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American Pie (Fight?)

by afew Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 11:45:40 AM EST

(The title is deliberately provocative. There is nothing below but a sincere but sketchy attempt to jot down some thoughts about Americans and Europeans, and it represents no more than my imperfect understanding of the situation. There are plenty of objections to a good many of the points I raise. Just trying to move things forward a bit...)

Recent discussions here (here and here, for example), and on DKos have emphasized that dialogue between Americans and Europeans is increasingly difficult. We don't understand each other, and it seems to be getting worse, not better.


When I say "worse, not better", I'm thinking in the short term (the last few years, and even over the last year), but also in the relatively long term. From my own recollection, it was certainly much easier for Americans and Europeans to agree at the time of the Vietnam War and particularly during the Nixon years (so why don't Iraq and Dubya produce the same effect, one may wonder?). But there was a much more radical critique of Amerika among Americans then, both from hardened left campaigners and young baby-boomers -- and it was Americans who were spreading that critique elsewhere in the world. The draft may well have had a lot to do with that, by radicalising middle-class youth, and by setting off a movement of draft-dodgers to other countries. Back then was also the high point of a long upswing of progressive values in America, through the Depression and New Deal years to the Sixties and the final achievements of the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps most of all, the headiness of the youth revolution of the Sixties, the brusque movement towards sexual and cultural emancipation, was shared between the States and European countries. It was a generation thing.

Since then the conservative backlash -- almost a Reconquista -- has significantly swung the American political compass rightwards. A whole heap of boomers dropped their radicalism and joined the mainstream, partly thanks to the glorification of business, of the enterprise, in the Reagan years. Younger generations have since grown up with a number of changes in cultural and sexual mores as given -- things to defend, since they're under attack from the Christian right, but with none of the elation of breaking the taboos in the first place.

These points are true of Europe too, to some extent, but have had less far-reaching effects. It's generally fair to say that a difference exists here -- overall, the American political spectrum at the moment is further to the right than the European (with the possible partial exception of Britain). And this is one source of misunderstanding.

Arrogance

But another obstacle that is often in evidence is that Americans (again, I'm talking about Americans on this blog, on DKos, on other progressive blogs), experience European commentary as arrogant, condescending. I'm not thinking just of knee-jerk reactions on DKos (which may even come from MC Kos himself or other principals), but of words like these that I believe deeper and more thoughtful:

From NearlyNormal:

Sheesh we are doing the best we can.  I think its a shame that we are in such a shitty state to begin with, but really, there are a lot of us trying our best to shove this big son-of-a-bitch in the right (make that left) direction.  I think you are discounting the generally positive movement. <...>

Maybe I'm being foolish here, but I really like this place and respect you guys and its a shame imho to see the attitude of cynical superiority.  Keep the superiority if you must but drop the cynicism.  Lots of us are trying.

From MillMan:

There is also the paternalistic attitude toward America and every other country for that matter woven into the fabric of European cultures. That's what drives us crazy, or at least disappoints us.

Though I take these comments seriously, I have to report that they surprise me. Let me just get two things out of the way first:

  1. there are different idioms at work. A lot of people here don't have English as their first language, and those who do (mostly British and Irish) don't express themselves in the same English as Americans do. That does not signify we are being stuck-up, toffee-nosed, elitist, or any of these things we get accused of. Before Americans object that they're in fact aware of this, I'd just ask them always to be aware of it. People don't have to speak the American vernacular to be just plain folks;

  2. cynicism: NearlyNormal's response was to an admittedly cynical comment from Bad Colman, and it's an understandable reaction. But please bear in mind that our sense of humour is not quite like yours, we play with irony and cynicism more than you do (in general), and above all we apply it to ourselves and each other. It is obviously up to us to bear in mind the difference too, when we write, to avoid giving offence.

