Customer Reviews


6 Reviews
5 star:
 (2)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charles Churchyard offers a thoughtful & balanced critique of the way the American people see themselves.
"If Americans were to percieve reality clearly and embrace it fully, they would proclaim the following: We are the myrmidons of modernity. We have succeeded in subordinating the unruly and conflicting impulses of individuals to collective regulation. We have surpassed other peoples because our self-discipline and self-sacrifice are greater than theirs, because we obey...
Published on April 20, 2009 by Paul Tognetti

versus
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Burkean Conservative Looks At - and Misrepresents - America
As far as I can tell, the author of National Lies is something of a conservative in the vein of Edmunde Burke. His thesis in National Lies is that the values that make up the character of the United States are built on illusion. According to Churchyard, Americans believe very much in individualism (either economic, personal, or both) because of a "childesh panglossian...
Published on March 30, 2009 by Kevin Currie-Knight


Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charles Churchyard offers a thoughtful & balanced critique of the way the American people see themselves., April 20, 2009
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
"If Americans were to percieve reality clearly and embrace it fully, they would proclaim the following: We are the myrmidons of modernity. We have succeeded in subordinating the unruly and conflicting impulses of individuals to collective regulation. We have surpassed other peoples because our self-discipline and self-sacrifice are greater than theirs, because we obey the dictates of our peers rather than those of our own egos, because we are more attentive and responsive to the demands of the working groups of which we are members rather than to our selfish personal desires and immediate self interest. If other nations wish to attain power and prosperity like ours, let them institute a regiment like ours, if they can." This quotation from page 189 of "National Lies: The Truth About American Values" seems to neatly sum up the thousands of hours of painstaking research conducted by author Charles Churchyard in preparing to write this book. But what Churchyard discovered during the course of this research is that the American people have clearly decieved themselves in myriad ways. In essence, the reality of life in America is really quite different than what most Americans percieve it to be. "National Lies" shatters many of the beliefs that most Americans take for granted. It is a fascinating read.

Perhaps the biggest lie that the American people have come to believe is that the myth of the "rugged individualist". For generations working class parents have told their children that when the grow up "they can be anything they want to be". Of course these parents desperately want to believe this but the research shows otherwise. The reality is that very few people become wealthy who began life at or near the bottom of the social ladder. Children from upper middle class and affluent families have enormous advantages that those from the lower end of the economic spectrum can rarely overcome. Still the American people cling to this myth and Churchyard believes that this self-deception is not necessarily a bad thing as it helps to make us the most productive people on earth. In conjunction with that myth Churchyard also observes that the American people also firmly believe in the concept of individual freedom. We are all free agents, free to pursue our individual goals and ideals. Once again, Churchyard finds that the reality is that most people are truly deluding themselves. The fact of the matter is that the American people are far more likely to submit themselves to the influence and controls of groups than most people around the world. This is especially true in the workplace. On page 142 Churchyard notes: "Foreign visitors have often noticed that Americans of diverse backgrounds and occupations exhibit the same personal values and attitudes. On the basis of this homogeneity, some observers have declared that the nation contains no social classes but is one enormous middle class."

Throughout the pages of "National Lies: The Truth About American Values " Charles Churchyard discusses a number of other areas where the American people also seem to be deluding themselves. This really turns out to be a fascinating study. But in the final analysis Churchyard firmly believes that it is this ability to deceive ourselves that is a major factor in what make America and it's people productive and great. "National Lies" is an exceptionally well-written and meticulously researched book that held my attention from cover-to-cover. An extremely thought provoking study. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting look at American values, April 14, 2009
By 
J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
While this book describes, in rather excessive detail, a few core values that Americans have held since our founding, which differ conspicuously from the traditions of Europe, it is the beneficial, as so labeled by the author, self-deceptions of the American people that prop up those values and occupy much of the discussion. Somewhat controversially, moving from description to polemic, the author is distressed that "the Left," engaging in post-modernistic "lies," is bent on undermining the rather precarious American belief system by attempting to exploit any guilt that our society does not live up to its ideals, especially for minorities.

