhaust
spewed noxious gases upon society.
The type belonged to a presently
prominent large non-ethnic,
class, unattached to old slogans,
peacefully aggressive, looking for new ways
doing everything. The class became practically
telecommunications, airlines, media
sectors of the military,
colleges, and its members became influential
that served or were connected with them, such as voluntary
all-community organizations, research companies generally, and
bright students. They appreciated and followed the trends
modernization and futurism.
The type had no more problem of being a woman
than of being a man
or something of both. The type has a
real problem in deciding whether
to get into active
politics or move ahead where one is: the
almost always to stay out of politics. Therefore, though
they numbered in the millions, one looked somewhere else for the
spearhead of modernity and world reconstruction.
Here there was no religious group that would
satisfy the criteria for
leaders of a new national and
world order. So this will be our last pass
religious groups. They have been moving in the wrong
direction. Fundamentalism, which operationally means a literal total
devotion to a great ancient book that has never brought
great benefits to any society including the
one that wrote it, and a
simplistic view of what
troubles the world, and what should be done
has been increasing.
the Southern Baptist Convention,
largest element in the quarter of Americans who are
evangelical Protestants, declared itself for the
supremacy of the male, resolving that "A wife is to submit
graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as
church willingly submits to the headship of
She should primarily help manage the
nurture the next generation.
Mentioned earlier was the fateful
figure of 70 million adults who
claim a religious
experience enabling them to communicate regularly
Jesus. How can such people be employed and deployed in a
movement of national and world reconstruction? Perhaps they would
one day appreciate that Jesus told them that he was
preaching to them once and for all, and
thenceforth they would have
to make up their own minds
about right and wrong. Are they
not to believe that "God helps those who help themselves?"
The number of people who claimed
religious adherence was not
diminishing; far from the
situation in 1776 when only an estimated
17% of the
people professed a religious affiliation, in 1980 62% did.
The number of new religious cults formed in the decade of the 1950's
averaged 8.6 per year; in the decade of the 1980's the
number of new
religious cults rose to an average of 20.2
(These figures did
not contain the large number of small informal
and cults like the Waco, Texas, cult that was wiped out,
and the Jones cult that committed mass suicide in Guyana, or
like hundreds of cults that formed to perform
ceremonies Indian (Asian or U.S.) style or worship the
Mother Goddess Gaia, or like the crypto-Mormon
which continued to practice polygamy,
interference from their own now
the federal government or the State
of Utah and
also found hideaways in neighboring
The older church
establishments did not keep up with the number of
joiners, members, and attendees, which increased across the board
from the simplest Protestant sects to the Catholic Church.
as contrasted with do-it-yourself preachers,
were in short supply. The
Catholic Church with close
onto 50% of all church membership in
America was not
able to recruit satisfactory numbers of aspirants to
priesthood and convents. The number of priests reached an all-time
high in 1967 at 58,892. By 1982 the number of priests had
6%, while the number of parishioners grew by
36%. A similar decrease
in nuns was experienced.
The attrition of priests was
ascribed to new opportunities for better
education and better jobs; but unquestionably the dogmas of
the Church were no longer appealing to conscientious men -
particularly those concerning marriage in the priesthood, birth
and divorce. Considering what a shambles
American society was,
during this same period, one would
think that more men would wish to
belong to a secure and
historically immense organization with codes of
and behavior of undeniable richness. Possibly even callow young
men, but concerned, looked about and saw mostly greed in the
congregation and frustration in the confessional.