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Englisch America and The American Dream




America and The American Dream

1        The History of America

1.1 The Colonial Period

1.2 Independence

1.2.1 Conflict with the British Parliament

1.2.2 War of Independence

1.2.3 American Constitution

1.2.4 Early Foreign Policy

1.3 Civil War (War of Secession)

1.3.1 The Slavery Issue

1.4 Industrial Revolution and Big Business (1800-1914)

1.4.1 Industrial Development

1.4.2 Rise of Big Business

1.4.3 Import of Labour

1.4.4 Overseas Expansion

1.5 World War I (1914-1918)

1.6 Interwar Period

1.7 World War II (1939-1945)



1.8 Postwar Leadership

2        Modern Lifestyle

2.1      Economy

2.1.1    Concerns about Globalization

2.1.2 Reasons for America’s success

2.1.3 Why American success continued

2.1.4    Globalization and the Future

2.2          Cars

2.2.1 The Car as a Lifestyle

2.2.2 Movie Theatres

 

2.2.3 Food on the go

2.2.4 Weddings on Wheel

2.2.5 Life in the fast lane

2.3          Guns

2.3.1 Where did the American passion for guns originate?

2.3.2 The National Rifle Association

2.3.3 The right to carry concealed firearms

2.3.4 The extent of Gun violence

2.3.5 Unintentional shootings

2.4          The American Society

2.4.1 The American Dream of a Classless Society

2.4.2 The Influence of Religion

2.4.3 Youth Movements

2.4.4 Pop culture

2.4.5 Films

1   The History of America

1.1 Colonial Period

Two main factors contributed to the colonization of North America by British settlers: The trading initiative of commercial companies and the religious intolerance in the mother country, which compelled persecuted sects to find refuge in the New World.

Virginia was the first permanent colony to be founded by the English in America. Despite great hardship resulting from malaria, famine and from the hostility of the Indians, the colony gradually flourished as a result of tobacco culture and grants of land to individual colonists.

The northern Atlantic Seaboard, which was later to be known as New England, was first settled by Puritans who had been persecuted in England.

The first colony in this region was Plymouth. In 1620, 102 “Pilgrim Fathers” sailed in the Mayflower to the new World and landed on the coast of Massachusetts. Later Massachusetts was colonized by the Massachusetts Bay Company, which had been formed by groups of Puritans in England. The first settlements were Salem (1628) and Boston (1630), Economic and cultural life developed rapidly. In 1636, the first American university, Harvard, was founded in Cambridge near Boston. However, religious intolerance in the Puritan Bible commonwealth caused many settlers to leave and found new colonies. But there weren’t only British colonies. Nearly all European nations have founded new colonies in America. For instance New York was originally a Dutch trading post called “New Amsterdam”, which was later bought by the Duke of York. Later settlements to the south of New England were proprietary colonies granted by the English king to individuals.

The first immigrants came chiefly from Britain. Persecuted sects from Germany immigrated into Pennsylvania and even Salzburg Protestants searched a new home in Georgia.

While Northern colonies got important due to trade ports in the bigger cities, as the cradle of American democracy and also as an important industrial area, the southern states were formed by an aristocratic society which supported slave labour on the enormous large plantations.

1.2 Independence

1.2.1    Conflict with the British Parliament

When the British government began to lay duties on the import of tropical products in order to meet the heavy debt incurred in the British colonial war against France, this policy was passionately resented in the colonies. On the principle of “no taxation without representation” (i.e. in Parliament), the colonies opposed the Stamp Act, a tax imposed on newspapers and legal documents. In 1773, the cargo of three English tea ships in Boston harbour was thrown into the sea by colonists disguised as Indians, an incident which later became known as the “Boston Tea Party”. When the British government answered by closing the harbour and curtailing the rights of Massachusetts government, the First Continental Congress met in 1774 to discuss united resistance.

1.2.2    War of Independence, 1775-1783

The Second Continental Congress representing all colonies met in May 1775 at Philadelphia. It appointed Washington Commander- in- Chief of the newly created army and navy. It issued the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 (Today celebrated as “Independence Day”), and contracted a military alliance with France. Later the Treaty of Paris, 1783, recognized the independence of the thirteen colonies.