The American Revolution was truly transformative. The semi-aristocratic society of the Founding Fathers, much to their chagrin, quickly gave way to an "ethos of egalitarianism." They found distressing "the low business practices, vile politics, wild religion, debased culture, and ugly manners" that became pervasive, certainly by the Age of Jackson. Eschewing social, collective constraints, men were now seen to be virtually free to pursue economic aims, limited only by their own capabilities. According to the author, underlying this economic individualism is a disingenuous set of "Panglossian" beliefs that holds that the things of the world, including people, are essentially good and are naturally inclined to interact in simplistic harmony without the need for control by collective bodies, like corporations or labor unions, or governments. The marketplace, as part of the Panglossian world, invariably rewards merit; failure has to be due to underlying personal deficiencies. Furthermore, in such a world, discord among groups, even nations, for reasons of ethnicity, economic interests, etc, are considered to be no more than minor misunderstandings easily resolved, a view that finds Europeans incredulous.

Of course, the workings of our society and economics, then and now, deviate substantially from that simplistic view. The idea of social class may be anathema in the popular mind, but effects of social class, though constantly downplayed (aren't we all just Americans?), are significant in most areas of life, such as in educational performance or in the workplace.

The concept of freedom is definitely problematic in American life. Even though, as the author points out, Americans are at best quasi-religious - seeing religion as primarily being a benefit either socially or in business, those who "freely" choose to be nonreligious are denounced as being un-American, or worse. It is part of the American ethos that the essential goodness and harmony of America is Godly-directed. To reject God is to reject America. Though Americans stand by their freedoms, the reality is that Americans are one of the most conformist modern societies in the world. We really are unwilling to acknowledge the subtle, coercive pressures that control our behavior, even our thinking, in social situations, including the workplace, preferring to understand those constraints as "choices."

The author suggests that the widely held belief in the freedom of economic individualism countered by thinly disguised social control can be viewed as a kind of formula where each side of the equation can expand or contract based on broad social conditions. For example, the 1950s, following the travails of the Great Depression and WWII, is seen as an era of conformity, where the "organization man" rose to prominence, which was then followed by the reaction of the Free Speech movement of the 1960s. "Entrepreneurialism" is the modern term for economic individualism. Since corporations dominate modernity, to maintain illusions of autonomy, it is necessary to emphasize the freedom to operate within them, not just CEOs, but also employees, so that the realities of corporate control are sufficiently obscured. Although government remains as the whipping boy from a business perspective, it can hardly be ignored that governments at all levels have become larger to provide the necessary coordination and management of an exceedingly complex society. Despite panglossianism, societies and economies do not free run. Nevertheless, the author suggests that our illusions of economic freedom, which ignore very real constraints - many necessary, have made us the most productive economy in the world. By contrast, in more traditional societies, where social classes are recognized, the lack of incentives and persistent resentments have an adverse impact on their economies.

The belief in equal opportunity is also a fundamental part of the American ethos. Some, namely The Left, have not accepted the claim that external conditions and circumstances are irrelevant in making economic headway. The author shows that leftist actions to facilitate a more equitable society, through such measures as labor unions or socialism, have largely fallen on deaf ears, especially the white working class, who accept the effectiveness of economic individualism. In recent decades, The Left has turned its attention to improving the situation of minorities. However, the author contends that mere remedialism is insufficient for The Left; they subscribe to a "transcendent" idealism that seeks to transform American ideals of individualism and middle-class conformity. The leftist upper middle-class, the "liberal elite," responds to this appeal partly because the actual costs to their social status are minimal, while the payoff in assuaging guilt is high.

