Archive for February 17th, 2012

Hoffer’s — and My Definition of “American”

Eric Hoffer, whose short biography is worth reading, defined the term “American” as I use it. He was a real worker, a longshoreman on the docks, and went never went to school until he was signed on as a full professor temporarily.

Hoffer wrote his first book, The True Believer, when he was 49.

Considering himself entirely American, he spent his life among American working people and reading widely. He never left the United States once. He said he was on the bridge across to Mexico, smelled the rot, and came back before he reached the Mexican side.

He defined the Kennedys, for example, as Europeans. Like me, he defined all of what we would call the blue states as European. He did not define what he meant, it was a matter of gut feel which was obviously shared by his millions of readers.

A New Englander or a San Franciscan would feel right at home in a European or Canadian voting booth.

Like Mantra Thinking, Hoffer’s “American” is in a constant process of identification. So my mind makes stabs at partial explanations.

One difference, vague as it is, between an American and a European strikes me as what might be called A Search for Authority.

Englishmen probably understand more than Americans when I describe professors as merely the priesthood of Political Correctness. The disastrous experiment with socialism Britain chose at the end of World War II made England by the late 50s economically The Sick Man of Europe. Huge numbers of British workmen were going to Germany to earn double the wages they got in England, and to pay less taxes on them.

After 1945, a huge part of Britain stopped looking to Tradition and the Uppah Clahss. But they substituted professors for them, “degreed” persons, especially from the Labor Party’s London School of Economics. Under the semi-Marxist regime, professors were quoted AND OBEYED by the left the way clergy had once been in the Middle Ages.

Americans reject authority, and they find ways to do it. The Bible, for example, allows Americans to contradict the “eggheads.” and the Bible is as certain to say what they want to believe as Political Correctness and the Rule of the Intellectuals always turns out to be what the professors want to believe.

But the Bible is interpreted by Americans in the teeth of the professors. It always has been.

It is generally known that Americans tend to be both more religious and more anti-clerical than Europeans. We do not respect the word of the clerics, the Authority, but Europeans tend to search for living authorities.

In fact, Europeans really look for their living authorities in America. No one could imagine a Frenchman saying that there is no such thing as a French culture. They were boring about it. But the minute “multiculture” became a Harvard and New York credo, centuries of monomaniacal obsession in Paris with “French Culture” simply evaporated.

So, like Hoffer, I simply discuss the phenomenon of “American” versus “European” instead of trying to define it. Language, as Webster said, is usage. Definition is simply a means of describing usage.