1.2.3    American Constitution

When the early Articles of Confederation providing for a relatively loose union failed to co-ordinate the interests of the various states, a Constitutional Convention of 55 delegates including the most distinguished men in America (Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison) met in 1787 to draft a constitution for a closer federation. The American Constitution came into force in 1789, when nine of the thirteen states, after hard negotiations to preserve their individual rights, hat ratified it. It established the United States as a federal republic with a bicameral legislature and a President who is official head of state as well as leader of the government.  

1.2.4    Early Foreign Policy

The War with Great Britain 1812-1814 was caused by the British blockade of the Atlantic during the Napoleonic Wars. The British attacked Washington and burned the Capitol and the White House. Finally they were defeated in the Battle of New Orleans.

Monroe Doctrine (1823) The interference of European powers in the affairs of Latin America prompted President Monroe to recognize the independence of the former Spanish colonies which had revolted against the mother country, and to proclaim the Monroe Doctrine containing the following provisions: The USA would not interfere with internal affairs of Europe. Europe was not to interfere with existing governments in the Americas. Europe was not to colonize any further in the Americas.

1.3 Civil War (War of Secession)

Causes of the war were the economic servitude of the South in relation to the North and the slavery issue. Like the West , the financially weak South was dependent for the development of its industry on Northern capital, which was provided only at high interest, since the North did not wand to endanger its industrial supremacy.

1.3.1    The Slavery Issue



Slavery was first introduces into the colonies in 1619 in Virginia. In the War of Independence, the first strong anti-slavery feeling bore results: the New England states and the Middle colonies abolished slavery. The admission to the Union of slave-holding territories in the Mississippi Valley threatened the balance of power between the slave-holding south and the free Northern states. Violent anti-slavery agitation in the North, and fear in the Southern states that their economic and social system, which was dependent on slave labour, was to be destroyed, finally brought about the secession of the Southern states after the election of Lincoln.

The Union of the 23 Northern states under President Lincoln was superior in manpower and equipment. The southern Confederacy under its own president numbered only 13 states and was highly outnumbered.

1.4 Industrial Revolution and Big Business (1800-1914)

1.4.1 Industrial Development

The Industrial Revolution was accelerated by American inventions (e.g. Bell’s telephone, Edison’s electric bulb,…)

Transportation helped to open up the continent rapidly. Canals, and transcontinental Railways helped to colonize even the most distant region. American agriculture became the most efficient in the world through American inventions. For instance the cotton gin or the binding and threshing machines, which were developed into enormous combined machines for the complete processing of the crops. As a result of the declining imports during the Napoleonic Wars the industry developed rapidly to provide goods for the home market. Even the commercial life was revolutionized by the typewriter.

1.4.2 Rise of the Big Business

Due to big businessmen, who rose to dominant positions in key industries and crushed competitors by ruthless methods. The most prominent men to apply the characteristic “rugged individualism” of the frontier to the fields of financing and industrial production were Carnegie (steel), Rockefeller (oil), Pierpont Morgan (banking), Kaiser (heavy industry), Ford (automobiles), Du Pont (gun powder, later chemical industries), Vanderbilt and Harriman (eastern railroads) and Hill (transcontinental railroads).

Consolidation of business, merging smaller companies into large corporations, was favoured by the necessity for large amounts of capital to utilize the vast resources and span the huge distances of a gigantic continent.

1.4.3 Import of Labour

Import of cheap labour for mines, factories and railroad building (10 million people between 1905 and 1914) brought a new wave of immigration. From southern and eastern Europe came Italians, Greeks, Poles, Lithuanians, Galician Jews, from Asia Chinese and Japanese.

Immigrants from less developed countries were mostly illiterate, hat no experience in self-government and were accustomed to a very low standard of living. Congregating in alien “islands” of large cities, often with no intention of staying permanently and of learning English, they were difficult to integrate and often formed an element of unrest.

1.4.4 Overseas Expansion (1863- 1917)

With and expanding industry seeking foreign markets for American products and growing interest in the Pacific after settlement of the Far West, imperialism began to replace isolationism and reached its climax under presidents Mc Kinley and Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of the 20th century.

Japan, which hat excluded foreigners, was opened to American trade through an agreement in 1853. In 1863, a joint naval action by England and the USA opened the country completely to the outside world.

After the opening of Chinese ports to foreign trade following the Opium War, 1842, foreign powers began to compete for political and commercial influence in China. When the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was suppressed by Western powers, the USA pleaded for the preservation of Chinese independence and an open-door policy.

Some smaller island, like the virgin island, were bought or conquered later by the Americans.

