A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

American Concerns, Part 2

My visits to the United States were of short duration–more or less six days in Virginia, more or less three days in New York City. Still, I was able to leave the United States with some definite impressions. I don’t think I’m too badly unqualified to comment on the United States. Between Toronto on the one hand and the United States on the other, the thing that struck me most was the energy of the United States. I’m pretty sure that this impression didn’t spring fully-formed from my wide-eyed Islander innocence: Toronto struck me as more relaxed than New York City, more even than Richmond. it wasn’t a matter of ethnic diversity or lack thereof, of wealth or lack thereof, just a kind of doggedness. The United States has a certain energy to it that Canada doesn’t have, and that the rest of the West doesn’t have.

The United States strikes me as a Nietzchean society, and not necessarily in a bad way, either. Though Nietzche’s philosophy did lend itself to a justification of Naziism, Nietzcheanism isn’t destined to end in apocalypse and genocide: Nietzche himself disdained anti-Semitism and wasn’t a racist, and wouldn’t have approved of his sister’s very odd colony in Paraguay. Still, in the United States’ aggressiveness–will to power, if you will–in its embrace of a dynamic capitalist economy driven by the need for Schumpeterian creative destruction, its social Darwinism, I do see a philosophy of public life that does bear some resemblance to nietzcheanism. After all, Ayn Rand is by far biggest in the United States: Hardly anyone reads The Fountainhead outside of the US.

That said, the United States might be Nietzchean, but if it is it is a kind Nietzcheanism. I do agree with James Bodi, my Toronto host and friend, that “the US has been as decent to Canada as a huge, aggressive and chaotically governed polity can be.” I’m just afraid what might happen to the US if its Nietzcheanism isn’t moderated.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2002 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Assorted

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