Arrogance, condescension, a superior attitude, may of course exist in some individuals and on some occasions, it would be useless to deny that. But the accusation is levelled routinely and on occasions where it doesn't seem entirely justified to Europeans, meaning we are astonished to hear that we come across as arrogant, and are at a loss to see how. (Was Jérôme's diary yesterday arrogant and condescending, or angry and provocative?) My feeling is that the frequency of these accusations has to do with perception: Americans perceive their relation with Europeans as one in which they are looked down on.

And that's what surprises me, and no doubt other Europeans, because we have a different perception of that relation. It springs from America's position as the world's greatest power throughout all our lifetimes. It's not just a question of military and diplomatic power, though that counts. It's enormously a question of economic power, and of cultural power acting as a conductor for economic power. I sometimes wonder how far Americans (non-expats) fully realize the extent to which American culture -- language, music, TV, films, food, popular culture, corporate culture, ways of being, working, doing business -- has permeated the world and become standard since the mid-20th century. Speaking of higher culture, of art, how often has it been noted that the centre of the world's artistic activity moved to New York with WWII? What basis is there in this for Europeans feeling superior to Americans? And there is another factor at work here, that of corporate and financial capitalism-based propaganda in favour of, essentially, the American way of organising society and business, run through pet think-tanks, pundits, and the world's English-language media that influences so strongly the rest of the world's media. Then there is the special variety of neo-colonialist hegemony practised by America (Amerika?) and that only the neo-cons call "empire" to its face. The European experience of all this is not akin to a downward-looking, ivory-tower view, but more the sensation of living in America's shadow. If anything, the perception Europeans have of the "psychological" balance between them and Americans is the converse of that relation as perceived by Americans.

So possibly what I'm saying is that you can't feel paternalistic towards an 800-pound gorilla (unless you're a 1600-pound gorilla yourself). Or can you?

Frankly, I think that European paternalism is worn out. It might just be held to apply to former colonies which have become neo-colonial stake-outs. The USA just doesn't fall into that category, not at all. More into the category of those countries that can be paternalistic here and there...

Is this getting us anywhere?

It doesn't look much like it for the moment. But I think there's another difference between us that contributes to misunderstanding (of the kind: astonishment on both sides), and it resides in the nature of our views of our own public discourse and public life. Some progressive Americans maintain a critical distance from belief in the nation and its founding myths -- the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, if not the Exemplary Nation (the city on a hill), at least the country that tries -- but most share sincerely in that belief. Here's a comment from Migeru (that you're free to discount if you think it's over the top, I'm quoting it as the view of a European who recently spent several years living in America):

...even after all that we know Bush has done in the past 6 years, it seems to be an open question whether a groundswell of outrage can be generated in the American public. Because to admit what Bush has done flies in the face of the myths that underpin America as a nation and define Americans as citizens. It is a question of faith, if being American is a religion the Constitution is scripture and the President is the High Priest, and people will rather deny the evidence before their eyes than deny their faith.

You will not find belief in the nation anywhere in Europe, including Britain. We have no faith in our nations, states, or supra-national structures. Post-modern nationalist or regionalist identity movements exist, but that's precisely what they are, no more, and they don't signify positive belief in the nation. We come from generations of devastation and massacre. We have built a peace on ruins, and Germany was not the only country to start from zero, to some extent we all did (the UK held a gratifying position, but even then...). Behind us we have the swathes of dead of World Wars I and II and genocide, on our own territory, and a long history of shifting borders defined by war. We don't have the deceptively short and the deceptively simple history of the USA, and we don't have Americans' more direct and positive attitudes. At the risk of sounding condescending -- but that truly isn't the case -- I'd say a great deal of American civic culture is primary compared to the secondary, tertiary, even highly convoluted civic culture of Europeans. I'm not making a value judgement there. Europeans may have the critical distance, Americans have the oomph.

We can learn from each other, and perhaps we'd better. In any case, the differences aren't going to disappear by magic. If we go on not understanding them (or preferably trying to make capital out of them), I'm afraid we are going to stop talking to each other.

