FIGHTING THE CULTURAL WARS

            Because Americans are a cultural mix from a thousand different countries scattered across the world, their attention is focused on the absorption of ethic and racial differences. “Mixing-it-up” fits the American style, not pushing other influences out. However, the rest of the world operates on an entirely different frequency. Keeping it “to themselves” is their general rule.

            In Cairo, television satirist Bassem Youseff reached a high level of popularity after making a wide range of jokes about the country’s revolution as well as now ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Following the mold of American Jon Stewart, Youseff found plenty of holes to poke in the many failures of the Egyptian system. However, after Morsi was swept from power, Youseff disappeared from television. In a recent return to television, Youseff was knocking General Sisi (now controlling the country) and saying “nobody can tell us what to say or not to say” when an arm reached up from under the desk and took his script, replacing it with another. The jabs at Sisi have been more oblique and cautious

However, these remarks sparked outrage and opposition. Unlike Americans, the Egyptians apparently want to keep culture moving in a straight line with no mixing from the comedians.

Russia has been undergoing a similar drive to curb their civic life of foreign influences. Members of Russia’s parliament (the Duma) have been Vladimir Putin’s standard-bearers which means they are goose-stepping to his drum beat. Recently, they passed new legislation tightening the state’s control over dissent and political activism.  Patriotism has now become a theme of Putin’s presidency.  Current proposed legislation would require movie theaters to screen Russian-made films at least 20% of the time. Even anti-American sentiment has surged in the Duma this fall. The big state sponsored broom is sweeping foreign influences toward the trash can.

To American thinking, these efforts at purging foreign cultural expression smack of the old Stalinist repressions. Probably in Putin’s case, they are more attempts at shoring up his popularity. No one can argue with Russia’s need to increase the pride of the populace in their country. However, in a personality dominated state (run by the KGB in the back room) the scent in the air is not positive.

Interesting? Well, the difference in trends is worth noting.

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Filed under America, Egypt, middle east, Russia

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