1.5 World War I (1914-1918)

Under president Wilsons cabinet America joined the first World War to help the French against the Germans. President Wilson was keen on to make the World “safe” and to fight all non- Democratic countries. After the War was won President Wilson made Fourteen Points which helped to bring about the German surrender, proposing a peace founded upon honour and justice. After the War the USA became a naval power. Her economy had developed immensely through the export of arms and the opening up of new markets following the disruption of European trade. The USA became the principal creditor nation in the world.

1.6 Interwar Period

America made some efforts to secure the Peace on the whole planet. Neutrality Acts and other efforts were made to ensure that no other state would become more powerful than America. This worked only limited, due to the ignorance of some big, powerful countries.

In 1929, the USA suffered the most serious depression in its history, with worldwide repercussions. The crisis was caused by the reduces purchasing power of nations weakened by war, and by the failure of debtor countries to pay in fold or through exports, which were made impossible by the high US tariffs. The stock market crash in 1929 wiped out many fortunes and bank failures destroyed savings. Unemployment reached staggering proportions (14 million), leading to hunger parades and rent strikes.

Also a rising racism to foreigners because of the willingness of foreigner to work for low wages led to Exclusion Acts, barring Chinese labour, and an agreement with Japan. The immigration levels were cut extremely, especially immigrants from developing and poor countries had no good chances to come to America.

During this Period some American states introduced the Prohibition to control crime and to give all people in this Period of time a secure feeling. But this was not very efficient and international crime organizations, e.g. the Mafia got even more powerful through trading with illegal stuff.

1.7 World War II (1939-1945)

All peace efforts were destroyed with the armament of the USA in some America-friendly countries in cause of the Japanese air attack on the American naval port of Pearl Harbour on December the 7th.Followed by declarations of war from Germany and Italy brought the USA into the war. While in Europe the Axis had rapid victories in adopting European countries, the Japans had also enormous victories in the battle of some Pacific victories. After Germany surrendered under the pressure of the Allied forces, America was keen onto ending the war with brutal methods. After an official ultimatum the dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and three days later on Nagasaki, virtually obliterating both cities, soon after this, Japan surrendered and was occupied by American forces.

1.8 Postwar Leadership

Foreign policy determined by efforts to create a system of collective security in the cold war now beginning with Russia. A policy of “containment” strove to contain Russian expansion within the 1947 boundaries. Vast sums were spent on rearmament and the stationing of military forces in friendly countries.

Also an important event was the founding of the United Nations in 1944. It was an organization to ensure security and humanity all over the world. With some powerful institutions it became a very important Organization and got later an own army.

The Marshall Plan offered war shattered European countries economic aid to prevent economic depression, which was felt to favour Communist subversion.

Also the GATT-plan (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), 1947, provided for the relaxation of international trade barriers in order to receive trade.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1947 by twelve nations on both sides of the Atlantic, including the USA, Canada, Great Britain, France, Norway and, later, Turkey, Greece and West Germany. The alliance, based on a 50- year mutual defence treaty, provided for reciprocal military aid in case of aggression. The NATO defence in Europe includes US soldiers and is largely equipped with American weapons.

2              Modern Lifestyle

2.1           Economy

The US economy is the worlds most advanced in automation. Despite considerable competition from Japan it still leads in the most important fields of production.

The US industry is based on the capitalist system, which has always been favoured by the nations, including the working classes, perhaps because free enterprise, with its hazards as well as its possibilities, appeals more to the character of a pioneer nation than the restrictions of a controlled economy.

Until the middle of the 19th century, the USA was predominantly an agricultural society exporting its staple primary products- tobacco, cotton and wheat. With the discovery of immense mineral resources, the USA became a major supplier of coal, copper, silver and oil. Its coal and iron ore deposits became the basis of the worlds largest steel industry.

By 1900, powerful magnates of industry and finance had built up industrial empires, taking advantage of the continuous stream of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, China and Japan, who offered an inexhaustible reservoir of easily exploitable cheap labour.

Since their monopolies threatened the cherished American ideal of free competition, anti-trust legislation, first enacted in 1890, aimed at splitting up large trusts. These, however, usally re- emerged as holding companies controlling the majority if stock in other concerns. Being capable of financing industrial research and innovation, big business continued to dominate an economy which was compelled  to meet the gigantic capital requirements of a technological society. Research and development gained such importance that in the press they are often just referred to by their initials R and D.




