My apologies for the late reply—I got so absorbed in the (interesting) posts of others that I forgot my own! Many thanks to you, Geoff, by the way, for creating such a valuable and timely site.
AnyaH-vdL: I would agree that Disneyland - and the way of life it stands for - feels like a fate, but it certainly is also entirely unreal, a self-perpetuating, contentless image - a simulacrum, as Baudrillard has argued. Maybe that's what makes it so compelling and also much harder to sell to any culture with a strong moral belief system (like Islam).
Yes, exactly. This is the real threat, and combating this is the hardest thing. In the words of Heidegger, ‘Only a God can save us now.’
But this seems to fly a little in the face of your next point...
AnyaH-vdL: I'd agree that we are all adopting the outward signs of American culture, however, does that really mean "becoming American"?
For me, largely yes, because for me there are no inward signs of American culture, except the progressive and largely imperceptible annihilation of the inward, altogether, like those horrific bacterial infections that turn organs—here spiritual organs—into mush.
It’s a culture of annihilating surface—a bacterial culture.
AnyaH-vdL: And if so, what does becoming American mean? To me, what you describe sounds like a colonial effort.
No doubt, but the first colony colonized by this bacterial culture, as Wyatt suggested elsewhere, was America itself, and (some) Americans have been its loudest (and most hopeless) critics.
Thoreau was maybe the first to sense its morbid effect, but America was still young and strong then, and the bacteria hates fresh air and open spaces, preferring the climate-controlled atmosphere of malls and cineplexes. The first real alarms came from Europe, which, having spawned the Church of America, was now facing an almost Biblical retribution. Consider Nietzsche’s Philippics against colonization by the old-world’s America, that “nation of shopkeepers” with their “flat-headed utilitarianism”; or a half-century later, when the struggle against the disease was already being lost, in Rilke: “Now, from America, empty indifferent things are pouring across, sham things, dummy life”.
The astonishing rapidity and seeming implacability of that colonization of Europe—though aided, of course, by Europe’s own suicidal stupidity in the first half of that century—is why, for all my abhorrence of the injustices typical of the authoritarianism being feared in the ‘fiscal failure’ thread, this, for me, is the greatest, most real and present danger; since, especially with the dizzying proliferation of i-technologies, the immune system must be very strong indeed to resist such a disease, immune systems are slow-growing organic things, and most importantly, as Wyatt memorably notes, ‘no one comes back from Disneyland.’
AnyaH-vdL: However, in colonial and postcolonial cultures the colonized also have an effect on the colonizers (to find an image for this within your Disneyland metaphor: there is a replica of the German castle of Neuschwanstein in Disneyland).
But thanks to America, there is now a replica in Neuschwanstein, too.
Euro Disney is just a feint, to make Europeans feel ‘deep’.
AnyaH-vdL: So, maybe part of the reason why the American attempts at colonizing are failing now also lies in the American unwillingness to interact with Islamic cultures as a whole.
The key here lies in the 'interact', I think.
The bacteria's usual line of assault, unforgettably demonstrated in the Cold War--or better, Warm War--victory over communism, is a delicate and dynamic mix of 'hard lines and soft drugs'; in the model case, ‘sanctions + MTV’. This is why it was so gratifying for the Americans to (apparently--but who cares, it's good cinema!) find pornography in Bin Laden's bedroom (though what he does there is, of course, 'none of our business').
And so the Russians banned their science fiction of alternate worlds, blocked their internet, sent tanks into their Tiananmen Square, and rolled along as a seemingly unstoppable authoritarian juggernaut, until they didn't anymore.