Historian and travel writer Jan Morris was interviewed about America in the British Times, December 13. She offered the following remark:
There is grossly too much of almost everything. There is too much money, too much food, too much choice, too much power, too much capitalism, too much spam on the e-mail. Wal-Mart, the ultimate American retailer, employs three million people: on one single day during my visit it opened 39 new stores, and its annual sales last year were bigger than the GNP of Switzerland. Eighty-three TV channels were available in my hotel room last night. Last Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune contained, by my bemused count, 51 editorial and advertising sections. The president of Harvard occupies a house valued at $11.5 million. The supermarket Shaw’s, in Boston, offered last week, 432 different cheeses.
I had at least three reactions. First, you would think that such a famous historian would stay in a hotel with digital cable. Then she would have more than 83 channels, perhaps as many as five hundred. Second, I just had been thinking about writing a blog post complaining about American trade restrictions on French non-pasteurized cheese, the best kind of cheese I might add. Morris may have seen 432 different cheeses but we could do much much better in this area. Let’s have free trade in cheese and real diversity. How many Americans eat cheese wrapped in paper rather than plastic? Finally, spam must have something good to offer if it can be lumped in with all these rosy developments. Morris refers to the current United States as “sclerotic” and “bloated,” can she be serious?