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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is US culture? What do we do with it after a revolution?

The US is no different than any other country in that we need a national identity. As Marxists we already know that our founding fathers were racist slave owners who disrespected the indigenous people and referred to them as “savages.”

We know that our standard of living depends on a massive military empire that today rivals even the that of the Romans.

We know that money is the root of pop culture and anything that can’t be mass marketed doesn’t really get promoted as US mainstream culture. While the Italians have the Sistine Chapel, the US has McDonalds and the golden arches. Our two most important artists are Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. One painted the America we wish we were, the other showed us as we really were.

But we need a national identity and we need culture. We need heroes and examples of individuals who represented progress in our history, not just the shit that passes for American history in present day US history books.

It may seem over nationalistic, but China developed its own flag and over time Mao Zedong decided that it was wrong to just throw away all of China’s past without giving any credit to those Chinese, including emperors and past philosophers, who contributed progressive ideas.

He noticed the Qing Dynasty initiated some public works, and relied on professionals to design things rather than aristocrats. In his earlier writings, such as On New Democracy, he often quoted Joseph Stalin. Yet in his later writings, such as Five Essays On Philosophy, by the 1960s, he quoted Lao Tse and Mencius.

Antonio Gramsci, Italian Communist writer, pointed out in Critical Notes On An Attempt At A Popular Presentation Of Marxism By Bukharin that there are people in the past who contributed progressive ideas to history, yet would not stack up to being progressive in this time period. He gave the example of Giordano Bruno (late 1500s) who was an influence on Karl Marx. He pointed out that people are a product of their time period and we can’t expect political correctness from someone who lived in the 1500s or any other long past century.

The US has a problem of national identity. Our culture is often identified as consisting of imperialist jingoism and crass commercialism. There is a lot truth to this. But it is up to the left to look for those progressive people and people with progressive ideas who contributed to the better side of US political culture.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said; "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." He and Thomas Paine opposed letting our founding fathers develop a new US aristocracy to mimic the feudalists nations of Europe in the 1700s. He and Paine also supported the French Revolution.

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