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Mtl_zack's avatar

Why is the world so America-centralized?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6725 points ) February 26th, 2009

Whenever there is a conflict, the main question is “how will America react?”. Whenever there is an American event, everyone crowds around the TV to see it. Whenever you hear an acronym, such as CIA, you think of the Central Intelligence Agency of America, but never the Central Intelligence Committee of India or China or Iceland. Whenever there is something going on in the news about America, the news broadcasters discuss the event for literally 14 hours straight, and disregard a disaster that happened in the Philippines that killed hundreds of people.

When there was the plane crash in Spain, it was all over the news. Many people died, and there is little explanation to be found. I was watching a report on this, and all I could hear was “Will the government (referring to the US, like they assume you would recognize it’s the US government and not Spain’s) penalize the airline company that caused the crash? How will America give aid to the Spanish?”. There was very little about what actually happened, and what they did report was the same thing that they said 10 minutes ago, in a very fast reading right before the commercial break.

America isn’t the only country with elections you know. Canada had an election right before America did, but for some reason, even Canadian TV was broadcasting reports about Obama and McCain. The Canadian campaigns took less than 2 months, and the American elections took 2 years. So, halfway through a president’s term, the media is flocking towards the next president. When Clinton had an affair, everyone got into hysteria, but affairs happen all the time, with many presidents all over the world. Why flock over one in particular?

Whenever you hear The Government or The Army, you think automatically of the US government or army. Why make the US more important than other governments? Why make the US a standard? Other countries had disasters on September 11 too. Why does 9/11 mean the day that the twin towers were attacked? Why not another event in the world that happened on that day?

When Obama was about to announce his running mate for the democratic ticket, it was plastered everywhere. This was the day before. Everyone was talking about the amazing super text message that Obama was gonna send, the day before it happened for 23 hours, instead of discussing the hurricane that ravaged the Philippines that killed hundreds in the same day.

On the United Nations website, it says “We the people”, a common American slogan. Why is America featured as the main focus on an international organization that should encompass the whole world?

I find this America Central is occurring on Fluther too. When someone on Fluther has a different idea than that of the majority who are from America, he or she gets bashed. There are a gazillion questions about Obama (look at the tag cloud) and there are a gazillion more about the economy and how America will fix it. Whenever there is a flutherite who asks a question in bad english, he or she is bashed for not talking in the official language of America.

Everything seems to be tied back to America. I’d like to know why. What are your theories? Why is America the central power in the world? What gives America the right to be the center of the world?

This is not a rant. I want your opinions too.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

29 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I think it’s fairly simple: weaponry and borrowing. We have more military power by an order of magnitude than any other nation. If you’re a kid on the playground, and the bully is there, too, you keep an eye on him. You are interested in everything he is, to see if it will affect you.

The other thing is that we have the largest economy of any nation. All the rest of the world is strongly affected by changes in our economy. A lot of our economy is financed by other nations, particularly China. No nation who lends us money wants us to go into default. They can’t afford to lose that much, so they can’t afford to have America go down.

It’s not like it’s some conspiracy or miscarriage of justice. It’s not like Americans are better than people from other nations. It’s just that what we do has more impact on everyone else compared to any other nation’s actions.

However, the world need not worry too much about this. China is rapidly building its military and space capabilities. They have a billion more people. Those people are rapidly moving up economically. They are doing it so fast, no one can get a grip on it. They will probably surpass the power of the US before the end of the century.

If you think the US impact on the world is unfair, just wait until the Chinese have the power. You think we’re self-centered? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The Chinese are probably the most self-centered people, not just on the planet, but in the known universe.

Right now, the US is like the tail wagging the dog. When China hits its stride, the dog will be wagging it’s tail. Only it won’t be a dog. It’ll be a cat. A cat that knows it is the center of the universe.

tinyfaery's avatar

I think it’s media and consumerism. We have conquered the world through movies, music, coke and McDonalds. People want to know about our celebrities, and let’s face it, Obama is a rock star, baby.

wilburzel's avatar

Money and glamor.

aprilsimnel's avatar

The US is today’s Roman Empire.

It’s all I can answer right now because I’m sleepy. But If you look at the parallels between Ancient Roman and American history, you’ll see a lot of similarities.

kevbo's avatar

Once upon a time it was England that was exporting military might and “civilization” to the rest of the world. In fact, the 18th century novel was a tool for colonialism. As @aprilsimnel said, it’s empire.

It reminds me of an old job at a law firm I worked at. No matter what (having a drink after work with the rank and file or with the younger attorneys) the conversation always turned to speculation about the firm partners—their personalities, their quirks, etc. You literally could not get a group of them together without the conversation turning toward these celebrities in our lives.

If I lived outside of the U.S. I’d find it pretty damned annoying and probably a bit insulting.

