No claim on ambition

October 31, 2003

Bill Durodié unwittingly illustrates one of the sources of the anti-American feeling that he hopes to understand ("The fear and self-loathing in Las Vegas", THES, October 24).

When he claims that "ambition, success and experimentation" are "American values", he invokes a familiar myth in which the rest of us are content to live according to our traditions, fearful of change and jealous of the successes of restlessly experimental American enterprise.

But ambitious experiment abounds outside the US. China, for example, is busily re-inventing its economic system. The Chinese show no lack of ambition or willingness to try something new.

Much of American culture is rather nostalgic, conservative and fearful.

This is hardly surprising. Those who fear change most are those with most to lose, and, in economic terms, that is the US.

One source of anti-American feeling is the sound of Americans claiming common human virtues for themselves alone.

Brendan Larvor
University of Hertfordshire

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