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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 2005 / 17 Tishrei, 5766

America, the Killjoy Nation

By James Lileks


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Another day, another international conference, another meaningless display of unity. But with lovely gift bags, we're sure.

The latest example: a UNESCO compact, sanctified in October at a conference in Tunisia, supporting the rights of nations to control the import of entertainment from other countries, all in the name of "cultural diversity." Otherwise Bugs Bunny cartoons would pose a mortal threat to the state-controlled monoculture of most nations. The United States opposes the compact, because we're mean and hate everyone, if you read the press. But was the U.S. vote correct? Let us consider.

The original sponsors were France and its stepchild Canada; figures.

No country is more prickly about preserving its own culture than France; they regularly have le panique attaq whenever small fragments of other tongues infect their pristine lingo. Their cinema is heavily subsidized, producing endless movies about older-yet-unquestionably-masculine men who pensively smoke while contemplating a girl's knee observed on a beach in 1972.

Canada also mandates local content, because there's so much difference between someone who grew up in southern Manitoba and someone who grew up in upper North Dakota. The North Dakotan grows up without a sense of what it's like to be annoyed by bilingual candy-bar wrappers, for example. Might as well be from different planets.

There are reasons to protect local culture, of course. American culture is The Borg, assimilating all.

Drop a VCR and a TV in a remote Amazonian village, return a year later, and what do you find? Nothing, because you forgot to supply the generator. But leave one of those, and within six months the kids will be running around saying "No Luke I am your father" and making whoom-whoom lightsaber sounds. This fact gladdens the hearts of some, since it shows that American values — freedom, justice, explosions — are universal.

But it also puts cultural conservatives in a bind, because modern pop culture is crass, rude, naughty, and often indefensible. Do we really want to defend the right of American record companies to export Li'l Kim diatribes against all the b-word rapperettes who set her up? Doesn't it bother anyone that China has entire factories devoted to pumping out pirated copies of "Scarface," because the global demand for that rags-to-twitches cocaine opera is so insatiable?

It was easier when the Yanks stood for nylons and chocolate bars.

In one sense, the convention is misguided — American culture is far more diverse than the products of the nations it purportedly corrupts. "The Matrix" was a synthesis of innumerable Hong Kong wire-fu movies. Recent Hollywood horror movies borrow heavily from Japanese ghost movies. HBO's brilliant "Rome" is about, well, Rome, shot in Italy. Musically, there's not a culture we haven't pillaged, dissected, broken into digestible bits and recycled, except perhaps for 15th century Aboriginal didgeridoo tunes. But give us time.

American culture is eventually world culture, and vice versa. Brittle cultures don't handle it well. Adaptive cultures absorb and adapt — the point of multiculturalism, no?

Imagine if the U.S. decided to head off the influence of Indian cinema, lest the next "Batman" movie turn into a chaste historical drama that inexplicably bursts into ornate and endless dance numbers. Imagine if the Feds forbade Bollywood imports. Kids would be swapping the forbidden movies on the internet, just to put a thumb in the censor's eyes. And that's what they do now, UNESCO convention be damned.

Tunisia, after all, has 800,000 Internet users. If a dozen of them are under 20 and know how to use BitTorrent, well, Comedy Central's "Adult Swim" gets passed around Africa by next Saturday.

In another sense, the UNESCO effort is pointless. No: toothless. More posturing from an international body that convenes to strike pleasing poses, nothing more. But some will see the U.S. position as more American mulishness. The New York Times put it thus: "As with the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty and the treaty creating the International Criminal Court, (the U.S.) will likely remain a critical — and perhaps obstructionist — outsider."

Imagine that! The killjoy nation. Monarchy, Communism, Fascism, Socialism, now Tribalism — the U.S. never quite joins in the fun. Everyone else jumps off the bridge, and we hang back, taking notes. Like we're special or something.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2005, James Lileks

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