The unprecedented growth and prosperity of postwar America encouraged the belief that growth was the surest indicator of a sound economy. In the Seventies, however, the Vietnam warm the oil crisis of 1974 and 1979, soaring inflation and increasing environmental pollution put an end to the era of plenty and the cult of growth. The government cut back on NASA’s gigantic projects and the supersonic aircraft, and began to curb industrial expansion by introducing legislation for the protection of environment. Industry itself was hit by the two recessions caused by soaring oil prices and slackening demand. Successive administrations so far have tried in vain to fight the twin evils of stagnation and inflation.

Continued government borrowing produced immense deficits, even more so as competition from the EEC- and Pacific- rim countries encouraged vast imports and impeded exports.

The Reach of American culture has extended far wide across the world. You can find plenty of American Products throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America and all other, even the poorest, parts of the world. The “export” of American culture became very popular and nowadays you can hardly find any person who don’t knows American music an films. American staples, such as blue jeans and Nike jeans have become staples everywhere else.

American culture domination has grown ever stronger over the past fifty years, and today American culture can be found in almost every country. However, many question the value of this dominance. Is the United States opening opportunities to people around the world, or destroying local cultures and customs? Do American cultural exports offer people more choices? There are some different meanings about these questions. Some people think that Americas ruthless capitalism will destroy every local custom and that all countries will adopt the way of American Life. Some others think that a new chance is given to exchange meanings and customs with all people worldwide.

It is important to recognize that American culture has spread primarily as a result of trade. Executives at Mc Donalds, Nike and Coca-Cola export their products around the globe not out of a sense of more obligation, nor as part of a crafty plan to subvert the worlds population; they export their products, and with them American culture, in an attempt to make profit.

The past 40 years have seen the biggest and longest economic boom in history, resulting in rising standards of living for people around the globe, and massive profits for the international corporations which have benefited from global trade opportunities. This expansion in trade is largely due to reductions in the trade barriers between countries. Where most governments once tried to protect and isolate their country’s economy from the global marketplace, there is now a rush to participate in global trading. Today companies regularly merge across national lines to form multinational corporations, and relocation of manufacturing sites to countries with cheap labour costs is normal.

This global trade has both advantages and disadvantages. Supporters of trade argue that it create jobs, as the large global market needs more workers to produce more goods. It has also been credited with aiding economic growth. Some formerly poor countries, such as Japan or the city of Hong Kong have dramatically increased their average incomes per person by trading globally. And some have even suggested that globalization has been contributed to the spread of democracy and an increased respect for human rights. This seems logical, as individuals gain more economic power, they seek more rights, politically as well.

2.1.1    Concerns about Globalization

Opponents of globalization, on the other hand, denounce global trade as causing more harm than good. They believe that it is responsible for creating poor working conditions and poverty in developing countries. Wealthy corporations open factories in poor nations, where labour is cheaper, and often exploit these workers. The workers may face horrendously long hours and brutal conditions, for wages that are typically less than 2€ per day. It has also been claimed that global trade encourages environmental damage. Developing nations often recklessly exploit their environment, in an effort to export to the global market, Lastly, there is the worry that globalization leads to cultural degradation. Rather than producing a greater choice of products in each nation, global trade may lead to the world becoming blandly similar. Multinational corporations promote the same products the world over. Small local companies cannot compete with the high advertising budgets and low prices of these corporations, so they drop out of the market.

2.1.2    Reasons for America’s success

But why has American culture come to dominate in this way? To begin with, North America itself is a large and wealthy country, with a huge and diversity population. US corporations which do well at home have already succeeded in marketing and distributing for a great number of consumers. For American companies, the jump from national to international marketing and distribution is not as great as it is for those from smaller countries. Further, American companies, can afford to spend a great deal of money marketing their products around the world, and are able to undercut the prices of local products.

It is worth nothing that, for entertainment, fast food, carbonated drinks and so on- areas in which the US has come to dominate- America was first in field. The availability of new technologies to people of all classes had a big influence on them. For instance moving pictures; with the occurring of cheap TV sets everyone had access to films, news and mainly commercials.