If we want to go on talking, could we think of these points that I'm setting down quickly? Is it possible that Americans might see a bit more where Europeans are coming from, and be less defensive, less prompt to ascribe European attitudes to arrogance or elitism? Is it possible that Europeans seek genuine dialogue through fully appreciating the differences in attitudes to public life? Could Americans be less innocent about the projection of US power in the world? Could Europeans take on some of the positive American spirit, and try harder?

Display:
Much respect to you.

Could Americans be less innocent about the projection of US power in the world? Could Europeans take on some of the positive American spirit, and try harder?

The whole article sums up what I was thinking yesterday. Thank you.

The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

by deviousdiva (thedeviousdiva@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 11:54:34 AM EST
Thank you, deviousdiva! It's good to know I'm not alone in thinking like this.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:10:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a great diary, afew.

I ofter think about the fundamental difference in outlook between Americans and Europeans. Americans have a can-do attitude that leads them to try harder, and Europeans a jaded cynicism that leads us to not try hard enough. Then again, no amount of trying harder in the wrong direction will lead to success [see Iraq], but if you don't try you won't accomplish anything.

These attitudes get forged in the educational system. I very often had to tell my American students (to their disbelief) that no, you don't get "points for effort" if the effort is misdirected.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:19:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Recent discussions here (here and here, for example), and on DKos have emphasized that dialogue between Americans and Europeans is increasingly difficult. We don't understand each other, and it seems to be getting worse, not better.

When I say "worse, not better", I'm thinking in the short term (the last few years, and even over the last year), but also in the relatively long term. From my own recollection, it was certainly much easier for Americans and Europeans to agree at the time of the Vietnam War and particularly during the Nixon years (so why don't Iraq and Dubya produce the same effect, one may wonder?).

Is it possible that it is harder to agree because we undertand ourselves and each other better?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:14:00 PM EST
What's possible, (as we've said elsewhere) is that the boomer generation was fairly naïve back then. There were plenty of illusions and delusions about how far "the movement" was ahead, and how easy it was going to be to change the world.

As to whether we understand each other better now, I strongly doubt it.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:36:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... you would understand how well you already understand us. There is, after all, so little to understand. Voilà.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:39:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but I think the way the Boomers were most naive was in their buying into the age-old "basic niceness of Americans" argument: People are essentially the same everywhere; Americans are fundamentally good and decent; once their "consciousness" is raised high enough, all will be right with the world.

Then came the 2004 election, when 66% of the American electorate was not "good and decent" enough to vote against a lying, thieving, criminally incompetent torturer and warmonger. The result was massive cognitive dissonance, which a lot of left-leaning Americans have sought to resolve by falling back on the "People are essentially the same everywhere" argument but with an ugly twist. You see it in every thread on dKos where "foreigners" dare to comment: Europeans, in particular the French, are "just as bad as Americans" or(when the dissonance reaches a peak) "exactly the same except much, much worse."

by Matt in NYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europeans, in particular the French, are "just as bad as Americans" or(when the dissonance reaches a peak) "exactly the same except much, much worse."

You may be onto something... Is the shocking discovery that America, the land of the Free, is just as bad (or worse(?)) as the nations from which it strived to be different after it seceded?

Perhaps it's part a phase of denial and/or re-adjustment to the dis-illusion of finding out that the New World can behave just as atrocious as the Old World...

by Nomad on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:52:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You ought to write a diary about it.

My thoughts exactly.

Of course, everything has something wrong with it.

And Nirvana and human perfection are all around the last bend.

Last bend is a bit tricky.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 09:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good stuff, me duck!

One point I would make is that there is a difference between America the state, and America the nation (though of course "We the people" ultimately decide on the methodology of the state. Or do they?)

If I lambast America, it is almost always the state I am aiming at - not at individuals - especially our friends here.

But another point - most Europeans have forgotten their nationalism, except for sports. When I was a kid, when the last movie finished, we all stood for the Queen as the anthem played. Some people even stood at home when the BBC shut down for the night.

