And noting that maybe it is difficult for foreign writers to understand any country they survey (“Breen’s Syndrome”)
Bernard Henry-Levi has just written a book (sort of) attempting to (kind of) retrace (but not exactly) De Tocqueville’s steps way back in 1835/40 (it included a sequel, you see). And although he is apparently a quite clever man he just can’t make anything seem to fit together.
Here is a lovely quote from the usually benificent (though crankier as he ages) Garrison Keillor:
And good Lord, the childlike love of paradox – America is magnificent but mad, greedy and modest, drunk with materialism and religiosity, puritan and outrageous, facing toward the future and yet obsessed with its memories. Americans’ party loyalty is “very strong and very pliable, extremely tenacious and in the end somewhat empty.” Existential and yet devoid of all content and direction. The partner-swapping club is both “libertine” and “conventional,” “depraved” and “proper.” And so the reader is fascinated and exhausted by Lévy’s tedious and original thinking: “A strong bond holds America together, but a minimal one. An attachment of great force, but not fiercely resolute. A place of high – extremely high – symbolic tension, but a neutral one, a nearly empty one.”
Sounds just like Breen freaking out about Korea.
I suppose an outsider does see systemic contradictions more clearly, but must they all prattle on about it?