A photograph in a recent Brookings report on the advent of nation-wide preschool in India shows four year olds surrounded by the typical Western educational paraphernalia that introduces them to ‘stuff’.
European intellectuals have long lamented the Americanization of the world, and already in the nineties, Michel Beaud, Serge Latouche and Andre Gorz among others were introducing the no-growth movement that is still not a major focus in the US. Our pundits faithfully pay lip service to the official ideology that more is better, unable to criticize the consumerism that backs their paychecks. This inevitably leads to lifestyle issues dominating the news, the ‘me too’ movement currently occupying center stage as increasing numbers of male personalities are accused of sexual harassment — and even rape.
American morality is a rocky marriage between Born Again Christianity’s commitment to ‘purity’ and the ‘jock’ culture that can be traced to the rough but earnest cowboy. Long before either of these phenomena, the Pilgrims forced unfaithful women to sew a ‘scarlet letter’ onto their clothing. Today, Vice-President Mike Pence, besides denying global warming, carries forth the Puritan’s unhealthy attitude toward sex.
When the me-too movement reached France, Catherine Deneuve expressed what many French women were thinking Atlantic: that it threatened both courtship and pleasure. Recently, President Macron increased the sentences for violence against women, in particular spousal murder; but French men are probably reacting to the empowerment of women, while America’s obsession with ‘rights’ ignores mutual pleasure, leaving many men and women unsatisfied in a basic area of human life. And while Europeans may be likely to conduct extra-marital affairs, instead of ‘the American lover’, the association of pleasure with sin makes married American men more likely to harass and even aggress women than to cultivate better sex with their wives.
This said, even some progressive Americans are uncomfortable with the in-your-face LGBT movement, while business can only welcome gay, queer, and trans men and women parading through city streets, affirming their difference and creating a separate consumer culture.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent statement that ‘liberalism’s time has passed’ was misinterpreted as being about sex, when in fact it was about the West’s largely unsuccessful efforts to assimilate non-white migrants, (to be dealt with in a separate article). His attitude toward the gay community is contained in the statement that: “Truly free societies must be rooted in tradition and authentic spirituality and are not compatible with the public acceptance and celebration of perversion.” While initiating a law that forbids publicizing that behavior to children President Putin repeated in a recent interview that in the privacy of their homes, people could have the sex life they wanted. In the US, what originated with the Pilgrims as the ultimate ‘individual’ freedom, being allowed to pray directly to God rather than through a priest, ended up placing ‘rights’ above ‘responsibility,’ and freedom to act above the moral sense humans are born with.
Recent accusations that a friend of President Trump lures fifteen year old girls to his bedroom with requests for massages implies that they are naive, rather than free to make decisions about their bodies. And yet, progressive Americans need to find a way to place ‘rights’ in a different relationship to freedom. At the very least they need to recognize that for those young women, sex-on-command is a get rich scheme partly dictated by the worship of things.