That has all gone. And which is why we find it hard to understand the role of the US Flag in everyday life. Europeans have a different take, IMO, on what individual freedoms mean. For us, it is more to be oneself, to aspire to express individual feelings, and to appreciate diversity in others. Yes, we have that 13 starred EU flag - which also sits on this masthead - but we are never going to salute it. Instead we will turn to our neighbour, hold our right hand to our heart and say - maybe - 'Salaam' which means peace. Or we could say 'Shalom' or 'Terve'. So we'd rather salute each other than a flag.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:14:17 PM EST
But I also understand that it could be difficult to follow some the double or even triple-snarking that goes on round here - some conversation have more levels than a Russian doll (though most of the Russian dolls I've met had only one level)

Irony is one of those literary devices that doesn't always travel well. ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a good twisty metaphor about the Russian dolls.
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Errrm, I could read this as ET being anti-women.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just wait till Lana sees Sven's joke.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is important to remember that the Triloqvist Method - the search for innovative wit, driven by nostalgia for the Algonquin Round Table - has at its core the dismissal of all factual evidence - except for the single anecdotal inspiration that formulated the original thought.

The bon mots are far more important that any notions of correctness ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And you're never short of bons mots...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:03:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I try, mon ami, I try ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 04:49:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the US the National Anthem still gets played at public events and people stand in attention for it. The first time this happened to me what at a classical music concert and I just sat there in disbelief.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know it gets quite amazing. And its getting worse. Last year, I was in a stage race in Nebraska, the initial stage of which was held in some state park outside of Lincoln, NE. No spectators there really at all, the spectators here normally are along the circuit and at the finish. And yet, they played the national frickin' anthem, for the benefit only of the riders and race officials, no doubt to get up our patriotic fever before riding 150 km.

This had never happened to me before, but of course it was also the first time I raced in Nebraska.

I was dumbfounded.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:32:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just think that at international sports events Spanish players have no anthem lyrics to sing and fans are reduced to humming along (which they have taken to do wuite noisily in later years, something I find wuite amusing and am sure is done for the amusement value). The anthem never gets played at a domestic sports event unless the King is present (like, for instance, the final of the Copa del Rey - but it is the final of the national knock-out tournament and the King is in attendance). Every sports event in the US involves playing the anthem.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:36:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate the WQERTY keyboard layout.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:40:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember the ongoing arguments in the 90's whether to play the national anthem before the games of the NSL, with the skippy soccer mob argued it would help re-assure a "mainstream" audience while the wogball mob argued it was a cultural cringe import from America (which argument itself is a form of cultural cringe).

In the end with the establishment of the A-league, it was the corporate sponsors who got to decide, and so the anthem stayed.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:28:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where was that concert?
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here, in late 2000.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:18:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where's 'here'? Internet? Great Britain? It's not customary (in fact it's completely bizarre) to play the national anthem before a concert.
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could follow the link. It was at the municipal auditorium in Riverside, CA.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:34:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've gone to very, very many concerts in the U.S. and never had the experience. Sorry, I didn't think of the link. I'm still a bit (to say the least) backwards when it comes to internet gadgets. Why do we write internet with an upper-case letter: like Television and Telephone?
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:48:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are many telephones in the world, but there is only one Internet.
by Trond Ove on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:23:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Internet and the World Wide Web are two separate components. The Internet is the infrastructure ('pipes'), the www is the data handling (pumps)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 04:54:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
www is one data handling (the html-based), though nowadays the others (ftp, gopher, usenet) are marginalised, except for the newer p2p.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 06:25:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course - I was merely pointing out (ineffectively) that many people confuse the two terms.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 06:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Noooooooo!

There are much more datat handling possibilities than the www. To name one you probably use: email.

But there are others too.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 06:29:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nationalism. You'll spend the next three hours explaining the very word "nationalism" (I had a fairly decent education, but I don't remember ever learning about it in school, as opposed to endless "units" on Communism). And then prepare to argue for another three or four hours to persuade them that nationalism isn't necessarily an unmitigatedly wonderful political philosophy.