PublicBlog's avatar

Imperialism yet again? America sneezes and Canada catches ammonia…

Jack79's avatar

1. the world is not as american as americans think it is, though yes, it is pretty close

2. ever since 1989, the US has been the sole superpower, especially in military terms. And it has used its military might to affect the lives of millions. It could easily blow up the planet any time. We care who the US president is, because he’s the guy that could kill anyone in the world (including me) by simply pressing a button. The King of Spain would have to make at least 3 phonecalls first.

People have been used to a world that was divided for over 40 years, and had two superpowers playing chess on a global scale, using whole countries as pawns. So now that one of them is gone, it’s only fair that we look to the other one. Having said that, Putin’s Russia is a lot more powerful than western media give it credit for, and many people in Eastern Europe see it in more or less the way they did before 1989. This may have to do with the fact that good old Vladimir too, could blow up the world in a jiffy.

3. America in particular is not only important politically. It is the homeland of Elvis and Hollywood. Most music still comes from there, as well as almost any film worth seeing. This constant export of popular culture affects the everyday lives of people even more than weapons do.

4. Added to all the above are other things that tend to happen in america first (or get developed there) and are then imported to Europe and the rest of the world: scientific breakthroughs, new ideas for even crappier tv shows, religious fanaticism, cures for diseases as well as the invention of new diseases, changes in social structures and relationships. It seems most things happen in America first, so looking at America is like looking into the future.

augustlan's avatar

Wow, Zack. I gotta’ say, that kind of sounded like a rant.

America doesn’t have the ‘right’ to be the center of the world. We don’t control what the media in other countries deems important. However, in this global economy, American politics and economics do matter in other countries, but I have no idea why less important American things would.

As far as Fluther goes, that’s easily explained… the vast majority of the members live in America, so obviously there are a lot of questions that pertain to American events. I’ve never seen a question about another country get shut down, there just aren’t as many of them. Also, I don’t think people who speak English as a second language get beat up about poor grammar. It’s the native speakers who can’t get it right that get a thrashing.

tb1570's avatar

Might I suggest_Blowback_ by Chalmers Johnson.

LanceVance's avatar

The people from Old world look at the USA as something different, new, refreshing, better. That mentality has been around since the mass immigrations from Europe and it has been renew around the time of Iron Curtain, when USA was the leader of the free, capitalistic society and people from repressive regimes always made comparisons. But changing the mentality takes more time than changing a political regime.

And by the way, I think USA doesn’t have an official language on federal level.

mikey7183's avatar

its because, we buy everyone else’s stuff. so if we suffer economically so does the rest of the world. the chinese have no choice but to continue to lend us money, so that we consumers start buying chinese crap again, so that their factories open their doors again and their economy improves

kevbo's avatar

@Jack79, I agree with you, but I’d take a plotless Euro film (or a Third Cinema film) over a Hollywood production any day of the week.

Vincentt's avatar

I agree with the rant (and I got the point after the first example, really ;-) to some extent. I think (and this is based on about nothing*) it has to do with US citizens being, on average, more patriotic than people in other countries, or at least than people in other big/mighty countries. Also, I suppose these presidential elections garnered more attention than others because it featured a black president in the running (and winning), which was quite a feat for this country and thus a hopeful sign for a lot of people.

What annoys me most, personally, is when people don’t even bother to mention they’re talking about the US – referring to “our government” and whatnot, assuming you’ll know it’s the US, because, well, everything is about the US, right?

* Well, actually, it’s based on some experience with Americans on the internet. For example, I once wrote an article criticizing something American, and hell broke loose. That was quite some advertising revenue :)

wundayatta's avatar

@Vincentt: You know, that’s something I struggle with in every political post. I know there are people from other countries here, but I also know the vast majority of people on fluther are American. Anyway, sometimes I say “America” and sometimes I say “our.” I know it’s a bit rude to say “our” but often, in the heat of writing down an idea, I don’t stop to be courteous. I’m sorry for that. I will try to be better about that.

steelmarket's avatar

Media spin, spin, spin.
The vast majority of English-speaking media in the world is tied back to US media.

For the rest of the world, I think they follow us like we follow the antics of Spears and Winehouse.

Vincentt's avatar

@daloon – it’s not so bad if you start of your question with e.g. “here in America”, then in the rest of the post you can say “our” and whatnot. It’s the assumption that disturbes me. Then again, I’m easily disturbed by little things.

Also, as for the “vast majority” thing – I’d like some statistics on that, because I doubt whether it’s >50%. It’s certainly not on the internet on general, but of course, Fluther is American and it got a lot of new members from that iPhone thingy which was there first in the US.

wundayatta's avatar

@Vincentt There is a site that has the web traffic stats for fluther, but I don’t know where the link is. Somewhere here on the site, or maybe someone can tell us? Moderator? Anyone? Maybe I’ll see if JohnHenry knows.