2.1.3    Why American success continued

Much of American culture’s success appears to lie in the fact that American corporations are wealthy, and that they were ahead of others in certain areas. But how have they continued this dominance? One answer to this lies in the fact that people associated the United States with wealth and Success; this is particularly true in countries from which many people have emigrated to America. The idealized view of America as the land of the free, where the streets are paved with gold, lives on. By purchasing American products, people can buy a little of the country’s glamour. Wearing western clothes, eating western things makes you look like a wealthy westerner. American culture has the added appeal that not only is it glamorous, it is also usually easy to digest. This applies to products from the sweet fizzy taste of Coca Cola to Hollywood action movies. US culture is generally unsophisticated, and so can be appreciated by everyone. American TV shows and movies rarely have an unhappy ending, and are usually fast-paces, holding your attention with car chases and love scenes.

2.1.4    Globalization and the Future

American culture today owes its dominance to combination of glamour, technology, marketing and the US massive wealth. But there are pockets of resistance. Other countries also do quite well in the global market for popular culture, such as Great Britain. Some people don’t even know that the USA exists, but this is not to say that they were unfamiliar with the US products. Furthermore, as no other country presently has the critical mass enjoyed by the Americans, it seems likely that US dominance will increase still further, rather than diminish.

In all, globalization is a scary term. It somehow implies the world turning into one giant American- style shopping mall, where cultures, languages, customs, and individual rights are dissolved by commerce. But this is not what globalization has to be about. America itself has been greatly influenced by other cultures- Western and non Western alike. Some Americans have even adopted far east customs and don’t fight against it.

2.2 Cars

In 1885, an obsession began. Daimler and Benz were regarded as the creator of the petrol driven engine, but it was the American Henry Ford who began the mass production of cars, making the motor car available to everyone. This began an obsession which is still as strong today. 90 years later, the huge continent of USA, with its many thousands of miles of highways is producing millions of cars every year.

2.2.1 The Car as a Lifestyle

The 1950s is perhaps the era best known for motor cars and living life in modern Americas “jet age”, an era which formed many of the images of America which remain popular today. Bikers wore black leather, boots and white T-shirts and were considered as juvenile delinquents. Waitresses on roller skates served fries at drive-thru fast food joints and burger bars. Kids spent their time cruising in the streets or hanging out in their cars in the parking lots of bowling alleys. Cars were used for much more than getting from a to B. They were a lifestyle, and for some, an expression of their philosophy of life. The cars of the 50s were huge, shiny chunks of metal decorated with chrome, customized with fins and full of crazy accessories. Some people saw cars as works of art on wheels. They guzzled gas, but nobody cared, because of the enormous cheap prices of fuel. They looked good and environmental pollution hadn’t  even been thought of yet.

2.2.2 Movie Theatres

It is thought that drive- in movie theatres were originally designed to help families get out to see a movie without having to get dressed up or find a babysitter. The first was built in 1933. By the mid- 1950s there were almost 4000 drive-in movie theatres around the US. Today the figure is nearer 1000. The car is like a mobile sitting room where the family watches movies and eats Kiosks sold hot dogs and popcorn and a little piece of American culture was formed. For young people in a time before youth clubs, discos and shopping malls, the drive-in movie theatre was the place to go, to be seen and hang out. Occasionally the teens would even catch a movie, but usually they used the privacy of the car for making out.

2.2.3 Food on the go

Drive-in fast food outlets, burger bars and taco joints quickly caught on to meet the demands the mobile consumer, and these businesses are still growing today. Originally, waitresses would hook a tray on your window ledge so you could eat in front of the restaurant, actually in your car. These days people prefer to drive straight through and take their food away.

2.2.4 Weddings on wheels

Las Vegas is famous for its glitzy casinos and tacky wedding chapels where you can get married quickly and cheaply. But did there are even drive-thru wedding chapels, where the bride and groom don’t have to get out of the car. They drive up, park, and the ceremony is conducted through the car window.

2.2.5 Life in the fast lane

One of the most recent drive-thru business ideas is the drive-thru espresso coffee bar. It seems that like in the fast lane these days is so fast that people don’t even have time to grab a coffee, sit down and chat with friends. There are drive- thru minimarts, which seem like a good idea if you have kids in your car and you cant park, but a drive- thru liquid store, which was opened a few weeks ago seems crazy, but not in America.



