Rethinking AmericanDelusions

Baby shouting to her friend

Recent conversations about AmericanDelusions (AD) has brought me around to new thinking about the organizing principles of AD and how to make the content more useful and accessible.

What are the underlying ideas of American life?

So, exactly what do I mean by referring to “delusions”? As noted in the introductory essay “American Delusions“:

Every society creates delusions, myths and stories to explain where it came from and how it works. These are so engrained in the culture that they form a central base for how members interpret their relationship to the environment and to family, neighbors, and society at large. These delusions are taught to us by our parents, extended families, schools, religions, government, and corporations. Mass media reinforce them continuously. The rich and corporations understand this quite well and seek to exploit our need to understand our place in society and how that society works. They support and, as required create, delusions that shield or justify their activities and the gains from those activities.

What I have not done is to articulate the myths and stories that form American culture. Up to now I have assumed that I know what they are and that readers likewise know them. In part I have been stimulated by the early chapters in Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens – a brief history of humankind 1 in which he points out how the development of language enabled us to communicate among ourselves and pass knowledge along. Significantly, language also created the capacity to talk about things that don’t exist. In the pre-science world that constitutes most of our history this meant that explanations for how things worked in both the physical and social world were largely myths. Now I am undertaking research into American social and political culture. An interesting source so far has been to look at materials developed by various institutions and others to explain American culture to new immigrants and foreign students. Much work remains to be done.

The ultimate goal is to create a list of the key ideas, myths, stories, and fantasies that constitute our culture and then organize the analysis here at AD around that list.

More will follow.


Also published on Medium.

Footnotes

  1. Harari, Yuval N. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, 2018.