Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: the Fraying of American

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Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: the Fraying of American Robert Hughes, a native Australian, spent twenty years in the United States and assumed many traits that are typical of Americans before publishing Culture of Complaint: the Fraying of America. His evaluation finds that America is a country more focused on appearance than reality. Americans would rather complain than change. Instead of analyzing the problem of American culture, Hughes attempts to present himself as an ideal critic, scholar, and journalist. He seems more concerned with reputation that academics. Like the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, which has remained the benchmark for the study of American culture since the 1830s, Hughes wants his theories to become widely read and universally accepted. Some of Culture of Complaint is interesting and insightful, however, Hughes comes off as the ‘typical’ American that he chastises in his writing: arrogant, inconsiderate of others, and above all, full of complaints. Hughes overemphasizes America’s infatuation with political correctness, but fails to understand the real issue. It is undeniably true that “no sifting of words is going to reduce the amount of bigotry in this or any other society” (21). However, racist labels are prevalent in American society which remind minority groups of their inferior status. The professional football team in our nation’s capital is called the ‘Redskins.’ This moniker is the result of a politically incorrect past that has not been rectified. Political correctness intends to change the way we label things so that minority groups are not excluded or demeaned. Certainly Hughes would object to calling a rugby team in Australia the ‘Sydney Blackies.’ Hughes was right in understanding that political correctness will not cause dramatic changes, but racism in any form, no matter how small, is bad for society. Regardless, he spends too much time discussing this issue. Political correctness warranted more attention for Hughes than it does in the national media today. It is quite telling that only five years after its publication this material is already outdated. Throughout Hughes’ text the reader is bombarded with the tedious, albeit extensive, litany of his readings. He has “read a lot of books in the last forty-five years, since (he) became a conscious and addicted reader at the age of about nine” (107). However, instead of writing about works he is familiar with, he should write about what he has learned from undertaking this honorable hobby.

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