America is Paris Hilton

There are tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungle who were not unaware that Paris Hilton went to jail recently - such was the length and depth of the media coverage of the event. Like many, I have very little regard for Paris Hilton. Like all men, I obviously find her attractive, but her physique is probably the only thing attractive about her.

And, as usual, the media have also spent a bit of time in introspection. Many have bemoaned the fact that Hilton's jail sentence and the kerfuffle around her release and re-jailing is some indication of the media's fascination with all things unimportant. The fact that elements of the media are criticising the media over this issue was always going to happen.

What I've begun to realise, however, is that Paris Hilton represents something far larger than herself. Her lifestyle and the media's focus upon it is actually representative of a larger truth - that being that she is a metaphor for the country she lives in.

I don't know much about the Hilton Hotel empire, but there's no doubt that quite a while ago an entreprenurial businessman with the surname of Hilton managed to construct a world-wide chain of Hotels that have lasted to the present day. No other hotel chain is so well known. Naturally this man and his family and his descendents have benefitted from this fortune, including party-loving Paris.

Similarly, over 200 years ago a group of men came together and forged the declaration of independence and created the nation of the United States of America. Further work led to the US Constitution. Since that time America has grown to be the most powerful nation in the world. The people of America today are heirs of the work these men did in the 18th century, just in the same way as Paris Hilton is an heir of the Hilton family's hotel business.

And America, like Paris Hilton, have squandered their wealth and their influence by frittering away their lives in the pursuit, not of happiness, but of mindless pleasure and personal gain. "Modesty" is not a word that describes Paris Hilton, and nor does it describe America. Paris' body is on show wherever you may want to look, as is America's basic instincts, behaviours and values.

Whenever the ordinary person is confronted by Hilton, they view her with a mixture of attraction and revulsion. Like a car accident, we cannot look away from this beautiful woman with the ugly heart. America, like Paris Hilton, stands in the international community, willfully exposing both its outward beauty and inward ugliness to astounded and disgusted onlookers.

America is inward looking. It is concerned only with itself and its own interests. Many Americans see this as a virtue, but in reality it blinkers their vision and prevents them from maturing. The irony is that focusing upon America's interests have, over time, resulted in America's interests being damaged.

Like Paris and her Hilton hotel fortune, America is richly endowed with the fruits of a previous generation's hard work. Any objective analysis of America's history will show that America's immense wealth and power today has resulted from decades of hard work (and more than occasional corruption) put in place by entrepreneurs and businessmen and individuals from 1788 onwards. The ability of America's system of laws in coping with the massive influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries has produced one of the world's greatest nations. Yet, like Paris Hilton, America is squandering this great inheritance.

One of the best examples of this is the idea of America exceptionalism. Although the belief that "America is not like other nations" has run through American culture for generations, it is increasingly obvious that this attitude has led to arrogance, ignorance and self-absorbtion. Just as Paris and her family worked hard to release her from jail, using their connections with people in power, so too does America somehow think that the rules they apply to other nations should not apply to them.

Take Abu Ghraib, or the Extraordinary rendition program. America has, on the one hand, argued that all international war criminals be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of international law. Yet America will not subject its own people to such a process. American soldiers will not be tried in international courts because America treats international law as merely an adjunct of its own interests - they will support it so long as America benefits. But bringing to justice the Abu Ghraib torturers or the CIA agents kidnapping foreign nationals in their own countries - that is something else.

And, of course, this is where the symbolism breaks down. While Paris has been dragged kicking and screaming and humiliated to her prison cell, America has yet to fully suffer the fruits of its actions. If any other nation had invaded a place like Iraq, the UN would have slapped economic sanctions on it at the very least, yet the UN cowers in its New York headquarters, manipulated and hated by its American puppet masters.

Hilton's jail time may be good for her - although reports of her having life changing religious or personal experiences after only a few days behind bars should be discounted as feigned. As for America - there is no doubt in my mind that America has yet to reap what it has sown in the last 5 years. Even voting in Democrats and having an intelligent and likeable president will not remove the negativity that has grown since the invasion of Iraq. America, like Paris Hilton, needs time "in prison" - suffering - in order to realign its thinking, move beyond its substantial inheritance and come out the other end a more humble and more likeable and less self-abosrbed entity.

I have often wondered what Paris Hilton will do after her jail time. Will she just go back to having parties, getting drunk and seducing the nearest stud... or will she take hold of her life, make a seachange and use her incredible wealth and fame for the good of the world? I hope the same for America.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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