En passant, this is also why you have almost no chance of ever having an intelligent conversation about Zionism in the U.S. Even educated Americans are unfamiliar with the most basic concepts you need to analyze it.
 

by Matt in NYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:29:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the most trenchant comment I have seen in a year.  It sums it all up.  I get flamed on DKos for drawing distinctions of fact (like the fact that there were no "communist" "exterminations" in Vietnam when the War ended - and that the US supported the genocidaires in Kampuchea) - and for questioning nationalism.  

The US' accelerating slide into ignorance reminds me of something Orwell said about the goal of Duckspeak - to render critical thought impossible.  Well, in the US we have privatized the Ministry of Truth - and our media are putting the Nazis, the Soviets, and MiniTru to shame.

by cambridgemac on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the fact that there were no "communist" "exterminations" in Vietnam when the War ended

Do you mean that whatever was wasn't communist (but say nationalist), or that it wasn't extermination (but say a purge), or that there was no significant post-victory bloodshed?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:13:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a rare chance to peek into World History exam papers of US College freshmen and there was a tendency to cast everything in American terms regardless of the country and time period involved. For instance, one Student wrote that "China had a system of Checks and Balances". This, to me, showed the damage that "civics" classes do to American High School students. It equips them with a collection of set phrases and poorly undestood concepts with no critical thinking and no context. It is next to impossible to have a sensible conversation with them about politics outside the US (national or international).

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:41:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, the astonishing thing is the National Anthem played before matches between domestic clubs. Why not the club anthems, or a league anthem?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was astonished to see this happen in Finland. Jokerit of Helsinki played against HIFK of Helsinki and before the game started there was the Finnish national anthem and the crowd stood up. I cannot figure out what that was about. Someone had watched too many NHL games I guess and then copied the custom.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
National anthem? How about the frickin' "Pledge to allegiance" we had to recite every day of my elementary, junior high and high school. <jeez>

I pledge to allegiance,
to the flag
of the United States of America
And to the republic, for which it stands,
One nation, under God,
Indivisable, with liberty and justice for all.

Did I get thatt right, mah fellow Americans? <damn> if one day I develop Alzheimer's its going to be one of the few things I'll remember, it is so deeply set in my long.term memory...<sigh>

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:42:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that still done nowadays?

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:41:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every day for your entire pre-college school life.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:15:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not any more.

A generation ago, it was nearly impossible to get through the American public school system without learning the oath - and equally impossible to forget it after so much practice.

The wane of the pledge from American life is more tied to indifference than passion, says Barbara Truesdell, assistant director of Indiana University's Center for the Study of History and Memory.

"It used to be we'd hear it at town meetings and public gatherings," she says. Now, "it's just not a part of daily life."

The decline is perhaps most apparent in the classroom - particularly blue-state high schools.

"I don't know of any high schools in the area in which the pledge is recited daily. It isn't here," admits a superintendent of a largely liberal suburban Boston school district who asked not to be named because of how contentious the subject can be. "If I insisted on it being recited here - which is not my plan or desire - my career would begin a quick and flaming descent."


http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1207/p20s01-legn.html
by asdf on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 10:41:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And woe be it to anyone who suggests that the "under God" part be taken out.

On a tangent, I was shocked (and believe me, I'm not easily shocked) to learn recently that as late as the early 1960s Jewish kids in NYC area public schools were forced to recite the Protestant version of the Our Father/"Lord's Prayer." At least, that practice is no more.    

by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heheheh.  You know Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons?  Before he did that, he was a cartoonist, and he had one of his characters, I think it was Bongo (a rabbit) say a "modified" pledge.

OK, I'm going to do this from memory...

I plead alignment
to the flakes
of the untitled snakes of a merry cow
and to the Republicans
for which they scam
one nacho, underpants
with licorice and jugs of wine for owls.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:11:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That has all gone. And which is why we find it hard to understand the role of the US Flag in everyday life. Europeans have a different take, IMO, on what individual freedoms mean. For us, it is more to be oneself, to aspire to express individual feelings, and to appreciate diversity in others. Yes, we have that 13 starred EU flag
The EU flag has 12 stars and the Danes use theirs just as much as the Americans (for instance, they decorate birthday cakes with flags and when IKEA was first introduced into Denmark its colours were white and red, not the Swedish blue and yellow - I suppose the Swedes are also very attached to their national colours?)

