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Friday, July 14, 2017

An email from South Africa


I am from the Republic of South Africa. Today on YouTube I stumbled upon an RT interview, 'On Contact' with Chris Hedges, wherein you appeared as guest. This was concerning your book 'Postcards from the end of America'. I have not read any of your own work, so I am basing my opinion and perceptions on the way in which you were presented in the interview (That being said, I am making attempts in obtaining your book).

Poverty has always been a part of the social fabric of South African society. Yet it seems like our structure and infrastructure may very well soon be reduced to a state whereby poverty becomes the referable standard. So I am not too uninformed and inexperienced when it comes to recognizing and processing the effects and transitions of poverty. This has lead many friends and family seeking alternative options to a country that is fast collapsing under a spiral of corruption and poverty.

I have to point out that I am a white South African. And as you may know this placed me in a very (historically and collectively framed) privileged material position in a society that was very unfair and unequal (Despite my father coming to South Africa with basically nothing from Rhodesia, and my mother who was from a working-class background). I myself am currently sort of in a in-between class: working-class and whatever warped historical class I find myself in that is neither that of poverty nor abundance, and yet not middle-class. The point I am trying to make is that I have not suffered direct poverty myself and yet that 'whiteness', even from a country that blatantly discriminated in favour of my race, does not mean that one is immune to socio-economic hardships. South Africa is fantastically warped. And so too, it seems, the United States.

What almost every person tells me upon returning from a visit to the United States (with my sister and brother-in-law currently working as legal immigrants in Los Angeles), is the disproportionate levels of poverty when compared to the media we get depicting the US. For someone from the third world your functioning public and civil infrastructure may be impressive and utopianesque. Even your display of grandeur (everything is BIG in the US) and overabundance become pleasantly overbearing to someone not accustomed to this intensity of materialism, (and who yearns this material comfort for his or herself). But for someone from a country considered both first and third world I am able to see past the showroom Hollywood and McDonald's exterior. The US is indeed far away from being a third world country, but you are also far away from being "America".

I have never visited the US, yet I will take your word and the testimony of my friends and family: 'Something is very wrong'.

As an outsider in my own country I am also able to see things others may not be able to see so clearly. We are also paying a price whereby we sell our cultural and communal trust for the illusional promise of material comfort, only to get a devastating and disenfranchising alienation of self and community in the process. However, what makes the reality more terrifying is that the bastion of material abundance and capitalism, the symbol that tells the rest of the world that it is a viable and possible reality (we only need to survive the birth pains of our capitalism), is itself rotting at the core. And by this I am not referring to the good and honest people of the United States. I am referring to the macro-economic ideology and systems that is eating away at human decency, at values that at one stage did justify the 'American Dream'.

Thank you for trying to give a voice to the average people of the United States. Thank you for taking on the deafening noise that is the popular and economic media attempting to brainwash the rest of the world. We are slowly becoming aware that behind your polished and unabashed exterior there lies a tired and desperate people with their own stories to tell. They are not as different from us, and this should dispel the undeserved hatred or ill informed praise we as foreigners may have of them. Your effort illustrates that we should not give up on a people devoured by brutal systems in silence, no matter how 'privileged' we may assume they are.

I do not have much hope for the America we have come to know through the idealism of the media, but I have hope in the humanity of the people of America. Maybe soon we may be able to see each other again as people and not ideologies. And as a good people, I hope that Americans survive this era of greed and manipulation so that they may once more become an inspiration and example for humanity that this world so desperately requires.



Patricia said...

Thank you for posting this. And many thanks to the email's author, who shows an empathy that I rarely see among Americans. I am very moved by his or her words.


Anonymous said...

What's a 3rd world country SA emailer? I don't know what that means but take a walk down the street in a "rich" suburb where the folk are doing the 'mental patient property value dance' and you'll see people dying for change, sometimes dying to drink, and then dying while the irritable in their cars drive by. Walking medical problems that need to be addressed. The white collars are getting fucked up too. I am guessing Linh's effort in part is to capture details of a 3rd world country of some kind, namely the USA. Are Americans capable of sympathy anymore or is that a thought crime? Empathize sounds like you'll kick the losers in the face if they have it comin' but you still "feel for 'em."

Maybe give people more credit? They don't buy it anymore if they say it in the news. The folk are much too cynical for any "City on a Hill" horseshit that never was. This might be progress after all.

Anonymous said...

"this era of greed and manipulation"

THIS era?

The US was made by
-exploiting the native Americans,
-then by exploiting black African slaves,
-then by exploiting the vast free resource from the STOLEN North American continent,
-then by exploiting the destruction of other nations during WW 1 & 2,
-then by exploiting the abundant Arab oil with the petro-dollar standard,
-and even today by exploiting the Federal reserve printing press.

The US has in its essence exploitation & greed & murder & theft. Fact!

"may once more become an inspiration and example for humanity that
this world so desperately requires."

This was the greatest manipulation of all - the US isn't an inspiration it is only
a flashy & fancy billboard masking a soulless thieving nation. What the world needs is
for the US to dissolve and for USians to get their deserved karmic punishment.


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, and have returned to my native Saigon. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems soon to be released from Chax Press. I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.