The author is more than a little concerned that this idealism has taken a post-modernist turn - that is, well-established truths are regarded as being politically and ideologically determined. The author criticizes these idealistic programs, such as multiculturalism, which rejects cultural assimilation and regards minority cultures as the equal of the dominant culture, and affirmative action, which places under-prepared individuals in organizations to everyone's detriment, as totally ignoring obvious realities and experiences, which are justified using a post-modernistic approach. Furthermore, in an atmosphere of political correctness, these initiatives cannot be discussed forthrightly. He is vexed that dysfunctionalities of minority cultures are not open for discussion. The author may be distressed by this fairly recent idealistic development, but, nonetheless, the core tenet of economic individualism within a context of Panglossianism still dominates American culture.

The book is somewhat repetitious and in its attempts to generalize is perhaps too dismissive of alternative views and efforts to counter America's dominant themes. The contrasts with European thinking are insightful. The author's background is not known, which is perhaps a bit of a hindrance in categorizing the book, but the book draws on hundreds of credible sources detailed in extensive notes. Some may be repulsed by the author's critique of minority assistance, but it fits in his thesis of deceptions. Over all, the book is a very interesting look at our values and our only too willing self-deceptions. It reminds one of Hofstadter's "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," which is referenced several times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look into the American psyche, and offers much food for thought, April 5, 2009
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
Mom, baseball, and apple pie - but what is America really about? "National Lies: The Truth About American Values" looks at the American people and what they really stand for, and how while Americans mean well, their ideas may not be what is best for the country. Topics discussed include everything ranging from the Founding Fathers and the challenges they faced from Day 1, black and white thinking, how some wars started from American idealism, and more. "National Lies" is an interesting look into the American psyche, and offers much food for thought.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Burkean Conservative Looks At - and Misrepresents - America, March 30, 2009
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
As far as I can tell, the author of National Lies is something of a conservative in the vein of Edmunde Burke. His thesis in National Lies is that the values that make up the character of the United States are built on illusion. According to Churchyard, Americans believe very much in individualism (either economic, personal, or both) because of a "childesh panglossian faith" that capitalism and rugged individualism are the best way. We believe, quite falsely, that hard work and merit can bring everyone up; we believe in an egalitarian society where class and caste are artificial constructs. Thankfully, we have Churchyard to tell us that we are dead nuts wrong.

What is this "childish panglossian faith" Churchyard refers to? It is the idea, apperently held by Americans, that all is for the best (even though, as Churchyard also argues, Americans reject arguments from tradition at a rate higher than any other country). Churchyard argues that this panglossian faith (named after Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide) causes Americans to naively believe that everyone is of equal moral status, that the poor can become middle-class or rich, and that we should not simply accept our lot (as the Brits rightly do, apparently).

If all of this sounds confusing, muddled, or strange, I couldn't agree more. As best I can tell, Churchyard is himself a Brit (or someone who is at least awfully fond of Brits), and has a nasty habit of hasty and sweeping generalizations. (It is commmon to hear him say things like, "The American believes x," or "The American, on the other hand, prefers x." His proof of such generlizations often consists of saying something like, "It was noted once by a foreign traveler that...")

Occasionally, Churchyard stumbles onto an interesting point, such as noting that difference between what Brits and Americans mean by "conservative," or his observations about the wide-sweeping nature of egalitarian morals in the US and its contribution to America's relative informality comapred to other nations.

But Detocqueville Churchyard is not. Many times, I found myself thinking that he has gotten things very wrong (his depiction of Americans as simulteneously individually detached from the community and dominated by group influence, or his strange assertion that Americans are all quite laissez-faire trusters of free markets).

To put it bluntly, National Lies is a quite repetitive and jumbled book of social commentary punctuated by the occasional valid insight.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMERICA EXPOSED: answering two fundamental questions, May 13, 2009
By 
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
XXXXX

"As for the present [book], if it has any claim to merit, they must rest on the accuracy, depth, and originality of its insights, and those are the criteria on which I hope readers will judge it...I have constructed a theory that addresses two fundamental questions:

[1] Why has the United States become the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world?
[2] Why, despite this achievement, are so many of its citizens so discontent?