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:24:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
12, 13, 27 what's the difference? ;-=

You'll see flags in Finland on special days - it is the job of the building caretaker to have it up and down at the right time. You'll see flags if Finland win the world ice hockey championship again. But it is just a picture - something that stands for far more than a state.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:34:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference is that the starts are explicitly not intended to count the member states. That's why 12 and not 27.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pray enlighten us as to the specific origins of the 12 - and I mean the explicit meaning.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:40:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On 8 December 1955 the Committee of Ministers adopted this as the European flag. "Against the blue sky of the Western world, the stars represent the peoples of Europe in a circle, the symbol of unity. Their number shall be invariably set at twelve, the symbol of completeness and perfection ... just like the twelve signs of the zodiac represent the whole universe, the twelve gold stars stand for all peoples of Europe - including those who cannot as yet take part in building up Europe in unity and peace." The Council of Europe from the beginning desired it to be used by other regional organisations seeking European integration.


Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:42:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I stand corrected.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My new neighbor has his flag out permanently. But he is a far-right bozo with a penchant for appearance (always walks in 'traditional' clothes), representing a small minority of freaks (even within the far-right).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you linked is traditional festive wear for peasants. Here you can see a less colorful 'traditional' bourgeois wear (this look is actually more late 19th/early 20th century that aimed to reproduce clothing centuries earlier, but was in no small part fantasy). What my neighbour dresses in is an even funnier cross of the two, e.g. a shape like the second and on it a colorful needlework like the first.

BTW, just today I noticed that he took off the flag, when he put up Christmas lights (yes, that energy-wasting madness is creeping over here, too).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:00:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there is a difference between America the state, and America the nation

Quite, but it's difficult in a piece like that to keep on pointing out you're aware of that, and of wanting to avoid generalising about all Americans, and of wanting to talk about progressive Americans and particularly those who comment on blogs and particularly here... I used the old "Amerika" a couple of times to signify the state, the military-industrial complex, rather than the notional nation America or the American people.

On flags and national pride -- I'm glad we don't do this in Europe. I think it's pro-gress. What I'd like is to see us have more enthusiasm and will to try to do things.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:43:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One detail I disagree on with you is this. Europe is still full of nationalists, and often nationalists of a variety less flag-waving than violently chauvinistic, even if with lesser frequency in Western Europe. I'd say the two main differences of American nationalism are (1) how widespread it is in the population, (2) how naive and subconscious it is.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:30:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying there are no nationalists in Europe. But your use of "still" implies a continuity that only concerns a small minority. And I am saying the American way of relating to the nation is specific and not to be found in Europe (whatever the efforts of post-modern "identity" fanatics).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:39:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying there are no nationalists in Europe. But your use of "still" implies a continuity that only concerns a small minority

Western Europeans have this occasionally annoying tendency to forget about the rest of the continent...

And I am saying the American way of relating to the nation is specific and not to be found in Europe

Take France, add the identity as an immigrant nation and subtract the French experience of horrible victory  (WWI) and defeat (WWII).

by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:52:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marek, glad to see you here.

First point: you're right and I was thinking it as I wrote to DoDo.

Second point: yes, but I'm talking above about the result of these processes, meaning the way Europeans relate to the nation today.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:55:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Meaning, I don't see how your second point is valid since the French, in point of fact, do not share that kind of nationalism with Americans today.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:58:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree. The French have the same abstract ideological  concept of nationhood - what Habermas in a somewhat different context referred to as Verfassungspatriotismus. The legacy of the arrogant 'mission civilizatrice' can also be seen among both Gaullists and certain nationalists on the left  (Chevenement is the extreme case). On the other hand it is much weaker today than the US version so perhaps the question is whether a difference of degree has reached the level where we can speak of a difference of kind.
by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:10:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual, we don't agree. The French do not have the unquestioning belief in the nation and the almost sacred character of its symbols and myths that is shared by many Americans. The French are distanced, cynical, decidedly unbelieving. It's not just a question of degree.

