Watching the new GI Joe 3D movie last Friday night in a theater packed with Indonesians, many of whom would have been Muslims, struck me in some way as a curious experience. It's an All-American movie, of course, packed chock-full with All-American gung-ho ideas, and yet the audience seemed to connect quite comfortably with the ideologies and the characters. There's the power of Hollywood for you. In fact, despite religion, and despite official high-level distaste for American decadence and bravado, the common Indonesians love us. They love our violence, our guns, our technology, our irreverence, our opulence, our fantasy and our beautiful male and female stars. They identify with and honor the mythos without being a natural part of it. It is clear from all that crosses the big screen that Americans are strong and courageous, justified, predestined - a chosen race embued with with every coveted characteristic. Ah, to be an American!
The Hollywood movie may very well be the victorious politic of the future. They represent, for their largeness, for their color and sound, for their special effects and cliffhanger thrills, a fullness of practically irresitible propaganda that no single person or speech or policy could ever match.
Indonesians love everything American - and everything that think, insist, is American. Money, possessions, bright lights and glitter, rap music, rebellion, profanity, vulgarity, power, affluence, sex and adultery, diamonds, big cars, automatic weapons, nuclear missiles, and women with soap-white skin.
"I love America," they tell me. "I want to go there someday. Everything is clean there, and big, and easy, and everyone has so much money."
Nor are they deterred by my poor example -- for their dream, like the Hollywood movie, is bigger by far than life.