Pieces of eight

Taken in by America
An outsider's look at America and the American

“The linkage ... between the mortgage originator and the secondary market must be built carefully and appropriately ... [otherwise] ... we are going to find that the basic product we are trying to enhance and multiply will turn out soiled.” (Leon Kendall testifying before Congress in the 1980s on the inherent danger of the newly minted mortgage-backed security.)

“This pattern, this 'system' that the white man created, of teaching Negroes to hide the truth from him behind a facade of grinning, 'yessir-bossing,' foot-shuffling and head-scratching - that system has done the American white man more harm than an invading army would do to him. (Malcolm X)

“In society which shares Benjamin Franklin’s opinion that commerce is generally cheating, the merchant is a thief whatever he does; it is only natural for him to react by justifying and idealising theft.” (Norman Brown)

" ... a person must have a built-in ... crap detector." (Ernest Hemingway)

" ... try to be better than yourself." (William Faulkner)

" ... the only failure is cheap success" (Sinclair Lewis, 'Main Street')

Hollywood "people are grotesque burlesques." (Henry Mencken)

“Success on the frontier—on the innumerable frontiers that have followed one another across the continent—meant material success, tinged with politics. Almost all those who went to the frontier were poor ... [which] meant going into debt. The fundamental problem, which united the whole frontier in a bond of sympathetic understanding, as to make money … Material success became a good in itself that could not be questioned. ... [The frontiersmen] idealised themselves and their qualities, and came to look down upon those different from themselves, as the Puritan had looked down upon those with whom he differed as being morally inferior. Just as American Puritabnism had become intolerably narrow, so was the life of the frontier; and thus two of the strongest influences in our life, religion and the frontier, made in our formative periods for a limited and intolerant spiritual life.” (James Truslow Adams)

In differentiating the real Virginia Gentleman from the ubiquitous copy, Richard Crouch notes that “If he is a riding gentleman and gets invited to the hunts, he enjoys in his slightly embarrassed way the attention he gets as an authentic in a gathering that includes so many of the nouveau-this and the pseudo-that. But the very presence of so many parvenus as dominate many hunts these days is enough to make at least the native gentleman wonder uncomfortably if he is in the wrong place. He probably doesn’t mind suiting up, for the appeal of anachronistic costume is strong enough to make time-transvestism one of his most notorious secret vices. But the unnecessary overlay of recently-imported English tradition, and the unavoidable hint of snobbery and strangeness among the newcomers, are enough to make him wonder seriously if he really wants to get his neck broken with a bunch of people like this.”   
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