That France has a certain historical similarity with the US in that both are nations with pretensions to universality is true, but my point in the above piece concerns how the concept of the nation is experienced by the majority of the people, how the nation is perceived. And there I think there are decisive differences.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The French are distanced, cynical, decidedly unbelieving.

Can you differentiate that comment with view to political allegiances?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:16:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Viewed from the outside, there are some similarities, though. Say pomp and grandiosity of July 14 parades.

Regarding your first point, I don't see your consideration of non-Western Europe reflected ("small minority"), unless you only considered 2004 new EU members.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:14:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NB - the notion of rabid nationalism as having declined to a small minority is a sad joke for anyone observing Poland today. Imagine a government made up of a mix of de-Villiers and Le Pen ( in the context of much weaker norms of political correctness), with the main opposition as the more hardline nationalist Gaullists, add a strong mix of fundy political Catholicism which openly describes Franco's Spain circa nineteen forty something as their ideological wet dream, statues going up to Poland's most prominent fascist in the center of Warsaw to great acclaim governmental (and the dismissal of those who find that just a bit objectionable as self-hating Poles or sellouts to the West or Stalinists or conscious agents of Satan), and you'll begin to get an idea.
by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:23:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the very low participation in the last elections, the thing I wonder about is how much this reflects popular thinking.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the very low participation in the last elections, the thing I wonder about is how much this reflects popular thinking.

Who knows. I'd imagine that those who don't vote are less political than the others - whether vaguely social-liberal young people in the thriving cities or vaguely fundy in the impoverished countryside. Though there's also increasingly the question of the effect of mass migration to Western Europe on voting patterns. That probably hurts the PO most of all - much younger than average, and somewhat more educated, and young university educated people are the PO's strongest demographic.

by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]

add the identity as an immigrant nation

I agree with the rest, but I disagree with this bit. France is just as much an immigration nation as the USA, and sees itself as one. The integration takes a totally different form (assimilation, "nos ancêtres les gaulois", etc), but that's another point.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France is just as much an immigration nation as the USA

I think this is one of those terms that means different things to different people.  In the American context, "immigrant nation" doesn't mean "a nation with a lot of immigrants," it means "a nation where (almost) everyone is descended from immigrants."  In other words, part of that American national myth that redstar was talking about, i.e. "we're all immigrants."  I doubt that France thinks of itself as a nation of immigrants in the same way.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:22:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the "we're all from elsewhere" or the profusion of hyphenated-Americans.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:55:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:59:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I doubt that France thinks of itself as a nation of immigrants in the same way.

Because all immigrants become French, not hyphenated French. Their status as immigrants is irrelevant.

But we are a nation where (almost) everyone is descended from immigrants.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:00:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this hyphen-American concept is total rubbish.  Migeru even says downthread that Americans consider themselves hyphen-Americans 10 generations back.  That is absurd.  10 generations back you don't even know the mix of country backgrounds in your blood.  

your confusion may be that Americans that are a couple of generations away from the "old country" are usually curious and interested in where there ancestors come from.  But you are totally off base in thinking you understand America on this point.  this is a great example of either not understanding, or just trashing America.

I wonder too if those young people rioting last year just consider themselves French?  

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:06:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ot are you projecting you own trashing thoughts on what I wrote? I just said that you have that concept of hyphenated Americans, and France does not. Whether it is rubbish or not does not eliminate the fact that it exists, which makes the concept of what it is to be American different to the concept of being French. "Different", not better or worse. Jeez.

As to this:


I wonder too if those young people rioting last year just consider themselves French?  