BonusQuestion's avatar

Alexa says 55% of Fluther visitors are from the US (which is surprising to me!) but I am not sure how accurate it is. India is second!!

United States 55.1%
India15.0%
United Kingdom 5.3%
Canada 3.6%
Germany 3.0%
South Korea 2.3%
Australia 2.1%
South Africa 1.1%
China 1.0%
Finland 0.7%
Netherlands 0.6%
Ireland 0.5%
Other countries 9.8%

wundayatta's avatar

This is the data from Quantcast I referred to above:

Countries .........Uniques (Cookies) Index
United States ..... 287,621 162
Canada ............... 28,826 180
United Kingdom .....28,200 137
Australia ................7,612 153
India ..................... 2,845 ...41

Jack79's avatar

well overall the internet is yet another american invention, and most sites are either american-based or visited mainly by americans.

having said all that, America is a continent populated mainly by people (americans) who speak Spanish and Portuguese, yet everyone who read the paragraph above assumed I was talking about the USA, just one of many countries in America. Just to prove everyone right ;)

I think you just learn to accept it after a while though. The mere fact that we’re having this discussion is a healthy sign :)

tinyfaery's avatar

America is a country. North America is a continent. And since Mexico and Canada do not go about imposing themselves on other countries, I believe it was safe to assume you were speaking of the US.

Vincentt's avatar

@Jack79 – that’s because saying United States of America is too much work, so it’s shortened to America. Since you hardly ever speak of continents (heck, even “Europe” doesn’t refer to the continent a lot of the times it’s used), it’s pretty safe to assume the country is referred to.

Also, how are most sites American-based? What are your sources? Most of the time I don’t know what the origins of websites I visit are, but I can very well imagine that it differs per person (for example, I’m bound to visit a lot more Dutch sites than you are :P. Also, since I visit a lot of technical websites, there’s more chance to encounter websites from certain countries).

Jack79's avatar

any site that ends in .com or .org is based in the USA, and you have to register it with MIT or something. I know this because my company tried to make one. Sites outside the US end in either something like .co.uk (in the UK) or .au .ar .be .ca .de and so on, depending on the country.

Vincentt's avatar

@Jack79 – ehm, what? I know plenty of Dutch companies that have a .com domain name, and I used to own a .org domain name myself (in fact, they stand for com pany and org anization, respectively, so nothing US-centric). There are country-code top-level-domains (like, to name one, .us) but that doesn’t mean companies/persons in particular countries are bound to those. I suppose your company was just doing something wrong ;-)

Oh, and I suppose companies from other countries can also get ccTLD’s from other countries than their own (some of them, some countries are more restrictive than others when it comes to domain registrations).

Jack79's avatar

yes, a Dutch company could get a .com domain. But only if they register the domain in the USA. I know it, I had such a company. You don’t have to register the whole company in the USA, just the site. And no, it’s no big deal, but in any case, all domains in .com still belong to the US (and are run on US servers), even if they are sold to non-US based companies for profit.

Vincentt's avatar

Heh, OK, but then saying that most sites are based in the US doesn’t really mean that much when it comes to this question ;-)

oratio's avatar

The US is the political and economic center of the world and makes a huge cultural imprint on it. That, and having the strongest military power being the only superpower in this unipolar world, having over 700 military bases in 130 countries of the world 192, makes it a country that everything revolves around as it sticks it’s fingers in everything it can. I consider it as a form of roman peace.

It works, and I don’t have a problem with that as long as the US takes it’s responsibility as the world leader.

Hell, i’m full of awe of much of what has come out of this amazing country. I guess that’s why I get so disappointed in some of the shit the US does.

But the world is changing as we speak, moving into further complexity. Most of the world is creating economical and political unions, where it seems the world is slowly heading to end up with a few powerful political entities, several of them to be considered superpowers.

China is one of these, India will follow. These countries can be considered unions of a multitude of ethnic groups and cultures for historic reasons. There are the USAN, EU, ASEAN, AU, OSS atm. The future of AU is questionable, where the Arab Nation and sub-sahara probably will belong to different unions.

Whatever the outcome, there will be a multipolar world, where no country dictates the conditions unilaterally. I see it as inevitable, and it can be very good. If this development is for the benefit for humanity in the long run is up to our children. They inherit the marvels as well as the crap shit we put together.

rasputin6xc's avatar

The USA is, at this point, the most powerful country in the world in terms of military might, economic strength and popular culture clout. For better or for worse, the USA has a lot of trump cards, if I may use the term, over most other countries. Sometimes it can be very unfortunate because, just like any other edifice created by humans, mistakes are made.

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