Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are 21st century Americans the New Victorians?

A culture inordinately influenced by a wacked view of Christianity that values censure over love, exclusion over generosity and generally is mostly concerned about extending its power to control people’s lives? Check.

A squeamish prudery when it comes to the realities of sex? Check.

A belief that the country is not only blest by, um, “God” – but the country has the God-given right and duty to exert control over the rest of the world? Check.

A blind faith in the progress of business and industry – what’s good for business is good for the individual – yet science (read: evolution) is suspect? Check.

“Victorian” has always been a pejorative adjective in my books. I learned that from my mother and father, I suppose: my grandparents, three of whom were born when Queen Victoria was still alive (only my father’s father was born after her death), all suffered one way or another due to the Victorian values that they carried with them until they died. To me, Victorian means self-righteous, smugly pious, inhibited and stifling.

What brings this whole, well, facile comparison to mind is a recent reading of A.S. Byatt’s curious The Children’s Book, which puts a different spin on the original Victorians, (including a faddish adult love of children’s literature with one of the main characters a sort of less-successful 19th century J.K. Rowling I’d say). The book is all about Fabians and syndicalists, medievalists and suffragists, social reformers all. Victorian England wasn’t just a time of moral hypocrisy, it was a time of great upheaval. Which I suppose is true of our time as well. Although at this very moment, what’s happening in America regarding that issue closest to my heart, gay rights, makes me inclined to think that the moral hypocrites are winning.

Feh.

Will people look back a hundred years from now and think of us Americans the way I think of the 19th century English?

The Swedish word for the day is förträngning. It means repression.

17 comments:

Linas Alsenas said...

Wow, that's a downer. But think of the fabulous fashions!

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/11/11/fashion/20091112-codes-slideshow_index.html?scp=1&sq=new%20victorians&st=cse

R said...

We already do.

Carla said...

It certainly is disturbing, especially that New York and California are supposed to be way ahead of the other states.

Did you see the clip of Portia Di Rossi on The View? The conservative host (Elizabeth?) said something ridiculous like when a same sex couple get married they should call it something else because when women demand equality they don't ask to be called "men." Oj!

I'm happy to live in Canada, which isn't perfect but we've had legal same-sex marriage for a few years.

Wutzke said...

Reminded of the quote from last night's "American Dad" animation, in which the alien Roger says "I love Christianity - virgin birth, water into wine; it's like Harry Potter but with genocide and bad folk songs."

Anonymous said...

Did you mean "blessed" ?
But I totaly agree that the Americans are puritains.
The fact that economy comes before the individual is purely for the money (as always ..ask ex-Bush)
You can 't eat money, but that's not their worry.
If you need to fill in address on a ebsite, it clearly shows: there's the US, and the rest.
(choice between 52 states), although the other 199 countries have states, provinces, bundesländer or Län as well.

K said...

Don't paint all americans with the same broad stroke.

Yes, even many US citizens are distressed by the conservative right. Yes, even we would like our citizens to recognize that there is a great big world out there off of our weather maps (that is the same people that are annoyed that regions outside the US are treated as great big gray areas on television weather).

Wow... that feels better.

Carla said...

Some of my best friends are liberal Americans! lol.

shima said...

Actually, it's förträngning. ;)

Francis S. said...

Thanks, shima!

Anbud på måleri projekt said...

Well Said Carla!

:)

Anonymous said...

If "moral progress" keeps up, people a hundred years from now likely are going look at even today's gay rights advocates as regressive ogres. Perhaps you need to be ashamed of yourself in advance, so you don't look too bad in the eyes of the future?

do Ó Pires de Sousa said...

eeeeehhhh........ yes
obviously, there are good people (as there were in victoria times) but the overall feeling of the nation is really really really victorian

ericsiqueira said...

Olá, amigo.
É verdade que os Suecos quase não vêem a luz do sol? como são as escolas suecas? parabéns pelo blog.
Eric. Belém-Pa-Brasil.

Carla said...

ugh... there's a new season of The Bachelor starting on American tv tonight. THAT is an offensive and ridiculous approach to marriage!

(have you heard of it since you moved to Sweden? it's a reality show during which a bachelor interviews women and by the end of a certain number of shows, decides which one he wants to marry. outrageous!)

Clark said...

I must say it is quite repressive living in America. Although I am not gay, I support the rights of our men and women who choose to love those of their own genders. I would indeed be willing to bear the cold climate, a language barrier, as well as certain culture shock to be where you are Francis. I visited Stockholm once and was amazed at its majestic feel. Since then, I have been obsessed with the country! I might just move there!

hollarback said...

Eh, maybe. I tend to just think annoying people (worldwide) are louder (because they are annoying, it comes naturally to them). Obviously not every American holds such rigid views. Every civil rights move in the US' history has been forward - so there is no going back. It will happen.

Anyhow, the US has a bizarrely high birthrate compared to most European nations, so someone is getting some.

I have to say that the US does get judged much more harshly than most nations, regardless of topic. I say that as a bona fide pinko liberal by the way ; )

It will be a fight, but we are up to it. It would be nice if the rest of the world could hold off on judging us for a moment.

New Jersey Memories said...

America is far too large and diverse a country to be judged so broadly and critically. Not everyone is an ultra-conservative. There are many moderates and liberals around. Obama would not have been elected if everyone in America was as close-minded as the rest of the world thinks. I support gay rights, and so do many other people that I know.

By the way, my mother was born in Sweden and my father in Denmark. I'm a first-generation American. My father was the ultra-conservative. He was mortified that I turned out to be a "bleeding-heart" liberal!

 


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