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."
William Gibson, science fiction writer.
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."
Dan Barry, Floridan newspaper columnist.
Remarkable comments made by Americans:
- "You're not in Germany now, you're
in America, and you have to be helpful to others... Fucking German bigots!"
(UNPROVOKED AND LENGTHY DIATRIBE SHOUTED ACROSS THE STREET
BY BEGGAR WHO HAD BEEN IGNORED.)
- "Do you speak a foreign language in Sweden?" (Answer:
No, we speak a native language.) "Yes, I
know, you speak Flamenco there, right?" (PIZZA BAKER
- "Kerouac? No, I've never heard of him. Is he a new author?"
(LIBRARIAN AT MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM).
- "It would be best if young people abstained from sex until
they reached 21 years of age." (HILLARY CLINTON,
WIFE OF AMERICAN PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, INTERVIEWED ON FRENCH TV, CHANNEL
TF1, SUNDAY JAN 19, 1997).
- "For too long in this freedom-loving land, cultural subversives
have engaged in trench warfare on traditional family values." (KIRK
FORDICE, PRESENT (FEB 1997) GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.)
- "It's people like (gun control activist Tom Fielder), Metro
Mayor Alex Penelas, and Miami Police Chief Donald Warshaw who are driving
Dade County and the nation to communism." (TOM HEESS,
- "I'm sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States
and the Constitution of Alabama, and those constitutions are founded upon
a fundamental belief in God." (JUDGE ROY MOORE OF THE
ETOWAH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT)
- "Religion never caused any wars or conflict." (JOHN
TEMPLETON, CAPITALIST WHO SPONSORS ONGOING RESEARCH AT HARVARD ON HOW TO
CURE MEDICAL DISORDERS THROUGH PRAYER AND FAITH-HEALING)
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
"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
"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"