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Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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An American Idea: The Great Synthesizer

July 4, 2013, 12:00 AM

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.


Americans like to dwell on being "a melting pot" of peoples. But America is primarily a melting pot of ideas. Her politics and technology, those things which make her undeniably strong, come from the mixture of different ideologies and peoples that populate America.

The Internet was born in America, as were isolated electricity, the mass-produced car, automatic guns, air travel, Democratic Republicanism, the steam engine, the personal computer, and rock and roll. Who could imagine the modern world without any of these things? So, it's fair to say that America invented the modern world.

Not to indulge in self-congratulatory jingoism: For, the modern world, in turn, invented America. Each of those crucial innovations mentioned above was guided or inspired by a foreign idea or thinker.

This is not sarcasm. Settled by British and Dutch Refugees, founded on French and British Enlightenment philosophy, powered by the ill-gotten work of stolen African slaves, populated by wave after wave of incoming immigrants, expanded West by Chinese labor, given a sense of purpose by countless wars and campaigns in Asia and The Pacifc and against its own indigenous population and itself, brought into the modern era in the trenches of European armies, reborn into a modern superpower by the inventions of the technology of war from foreign scientists, America was finally left with an identity all her own.

That identity, distinctly American, is one of synthesis.

On her birthday, let us celebrate America for her greatest achievement: being history's most noble and successful plagiarist.


An American Idea: The Great...

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