Said & Done in America


"I think that the sort of societies I am describing would be more disturbing to someone who lived in a cohesive, functioning social democracy than it would be to someone who lives in the United States. There are large parts of the United States today that must seem, I would think, to a European as dystopian and possibly more dystopian than I describe in my books. There are large parts of many American cities that are absolute social nightmares. America is a country that may already have an enormous permanent underclass. I do not think an enormous permanent underclass is a very good thing to have if you're attempting to operate something that at least pretends sometimes to be a democracy. (...) I was watching CNN during the riots of Los Angeles a couple of years ago and they were showing video footage of a mob looting a Radio Shack. Running out of the Radio Shack was hi-fis, video cameras and everything they could pick up. But the Radio Shack was right next to a Macintosh dealership which had powerbooks in the window. And it was untouched. So here these incredible valuable portable very, very powerful computers was sitting untouched behind an unbroken shop-window while the poor people steal Sony Walkmans. I felt that was so sad, and so indicative of our real problem. Because this technology, at this point, belongs to the middle classes and up. It's not available to the underclass at all, they're not interested in it."


Read the whole interview at http://www.algonet.se/~danj/gibson1.html


"American consumers have no problem with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it."


Remarkable comments made by Americans:


Lawsuits

The American layman jury system, which places legally naïve, and sometimes outright dumb, people in a position to decide on difficult questions of guilt and responsibility, in combination with a plague of lawyers, often produces hilarious results, some of which are described here. I would ask you, however, to keep in mind that the very same people decide in cases where the defendant risks having his life taken as punishment. This is all by itself a sufficient argument against capital punishment in the USA.

Anyway, in the kind of lawsuits exemplified below, the idea is that if something unpleasant happens to you, it is never your fault, and with some luck, you can make big bucks by suing someone. Some examples:

"My entire life has changed from joy and happiness to sadness and depression,'' says Ruby Campagna of Roanoke, Virginia. She enjoyed watching baby birds in a nest outside her apartment window. But the apartment manager, Judy Woody, made a practice of removing bird nests from the property. Campagna filed suit when Woody removed the nest by her window. Woody, ''a malevolent scowl on her face,'' knocked the nest down then stepped on it ''in order to mutilate and mangle their tiny bodies,'' her suit said. Woody says she didn't know there were baby birds in the nest when she knocked it down, but a Roanoke Circuit Court jury awarded Campagna $135,000 for her ''emotional distress and medical bills''. (AP)

"At the trial in his racial harassment lawsuit against Pitney Bowes in Los Angeles in September, black salesman Akintunde I. Ogunleye testified that he had been addressed by one co-worker as "Akintunde, ooga-booga, jungle-jungle". The co-worker, who is of French-Canadian ancestry, later testified that what he said was 'Bonjour, bonjour.' The jury awarded Akintunde $11.1 million." (Miami New Times)

"A golf course was mostly at fault when a golfer, who drank eight beers and five mixed drinks, fell as he left the clubhouse, breaking his jaw and shattering his teeth on a brick path, a Wisconsin court ruled. The Third District Court of Appeals upheld a Marathon County judge's decision that found Indianhead Golf and Recreation of Mosinee was more negligent because of its 14-year-old ramp of terra-lock bricks that led from the clubhouse bar. Gaps in the bricks were an 'initiating factor' in causing Dale L. Larson of Schofield to fall, even though Larson had 'a significant amount of intoxication', the panel said. A doctor testified at the trial that Larson was in a stupor, with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit to drive. Larson was awarded $41 540 in damages." (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"For a cockroach in the collard greens at an Orangeburg, South Carolina, KFC (June), a jury awarded $607 500." (Miami New Times)
[Note: KFC = Kennedy Fried Chicken, a fast-food chain. June = June 1997.]

To "Life in America"


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