2.3 Guns

2.3.1 Where did the American passion for guns originate?

When the original thirteen colonies that were America in the 1770s decided to unite and refuse to pay homage and taxes to the King of England, it was the peoples ability to defend themselves against the British and mercenary army that allowed them to declare their independence and write their own constitution. Many Americans, therefore, regard the right to own and bear arms as a fundamental principle because American freedom and democracy was founded on the gun. In 1791, just a year after the constitution was written, the second amendment to the Constitution stated: A well- regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It is only 150 years since the Wild West was still a pretty wild place. Cowboys and pioneers staked their claims on the prairies and in the western states, where they sometimes came into conflict with the native peoples and other settlers. However, they didn’t just use their guns to shoot each other. Hunting and protection from animals was a major part of their food source and survival. Firearms were a part of daily culture- peoples response to or interaction with their environment.

Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Lennon share the sad fate of being popular public figures who were shot and killed by gunmen. There are over 1000 accidental deaths caused by firearms every year in the USA.

Yet despite these alarming facts, many Americans argue for and fight fiercely to protect their right to own and carry guns. As gun violence increases, people become increasingly scared of crime and violence and buy more guns to protect themselves. The fear and paranoia is self-perpetuating and the American love affair with guns, like many affairs, sometimes becomes a love-hate relationship.

2.3.2 The National Rifle Association

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a very powerful and successful interest group in America. Founded in 1871, it has about three million members, a staff of 350 and an operation budget of $5,5 million. Organized ostensibly to promote rifle, pistol and shotgun, hunting, gun- collecting, home firearm safety and wildlife conservation, the organization has been extremely effective in mobilizing its members to block attempts at introducing gun control measures even though some of these measures are supported by the majority of the population surveyed in opinion polls. The NRA provides many benefits to its members, including sporting magazines and discounts on equipment. Though the general public may support gun controls, it is neither organized nor intense. The highly organized NRA, despite representing a minority view, often prevails because its members are so dedicated and active.

2.3.3 The right to carry concealed firearms

Thirty-one out of the fifty states now have “right-to-carry” laws, permitting citizens to carry concealed firearms. Half the US population, including 60% of handgun owners, live in those 31 states. A survey carried out by the University of Chicago states that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes, and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths. These states have lower overall violent crime rates, compared to states without right-to-carry laws.

2.3.4 The extent of gun violence

Firearm violence is currently the second leading cause of injury related death in the United States, behind automobile-related fatalities, and the violence is continuing to increase. In Texas and Louisiana- with the highest numbers of guns per person- the numbers of firearm fatalities in 1991 was actually greater than the number of automobile fatalities. By the year 2003, firearm fatalities are projected to become the leading cause of injury-related death. Males had a fatality rate six times that of females. The fatality rates for Blacks was nearly three times that for whites.

2.3.5 Unintentional shootings

There is a terrible paradox about people who keep firearms for protection in their home. Keeping a weapon easily accessible and ready for use increases the risk of accidents enormously. Half of all hand gun owners say that they keep their firearms in an unlocked place. This is very dangerous, especially for children, who don’t know the fatal effects a firearm could do. People who have been personally affected by guns, either through the loss of family or friends, have the strongest feelings- and often determination- to change or defend the laws concerning firearms. The debate will continue, but firearms are still very much a way of life in America.

2.4 The American Society

2.4.1 The American Dream of a Classless Society

One of the chief factors which have formed American society is the belief in the equality of all human beings characteristic of the Age of Reason, the period when the USA was formed. This idea is the philosophical root of the American dream of a classless society where the common man is free to build his life in accordance with his natural abilities. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are pointed out by the Declaration of Independence as fundamental, inalienable rights, whose protection constitutes the only justification of governmental authority. These beliefs have encouraged a confidence in progress and perfectibility which applies to the civilization created by man as well as to man himself.

Although the classless society has so far been realized only to a very limited extent, it is an interesting fact that among the highly industrialized nations of the world, America is the only country which has no socialist party of any importance which represents the interest of the working class. Even trade unionism was not a significant factor until Great Depressions, which destroyed the traditional belief that in the USA any man can eventually earn enough money to become an independent businessman or even an employer himself.

The fact that, at the time when the USA was founded, fifty per cent of the population in the South was legally considered chattels did not disturb the American dream in an age in which slavery was an accepted social pattern. Growing awareness of the debt “the classless society” owed to its members was the main cause of a civil war which resulted in the abolition of slavery but did not solve the problem of racial discrimination.

2.4.2 The Influence of Religion

The influence of religion on American life has always been strong. A stimulus provided from the earliest days of colonization was the Puritan settlers belief that they were Gods chosen people, called to take possession of their promised land. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination became a basis of the American work ethic. The belief that success was a visible sign of Gods grace, which man cannot acquire by good work, inspired the wish to achieve success through hard work.

