Be brief Your time is less valuable than ours.
Leafing through this book by megabrain BAUDRILLARD I wondered where exactly European thinking is going. Amérique is a brilliant guide book. Fascinating, monotonous, cool, ecstatic. B finds just the right words for those pictures you recognize from TV and films. You don't have to have been there to have an opinion; he has been there and he doesn't have one. But you don't need to - Have fun is the American rule of life. And he did. Flying from the European hamlet of Paris he took leave of his senses somewhere over Greenland. The wonders of the atmosphere remain a constant source of astonishment for French intellectuals: while Europe was reduced to the size of a miniature village, America opened up for Bas one vast and limitless space. BAUDRILLARD'S movie had started. He experiences our apartment blocks as verticality, our indentity as
their teeth and the joggers on our streets as the end of the world. He was constantly astounded by the televisions that stayed on in the motels even when no-one was watching. But he really spaced out in the desert.
Driving through the Death Valley National Monument, he failed to realize that he was in this great outdoor museum distinguished for its desert scenery. (RAND MCNALLY ROAD ATLAS) and thought that he had finally discovered the true America, the reverse of the social and cultural America he finds so uninteresting (shame!). He made a
note: This journey provokes just one question: to what extent can you eliminate significance, to what extent can you continue through the desert form with its absence of reference without going under? Once past the entrance signs he imagined himself to be beyond the point of no return, the point where it is clear that the journey has no goal and that there is no reason to end it//. Suddenly movement was no longer the same for him.
The spontaneous movement through space becomes an absorption by space itself Hence the point is reached where movement produces the emptiness which absorbs us. And here it comes.That moment of vertigo is also the moment of possible collapse//.
That is BAUDRILLARD'S American Dream: he wants to permeate that emptiness as far as he can yet still be able to return on time to 19th century Europe after experiencing the feeling of complete separation.
I wonder if this will become the latest tourist attraction. America as sensory deprivation machine for burnt-out minds. After Disneyland the intoxication of the desert wilderness? (on condition that the dollar doesn't improve.) The philosopher as easy rider, one hand on the wheel the other clutching a whisky on the rocks; the future face of tourism. All that despite the fact that bachelor machines can go much faster in Europe. Now that every exotic corner hasbeen explored the desert remains the One Great Unknown which if we all follow BAUDRILLARD-fashion will soon be crowded with facilities for tourists eager for the emptiness experience.
Is BAUDRILLARD unaware of the fact that America is now beyond the age of speed? My childhood home was completely geared to speed although we still had stairs for nostalgic reasons. We went upstairs by ejector seat, downstairs by chute and the staff were on roller-skates. However my internal combustion dream came to an end in 1938 when my father the celebrated record breaker passed on at a speed of 1SO MPH. Since then speed was punctured for me. B may still enjoy the naive happiness of moving across the earth's crust but to be perfectly honest we Americans left that delight behind us in the 1950s. Then we went into space and stayed at home with our computers. The car-craving has become part of our history, B is a Fifties figure and he is free to enjoy his simple pleasures.
I find his denigrating view of Europe simply incomprehensible. We love going there. All those castles and palaces, all those peoples and cultures. Europe is one big open-air museum which, in contradiction to n's claims, conforms perfectly to the American
model: in BAUDRILLARD'S terms the signs glitter in the simulation of history - all that and the people still live there! We are not indifferent like B claims we are; we love all those differences piled up one on top of another. My conclusion from Amérique is that European thinking uses the detour round America to return to one's point of departure.
The mental parameters have not increased after ten thousand miles of American highway they have merely been tinted. It all depends on your holiday expectations. America's charm was, is and will remain the fact that you can say anything about it. And who does that better than the European.
Translation ANNIE WRIGHT