I would think that such an undertaking would satisfy anyone with a normal intellectual appetite."

The above is found at the end of this extremely interesting, well-researched, well-written book by Charles Churchyard. Information about Churchyard seems to be limited (even an Internet search reveals nothing) but from the book's inside jacket back flap, it can be deduced that he is a researcher and author who lives in the Boston area. Inside this book, it's also revealed that his alma mater is the University of California, Berkeley.

The theory presented in this book's first two parts (of four parts) presents what the author calls "the American formula." The first part presents the first half of this formula which explains the beliefs that seem to motivate Americans. The second part presents the second half of this formula which constrains and regulates the forces created by the formula's first half.

It is important to remember that the essence of American achievement (material strength and consumer affluence) "is the delicate and dynamic balance" that America maintains between the two halves of the American formula, a formula that "is rarely found elsewhere in the world."

The theory regarding the American formula (presented, as mentioned, in parts one and two) forms the framework for parts three and four that are concerned with "keeping the formula in balance." Specifically, these parts analyze "the conflict between the ideals and the realities associated with the American formula."

Part three emphasizes the realities, how they have changed and how they have affected the behaviour of those who believe in them. Part four focuses on ideals, the ways in which they also have changed and the social transformations that have occurred as a result. Here, the astute reader comes to realize that the ideals of the first half of the American formula are in contradiction to the realities of the second half.

According to the book jacket's inside back flap, the author "spent thousands of hours" researching this book and "created over 15,000 notes for this book's database." After reading this book, I conclude these comments are accurate. There are thirty pages of notes found at the back of the book.

This book may get some people angry as it exposes realities that some may have been completely unaware of. Remember, though, that what the author presents is a theory (in my opinion, a very good one) and even admits that his conclusions "are tentative."

To get a good overview of this book, I strongly recommend that any potential book purchaser visit the author's Internet site at "charleschurchyard dot com." It details the contents of this book quite well and you can even read excerpts.

Finally, I had two minor problems with this book. First, I feel that the word "Lies" in the book's title is too strong. I think the titles "National Deceptions" or "America's Self-Deception" are more accurate. Second, the word "theory" is presented once in the book's introduction but several times in the book's after word (located at the end of the book). I think it should be made very clear in the book's introduction that what is being presented is a theory.

In conclusion, this is a unique book that indeed does give us the truth about America and its values!!

(first published 2009; introduction; 4 parts or 10 chapters; after word; conclusion; main narrative 395 pages; notes; index)

<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>

XXXXX
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A sophomoric, unsubstantiated view of American culture, April 19, 2009
This review is from: National Lies: The Truth About American Values (Hardcover)
At times very humorous but other times infuriating this book makes claim to knowing the "truth" about American values. Its author though does not engage in any kind of careful statistical analysis or sampling, but instead is comfortable with presenting only anecdotal evidence for his thesis that America is "a nation living a lie." This reviewer may agree with most of what the author is claiming, but if pressed for evidence as to the validity or truth of what is being put down in print, would be unable to present any. Being in agreement with the author does not make a good a book. Instead, one desires a careful analysis, obtained through statistical sampling and concentrated attention to detail.

This reviewer read only the first two chapters, and did not find any of this kind of analysis. No references are given that cite statistical studies indicating support for the author's thesis, and so this reviewer decided not to proceed with any further reading of the book beyond the second chapter. Further, and even more annoying, is that the author seems to claim a status of viewing things from an apodictic, privileged point of view, one that is unbiased and free of the "large and unifying forces in operation beneath the chaotic surface of day-to-day life."

Some readers may find the book amusing or helpful in some way, or it could serve as a catharsis for those who enjoy making fun of American culture. There are good and bad things about American culture, and its vices certainly go hand in hand with its virtues. But extreme claims require extreme evidence, and the author does not succeed in presenting this evidence in this book, not even approximately.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

National Lies: The Truth About American Values
National Lies: The Truth About American Values by Charles Churchyard (Hardcover - March 16, 2009)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.