The Semiotician Decodes Current Issues

HERE'S how Marshall Blonsky, author of "American Mythologies" (Oxford University Press, 517 pp., $30), characterizes some of the cultural patterns in the United States: The recovery trend

"Weird!" he says of what he calls the American "obsession with being victims."

"There are so many different recoverers. It is the `massification' of recovery - Alcoholics Anonymous, fill-in-the-blank anonymous - and that suggests it's not a very virile, energetic population, nor well-balanced.

"It's coming from the feeling of bitterness and powerlessness.... And I'm a bit afraid of a country if so many of its people are recoverers....

"You've set the place at the head of the table for a theocrat or dictator who can say `I know what you want, I can fix it. Leave it to me.' " Opinion polls

"It seems that what is being produced by day-to-day fluctuations of opinion polls is a sense of a horse race, a sense of excitement," he says, noting the euphoric sense of speed marketers use to lure customers. "If I had to market the presidential campaign, I would market it just this way: Bush up. No! Clinton up a tad. Whoops! Watch Sister Souljah come into the picture. Ross Perot! It's real theater." Ross Perot:

"He calls himself the Mr. Fix-it businessman.

"I think it's very dangerous, this fix-it business, because what [voters who like him] are really doing is saying, `I'm so despairing, or bitter, I just want to give it over to someone else.... You fix it, I don't care how you do it, just fix it.' " The '90s

"What people are pretending the '90s are is the period of simplicity, a period of atonement. We really regret making all that money [in the greedy Wall Street whirl of the '80s]. The '90s is about not appearing to have money."

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