Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Reading list Update: Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters.

This springs from a lengthy article in the Times I've finally sat down to read after being sent it by Cara Sposa over the weekend. I'm very interested in capturing that complex interplay between spirit and brain and person and culture that goes into making a story, and who knows that more than she, poor thing?

Here's the way I see it: Globalization, however it may benefit, is part of the ongoing elimination of possibility from human experience through standardization of culture. As with all human conflicts, the parties in conflict influence each other, so it is often confusing to see which side is actually dominating the other, since both sides are influencing each other's response. In the end, the two parties in conflict are so shaped by each other that they lose local cohesion and become amassed in the global culture.

Don't get me wrong, I understand how heavily influenced by the U.S. global culture is, but that's more a passing phase of history and will probably be very different by the time I retire. Nevertheless, I have to take some exception to the idea that this is Western or American intrusion on Eastern microcultures, and is rather a two-way street of mutual absorption, but the article Watters makes some interesting observations and I'd like to share one particularly poignant point:

All cultures struggle with intractable mental illnesses with varying degrees of compassion and cruelty, equanimity and fear. Looking at ourselves through the eyes of those living in places where madness and psychological trauma are still embedded in complex religious and cultural narratives, however, we get a glimpse of ourselves as an increasingly insecure and fearful people. Some philosophers and psychiatrists have suggested that we are investing our great wealth in researching and treating mental illness — medicalizing ever larger swaths of human experience — because we have rather suddenly lost older belief systems that once gave meaning and context to mental suffering.
And that is one more reason the stories matter to me.