A beach apart

One of the interesting aspects of traveling outside the US is to look at our country from a distance, through others’ eyes. Here is a thought-provoking example from London written by Terry Eagleton in his review of two books, The Madness of Crowds and The Problem of Everything. 

“Because the US is a deeply parochial society, not much given to seeing itself from the outside, what seems obvious to an external observer—the fact that the more baroque forms of political correctness represent the latest outbreak of good old-fashioned American Puritanism—seems not to be much recognized at Yale or Columbia. Sectarianism, holier-than-thou-ism, the gulf between the reprobate and the elect, the scanning of words and actions for the least flicker of ideological impurity: all this has a history as old as the nation itself. There’s nothing new either about the claim that if my experience is radically different from yours, you are incapable of understanding me. It used to be known as middle-class individualism, and involves confusing sympathy with empathy, as well as making a fetish of immediate experience. Once upon a time, the self was hermetically sealed off from the selves around it; now it is cultures…”

 

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