Wednesday, August 5, 2009

American Know-How

We're really proud of this. We don't seem to be very clear about the specifics (just try searching on 'american "know-how" ' and see what you get), but we're very clear that we have it and that it's American. A couple of points occur to me.

First, it's curious that people implicitly assume that American know-how magically evaporates in the halls of government. Indeed, "American know-how" (often presented as "good old American know-how") is set as the counterpoint to American government. American know-how exists in the individual, in the family, in the independent business, in corporate business -- everywhere, in fact, except in government. No one seems willing to explain this strange sociological phenomenon.

Second, I deeply object to the notion that "know-how" is American. This is an especially bizarre notion given that America is a nation of people from almost everywhere except America. So "know-how" cannot possibly be American, either in character or in location. Are we to believe that no one else on the planet is clever? Persistent? Resilient? Inventive?

I wonder if Russians speak of good old Russian know-how. Or if there's a similar phrase in Sri Lanka or Senegal or Luxembourg. (I actually would relish speaking of Luxembourgeois know-how). This is another instance of where nationalism is just plain wrong. Not just factually wrong but inimical to the human condition. Think how much better, how much healthier it would be to speak of human know-how. To do so would be to confer confidence upon all our brothers and sisters, not merely to those who happen to serve under the same flag.

I'll go on a nationalism rant another time.

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