Americans have no culture

Lol right?  I've heard a number of people say this over the years, and every time it has given me a big smile.  It's a great example of that golden rule of psychology: people are really talking about themselves.

This statement can say "I am a fool" on many levels though, every one comedic.  In the end, as is often the case, there maybe be some grains of truth to the somewhat ambiguous statement.  Such a grain of truth provides the final "aha" of great comedy, as it provides yet another reason that the speaker is yet again proved ignorant.  So lets go through the layers, examining the stratigraphy of lulz.

Lets start with the obvious.  Being born on or having grown up on a certain area of the planet marked by some other folks as having some name or another means just that.  It can't possibly mean anything precise about the cultural background of an individual.  And what would "no culture" even mean anyway?  Perhaps it means there is a culture that you don't like?  It sounds more like it means there is a lack of knowledge of the culture - on the part of the accuser.  So on the first level we have the classic fallacy of prejudice coupled with a statement indicating a dearth of anthropological study.  I mean, "America" is two continents.  You think there's some cultural variability in there somewhere?

I've heard this spoken most frequently in Europe.  My first response was to make a snappy comeback: "Yeah it's true, none of my friends back home can solo on Giant Steps in more than one key".  First of all, if they'd heard of Trane, Bird, or Prez, that would be evidence of cultural aptitude, and so they wouldn't have made the statement in the first place.  This is bound to go over their heads, and just be annoying and unhelpful.  Not to mention contrived.  Who plays Giant Steps in other keys?  It doesn't make sense anyway.  If you can solo well on Giant Steps, you probably ~could~ play it in other keys.  To do so is easier on guitar or bass then keyed instruments, but I digress.

Another option is to go both ways at once "Yeah we don't have any Art left."  If a curious look is given, or other people are listening, you can follow up with "Art Tatum, Art Pepper and Art Farmer".  Of course you could design your own snide remarks using any other genre, it doesn't have to be jazz.  Punk music.  Baseball.  Potatoes.  Tobacco.  Ganja.  Skateboarding.  Freestyle.  Whatever, it's all culture.

While in my experience (completely biased by where I've lived) Euros have been more likely to make this titular comment than others, I've also heard Chinese folks say it.  In related lulz, you may have heard "Chinese have 5000 years of history".  That's right, history is something that is possessed by a tax regime or a racial identifier.  Lol!  In truth, history is there for the study by any interested party.  People from Beijing could learn about the incredibly rich ancient American history and it is just as much "theirs" as it is "theirs" to the people who live near to what is left of the archaeological sites today.  Oh and by the way, my snide remark here is usually "Only 5000 years?  I have at least 12 billion years myself".

You see, the rich and rewarding culture of the even tempered scale and all it entails is not "yours" just for holding a German passport (or for being born near JSB's birthplace).  Somebody who lives on the same street Bach did, but listens to techno and doesn't play an instrument, is less in possession of this culture than an Asian looking kid who grew up in New Jersey who memorized his first Bach compositions while studying from a black teacher.  A Chinese kid claiming to "have 5000 years of history" is a similar claim, in that such a broad statement really implies that they don't know their own history.  You think they studied metal calligraphy?  How much of southeast Asian history do they really know, if they could make such a statement?  How much cultural competence could somebody have to make the statement we are currently evaluating?

Dr. Levi Strauss, can you tell me about the cultures in upper Amazonia?

Yeah, there are none.

Haha, where were we?  Oh yeah we were at the first level of lulz stratigraphy, where we heard a statement that uses a clearly broken judgmental technique to imply superiority in some anthropological field while simultaneously demonstrating incompetence in this field.  Neat eh?  It's like a proof-of-idiocy rolled up in a proof-of-Dunning-Kruger-syndrome.

So let's look at some other implications.  A culture of puritan self-loathing and genocide-because-we-can left much of N. America with, amongst others, Euro-Orcish cultural roots.  This makes modern day Euros then pointing at "no culture in America" extra lulzy, like a dad insulting his son for having bad genes.

Yeah I get it, you have both kinds of music: trance and minimal.  Everything else is "no culture".  Hey let's all dress alike and watch "freinds" tonight what do you say?  No, I don't sing or play an instrument or hang out with the locals, because they "have no culture".  Of course they don't!  For proof, note that my windows are closed, and I'm not reading any books.

When presented with "X country has no culture" we could go further with this, dipping into Terence McKenna's famous quote "culture is not your friend" and what he meant by that.  It fits in with Don Juan Matus's remarkable claim that the destruction of the "tonal of the times" (something like culture) in much of the Americas was a boon to those aspiring men of knowledge who survived the orcish invasion.  However, this would be overkill.  Argument and dialog is more rewarding when carried out with people capable of opening their eyes.

Anyway, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  Retreating to polemics is tempting, I understand.  And yeah car culture, fiat money, illiteracy and pretend democracy are depressing enough that one might be tempted to deny their existence.  But hey, say what you mean next time!