Where the US erred | Daily News


Where the US erred

During World War II, serving as a US Naval Officer, the prolific writer James A Michener, wrote several novels, profiles and travelogues. One of his well-known collections of travel stories titled as ‘Tales From South Pacific’ happened to be one of the most interesting contributions that reached the reader in the capacity of a travelogue cum a creative collection of tales. The book, I had the opportunity of reading last week was yet another strange encounter titled ‘The Quality of Life’ (1970). The work, social comment and enquiry into the life of the USA.

Though the subject areas are confined to the culture and ethos of the United States, yet the inferences may indicate the similarities one observes in other states and their cultures. The reference and interpretation are indicated into eight broad topics:

1. Saving the city.

2. Adjusting to race

3. Education

4. Youth

5. Communications

6. Preserving our environment

7. The population cancer

8. What we must do

As the main reason for writing these interpretations, Michener says that as he had the chance of working in other countries, he had the chance to see the United States from a distance to see it whole, to see it through the eyes of others, to judge its true position in the world today.

Michener is seen abstaining from harsh conclusions in his comparisons as he requires his document to be more analytical and communicative. But he refers to those who say that ‘if you want to know what’s wrong with the US, live in London, Tokyo, Rome and Madrid. This comment has gone a long way in the very approach of whiplash as he states.

As such, he had concluded that America is a nation with many flaws which only the stupid would deny but with hopes so vast that only the cowardly would refuse to acknowledge them. Drawing a certain degree of a conclusion, the writer further says that the people, as well as the cultural patterns in the US, are not much different, therefore from the great nations of the world and it has enormous opportunities to accomplish good yet it contains within themselves, the seeds of one’s own destruction.

One more intention of writing the book seems to be the completion of two centuries as a contiguous nation, indicating four other nations in the world: Great Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and Thailand. The writer too states that this view held by him will not be firmly approved or appreciated by some discerning readers and critics of governments and political communication. In the opening chapter ‘Saving the City,’ the writer says that the US is a country that possessed a generation of people who had the option of rejecting the city if they wished. The automobile new systems of marketing and communication plus the superior attractiveness of the suburbs enable us to live and love quite satisfactory lives while ignoring the city.

But he says that the consequences of the rejection are observed now as becoming graver day by day during the period gone by in the last century. He cites Philadelphia as a prime example of the problems that arose in the course of shifting from the city to suburbs.

The phenomenon is cited as the shifting from a city-centred culture to a suburb centred culture. He believes that the reverberations of those problems will echo along every country lane in a given area of living.

In Chapter Two titled ‘Adjusting to Race’, the writer basically discusses diverse views pertaining to the race relations that exist in various cities of the US. He refers to the black population and their attitudes and behaviour patterns as well that had drawn attention in the creation of various creative works discussed in the English-reading world. HE provides comparative situations in other countries like Japan, England and Hawaii. The writer-researcher believes that it is only via a sound education the narrow barriers of racism could be eliminated.

Taking the cue from race relations, the writer goes on to the chapter on Education, I found as a reader that this is more or less an expansion of a continuation when the writers say that the principal avenue by which the Negro (black population) can attain economic equality is still education. Other things like job opportunities must be safeguarded but the major goal remains education. As such, the only way the US cities could be revived is through education.

As complexity grows, education becomes more important, not less. He too emphasises with supporting data to the need to build better schools and seats of learning that lead to better teaching methods. He also tries as far back as possible to identify the friends as well as the foes in the field of education, a factor he believes as a controversial issue all throughout the centuries.

Followed by the interpretation of education, enter the interpretation of youth. The writer commenced the interpretation in the following manner:

“If you took one hundred young people of almost any area (in the US) you would find that about 85 were living average lives attending schools with an intention of learning, preparing themselves for constructive work, and in general behaving in conformity to long accepted standards.” The writer adds that they form, as they have always formed, the great solid bulwark of the nation and they can be trusted to maintain the stable services of the society. In his own findings, the writer says that a majority of the youth he has met differs from the earlier generation in three respects. First, he says a large percentage of the experiment themselves in varying aspects pertaining to drugs. Second, the group of youth who regard themselves as anti-revolutionary and would not be so active even if they are convinced.

They are perhaps not disposed to a revolution of any kind, though they can become more or less active or activate others. Thirdly the group of youth, who possess a degree of the generation gap. This means the gap that the youth had created themselves as being aloof from their elderly generation of fellow beings, like the parents and teachers. The writer underlines the fact that this factor is evidently overwhelmingly to be ignored.

The writer provides sufficient data to prove this via observation and interviews. The material and the interpretations laid down in the chapter on communications is a well-presented document. The facts are woven around events drawn from actual functions of the media channels like press, TV, and other related areas. As regards, the concept of the free press, the writer states a free press is essential not to threaten individuals or defame them but to respect all groups.

Freedom of the press is explained by the writer through quite a number of actual social events that he had unearthed. Referring to TV, the writer says that television not antithetical to education. Children nurtured by the tube learn faster than others, acquire large vocabularies, build more extensive cognitive bases from which to think and acquire horizons that are vastly expanded. The conclusive factor is that whether they have an intensive intellectual exercise or experience is open to doubt, but nevertheless, they are educated in a different way is obvious. As for the reason, the writer says that he is fearless as regards the advent of the television generation. The work surpasses the mere barriers of good faith on social issues, but also on independent free expression of one’s sensitive observations for the prodigy.

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