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During the temporary closure of the US government recently, press sources revealed Chinese calls for "de-Americanization". Not a particularly new concept, but when a nation itself is promoting such a clear statement, I'm certainly left with food for thought. Like a well-adjusted friend you let guide you onwards, America has been calling the shots - in my everyday life and yours - for a long old time now.
Let's face it, America is everywhere. It's playing through Spotify in my local café. It was responsible for the last four films I've seen. Three of the four TV series I follow are from the US. NPR is the only station other than BBC 6Music that's competing for my attention while I work. My music collection is mainly American artists. Many of my favourite magazine and newspaper articles this past year were authored by Americans.
It's on the side of our buses in the form of advertising, it's on every other channel of our television sets each evening, its videos are getting millions of hits on YouTube and its voice flows through media reports internationally. When I started to really think about it, I began to feel overwhelmed. China wants a world with less America, and, actually, maybe I do too.
Away from entertainment, the US of A is also a global, hegemonic leader politically. American politicians shape the global dialogues and define international pursuits in a variety of ways. The country is responsible for an international lingua franca in terms of the English language and the prevalence of the dollar as an unofficial international currency. I've admired it for many of its accomplishments, and forgiven it for others. But the real root of my problem is feeling "over-Americanized". And my concern is that Americanization is coming at the expense of appreciating other cultures and civilizations.
I like to be culturally, socially and politically aware, and I think diversity and difference are concepts to be celebrated in our world. This is especially the case in light of the globalization that's been gradually unfolding over at least the past fifty years. The world seems smaller than ever: new forms of transport and advanced means of communication offers all sorts of new prospects.
I like the US as country and I love Americans as people. I feel comfortable enough generalizing to that effect. But I'm often so overwhelmed by "American-ness" these days, that I feel in danger of neglecting opportunities for new perspectives and daily variety in favour of the US. It's a real effort to escape from this risk in the Britain of today, and indeed in much of the Western world. One country should not hold that particular power over the rest of the globe.
I love travelling, physically and mentally, to places I've never been before. I love international cinema, world music, food from different continents. Yet I could be missing out on this more than I realise simply by engaging with my surroundings; the structures and habits around me that reek of Americanization.
That's why I'm going to make a concerted effort over the next year. I'm going to swap my Hollywood blockbusters for understated French independents, and munch Lebanese food instead of a Big Mac. I'm going to access alternative commentary on noteworthy events at home and abroad. It's not that I don't think you're great, America. I just feel like I need more time in my day to hang out with other nations.