Fulbright teaching stint in Indonesia persuades a historian that America's cultural diplomacy is in tatters
QUOTE: My dialogue with Indonesians often became surreal. "Is there grass in Texas?" I was regularly asked of my home state. Obviously Indonesians — having seen far too many old Westerns — supposed that Texas, with some of the most heavily populated urban areas in America, was a veritable wasteland of sagebrush and dust. Indonesians also seemed obsessed with the prevalence of what they called "free sex" in America. Someone finally explained to me that they meant the tendency of Americans to engage in sex before marriage or after divorce — whereas in Indonesia such activity is forbidden, in theory if not in practice. And since many Indonesians in my audiences had seen Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, they were convinced that students in American high schools were heavily armed, just waiting for the opportunity to open fire.
But it was their questions about Moore himself that left me truly befuddled. I was asked continually if the Bush administration had subsidized Moore's movies, including Fahrenheit 9/11. Eventually I realized that such a question revealed an entirely different set of ideas about the relationship between government and culture. Since Indonesians believed that movies, plays, and novels could scarcely exist without the political and financial support of the state, it was hard for them to imagine the existence of a "private" sector in the arts, or the absence of an American ministry of culture.
comments powered by Disqus
- History will be trailing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to the United States.
- Former foes honour Gallipoli's fallen on 100th anniversary
- Website exhibit unveiled for the first gay sit-in
- Climate Change Contributed Towards the Collapse of the Maya
- Armenia debuts website devoted to genocide
- How did common people mourn Lincoln after his passing?
- Stanford historian uncovers the dark roots of humanitarianism
- Historian hailed for offering a history of the culture wars
- Scholars to set the West straight about "Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad"
- Why Eugene Genovese’s 2 sentences about Vietnam went viral in 1965