The evangelical Protestantism of the 19th century added the principle of charity, which makes it as obligatory to dispose of wealth as the belief in success makes it desirable to acquire it. In no country of the world has property ruthlessly acquired been so lavishly distributed in charities and public endowments as in the USA. This is particularly obvious in the world-wide support of scientific, educational and humanitarian activities by the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford foundations. The effectiveness of private charity may have been one of the factors preventing socialist thought from gaining influence in American society, all the more so as trade unions have very often proved as manipulative as big business. The conception of social welfare as an obligation of the government came later in the USA than in most other countries. The American attitude towards Communism has been determined by social factors and Christian rejection of atheist ideologies as much as by aversion to Communist oppression in other countries.

2.4.3 Youth Movements

The youth movement of the 60s was basically a revolt against the subjection of the individual to the impersonal forces of the establishment. It began as a students revolt on the campuses of the big universities, whose aims were voiced by the Students for a Democratic Society. The “New Left” sympathized with other anti-establishment groups like the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Action Movement.

Most young people in America, however, were not politically engaged. True to the American myth of total individual independence, they questioned the whole principle of a society tied to material values. Shunning private property as detrimental to their freedom many gathered in communes did not care to take up steady jobs. Some travelled for years all over the world with nothing but a rucksack and a sleeping bag. The lack of responsibility or purpose may account for the liberal use of drugs by some of these groups.

The hippies received extensive news coverage in the Sixties, chiefly because of their sexual promiscuity. Although politically largely inactive, they joined the protest against the Vietnam War with their slogan “Make love, not war!”,

Growing alarm at the anarchical tendencies of many of these groups caused rigorous action on the part of the authorities, which heralded the decline of militant student power and resulted in resignation among the young generation, The recession of the 70s added economic aspects to the general disillusionment. Students intent on passing exams in order to find employment were no longer interested in revolts.

Some remnants of the former militancy are found in the punks and the skinheads, The punks, who tend to attract attention with their eccentric hairdos, have shown sympathy with the Left, e.g. by demonstrating against the US Central American policy and in support of disarmament and “animal liberation”. Skinheads who like to shave their heads and to decorate their bodies with tattoos, manifest neo-Nazi sentiments in their graffiti with slogans like “White Unity” or “No Jews”. In contrast to these groups, the smart yuppies (young urban professionals) reflect the happy self-assurance of the Reagan era: career-orientated, they seek material success rather than social and political changes.

2.4.4 Pop culture

The spirit of rebellion created its own lifestyles and symbols. The dirty blue jeans, the long hair shunning the barber, the battered car- these were symbols accepted by many young people who wished to demonstrate at least some sort of progressiveness. The tendency, strongly supported by profit-seeking industries, to raise the most trivial objects to the level of cultural symbols and values, coupled with the predilection of the flower children for gay colours, helped to create what is known as pop culture. Starting as popular art, it reached all spheres if modern culture. Fashion, stage decoration, advertising, dancing, music, literature felt its influence. Its adherents were sociable and communicative, participants in rather than spectators of the scene. They delighted in happenings, provocative fashions, shocking colours and noise. People of this time were fascinated by the upcoming electronic age and were longing for communication.

2.4.5 Films

The film/movie industry has become a multi-billion-dollar business, not only in the USA. Whereas the early films at the beginning of the 20th century were silent movies shot in black and white, films today are mainly with sound and in colour and are presented in 70mm and Dolby Stereo on the screen. There are big-budget films produces by large movie companies (like MGM/United Artists, Columbia Pictures, AOL Time Warner) and low-budget, often independent films. Americas heart of film Production is beating in Hollywood. Nearly every big film Company has their studios there and produces hundreds of films per year. With the spreading of TV sets, cinemas and other visual technologies the companies grew enormous due to large budgets for commercials and other advertising campaigns.

Today America is the leading film exporting country in the world. Popular broadcasts and films are dubbed in nearly every language all over the world.

TV has always a big influence on the American civilization. This development had brought Home-Shopping Canals, Religion Canals and a mass of everyday news and weather broadcasts. Hollywood has created certain human types and patterns of behaviour which embody the ambitions and dreams of the American population. The American Western gave a sophisticated world a new romance in which adventure and violence blended with sentimentality and the moral satisfaction of seeing the villain punished and the virtuous hero rewarded.










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