Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Business As Usual in the Imperium Americanum
How to Apply the "Harris Formula":
Famed Irish actor and raconteur Richard Harris loved to tell a story that illustrates how (as he put it) "the British take the best" out of those who hail from their imperial fringes and "throw the rest away".
Harris had appeared on the British stage and screen for over a decade when he won an award at the 1964 Cannes festival for his role in This Sporting Life. The British press announced the good news with the headline, "British Actor Wins Cannes Award". When, a few days later, Harris got into a bar fight, the same press announced, "Irish Actor Involved in Brawl". He tells the story here, from 2:12 to 3:15 (watch the rest of the clip if you want to hear Harris tell one of his famous tales involving Peter O'Toole, yet another Irish actor whom the British claimed as one of their own when it suited them).
I was reminded of Harris' wry observation when I read the Yahoo headline about this year's Razzie Awards on Sunday. The Razzies, a parodic anti-Oscars designed to "celebrate" the worst cinematic performances of the year, awarded Worst Picture to The Love Guru, ill-starring Mike Myers. By all accounts, the award was richly deserved. I was struck, though, by the Yahoo headline: bizarrely, it stated, "Canadian Movie Voted The Worst". A day later, Yahoo removed the story, leaving an "error" page in its wake.
Now Mike Myers, though Canadian-born, has lived and worked in America for over fifteen years and is about as Canadian as Peter Jennings. That is why the American press fastidiously avoided describing Myers' huge box-office hits like Wayne's World, Austin Powers or Shrek as "Canadian movies", just as it has never mistaken James Cameron's movies for "Canadian" products, just as it would never describe massively popular TV phenomena like 24 or Battlestar Galactica as "Canadian", even though both feature largely Canadian casts and though the latter show is filmed almost entirely in Canada.
Apparently, Hollywood productions featuring Canadian ex-pats are "American" when they are excellent and gross millions of dollars and are "Canadian" when they suck and lose millions of dollars. The Harris Formula, then, still applies: the empire takes the best out of us, and throws the rest away. It's a formula that has endless applications. To wit:
1) Canadian-made General Motors vehicles shall be considered "American" if they provide years of safe, reliable service and "Canadian" if they need frequent, significant or expensive repairs;
2) Joint U.S.-Canada NATO operations in Afghanistan shall be considered "American" if they succeed and "Canadian" if they fail;
3) American-made firearms smuggled into Canada shall be considered "Canadian" when used in the commission of criminal offences and "American" when used by little old ladies to fend off burglars and purse-snatchers;
4) North American weather patterns shall be considered "American" when they provide clement conditions and "Canadian" when they cause storms, tidal waves, hurricanes and other climatic nuisances.
Mind you, the Harris Formula can operate in reverse, as America seems all too ready to take our worst. Unbelievably, in an act either of selfless courage or of suicidal recklessness, they were willing to take custody even of Rachel Marsden. The application of that particular cultural laxative may be worth, alone, every bit of imperial insolence we take from them.
Why do the media insist on reporting Barack Obama's stated belief that Americans invented the automobile as a "gaffe"? Sure, Benz and Daimler patented and produced German cars decades before an American equivalent appeared, but pointing that meaningless factoid out is precisely the kind of petty, pedantic, knee-jerk anti-Americanism that emboldens the terrorists and puts the West in serious jeopardy.
Clearly, too many over-educated, élitist journalists still don't get it: "reality" does not mean "stuff that actually happened, is happening or will happen"; it means "stuff that Americans make up in order to feel messianic, omnipotent and omniscient". If Americans had rooted their culture in a respect for facts and reason, they'd still be a Sabbath-honouring populist republic with a small citizen militia, an ethic of Puritan moderation and a loathing for unearned wealth, privilege and military interventionism--in other words, semi-socialist losers.
Obama's delusional grandstanding is moved by precisely the kind of Nietzschean self-glorification and ass-in, knees-up, balls-out fanaticism that has made America great. Facts are needed only by people who don't have the guts to believe in lies, which is why Obama's countrymen feel that Canadians and their history deserve each other.
Bonus American Superhumanity!:
On Tuesday, Bobby Jindal, thirty-seven-year-old governor of Louisiana, delivered the Republican response to Obama's address to the nation. This opportunity to rehabilitate the battle-scarred GOP with a young face and fresh voice turned into a poisoned chalice for Jindal, as he disgorged what even friendly critics have described as one of the worst speeches ever delivered by a major American political figure. Jindal's self-authored fiasco appears to have dealt blunt-force trauma to what were realistic chances of competing in the GOP's 2012 primaries and then strangled them with a length of piano wire for good measure.
That's a shame, because the speech is comic gold. The son of immigrants, Jindal relates how his parents were filled with the "immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America". He told his audience how his Indian father had seen "extreme poverty" and how the old man was awe-struck when he saw the "endless variety on [grocery store] shelves" without mentioning that his parents came to America as graduate students enrolled at Louisiana State University--rather than as illiterate peasants with but two dollars in their pockets between them--and that Baton Rouge could have shown his father plenty of poverty and hordes of people unable to afford the grocery-store cornucopia he so admired if he had dared to ever wander far enough beyond the safe, middle-class enclave he settled in.
Throughout his speech, Jindal's refrain was, literally, "Americans can do anything". Yes, perhaps the man is just a Jim Morrison enthusiast. More likely, though, he was carried away by that peculiarly American fashion of being a Christian--namely, by refusing to rely on faith in the (allegedly) All-Mighty and, cutting out the middle-man, acting as their own miracle-maker--their own God.
Hey, as long as that bloody "Buy American" clause doesn't prevent Canadian firms from bidding on the inevitable Tower of Babel and Golden Calf construction procurements, it's all good!