If you read ET at that time or later, you'd know that the answer to that is an unambiguous and resounding YES.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:09:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, it would seem that Americans that take "different" as anti-Americanism just show that they cannot imagine that there could be anything better than America, and thus foreigners that claim to be "different" without acknowledging "inferior" at the same time are fully guilty of America-bashing, because they don't admit that America is better.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:10:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When Barbara and I decided to come "back home to Europe" people were genuinely sad for us, and kept asking whether there was something they could to to help us stay. As if we were going to fall off the egde of a cliff, or something. The thought that someone could leave the US for another place voluntarily was genuinely shocking to them. I believe Bob has relayed a similar experience, in his case of an American leaving.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If your friends were young Americans, with little international experience, I guess I could understand that.  But I have a feeling you're going to tell me they were not.  Or, if they were from rural America, and hadn't travelled at all and have little appreciation for life outside of America--I wouldn't be shocked.  But I've never thought of Berkeley as rural, so I don't think that's the case either.

But this is absolutely not the reaction that my friends would have.  In fact, it is quite common among my group of acquaintances for people to go back to their home country.  I have an Indian friend who has gone back.  I have another Indian friend that is retired, and spends about 40%, he and his wife, of his time in India.  They have family there,,,it just is not at all surprising, and literally no one is sad for them, or thinks they've fallen off the cliff.  The same with Europe.  I have an English friend who thinks "America is the place to earn a living, because you're not caught up ina class system, and the economic system allows hard work to move you to the top", but, he says, "Europe is the place to retire,,,Europeans know how to live the better life, with the culture, etc."  We'll see on him--his kids are still fairly young, and they seem pretty American to me,,,,I'm not sure if he and his wife will want to be away from them, and the grandkids--down the road.

I would like to someday have a place in London, and spend a significant amount of time there.  It's my favorite city in the world--too bad about the prices.  -:}

I could continue with these examples, because I have many--and vice versa as well,,,Americans living in Europe and staying,,,others coming back.

It is just not accurate to generalise the reactions you describe to Americans.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:43:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that this was a tribute to how much they liked the two of you?
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:03:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barbara, yes. Me, not so much.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a somewhat similar experience when returning from West Germany. My classmates wondered why we don't just stay, by wondering I mean completely perplexed. Though, in that case, we left an in many ways really better place, plus there was returning into a dictatorship (despite the news of changes, no one knew in advance that it will really be over a year later).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:55:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, indeed, very similar. And now that I have left, I hardly hear from anyone anymore (unless I initiate the contact). But, I adandoned them, after all, so what should I expect? (Truly I'm not bitter, but definitely sad at times...)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 02:50:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
your snooty Cartesian logic!

</snark>

by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:21:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just want to say for the record that I did not in any way interpret your comment as "trashing" Americans.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:33:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's deal with the hyphen American comment first.  Why do you think that?  The first generation may have said they were Irish american,,,and textbooks in describing the immigration trends may use that term.  so I can accept that some immigrants who come, and are the first generation, may refer, depending upon the context of the conversation, to themselves that way.

My black friends think of themselves as American.  My Norweigan, Italian, Irish,etc friends think of themselves as American.  My Indian friends think of themselves as American.  

So explain why you think this please.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not Jerome's point. Of course they think of themselves as American, but if they're typical Americans they still crave an ancestral identity (or identities). Look how popular DNA testing is.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DNA testing, or genealogy research.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:09:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but DNA testing -- at least initially -- costs a lot more than geneological research, so I think its popularity is even more of a sign of how much Americans want to know who they really are. Plus, who doesn't love to be dazzled by Science?
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:09:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
because I AM one of those less-than-two-generations hyphenated Americans, but I've never met an (unadopted) American who couldn't give you a fairly comprehensive inventory of their ancestry. I particularly love the people that will say, "Oh, I'm one-sixteenth Cherokee, one-eighth French, one-sixteenth Polish ..." (usually adding up to what would be about 1-5/16 human beings in less diverse countries).
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this hyphen-American concept is total rubbish.  Migeru even says downthread that Americans consider themselves hyphen-Americans 10 generations back.  That is absurd.  10 generations back you don't even know the mix of country backgrounds in your blood.

Ten generations, sure - there we're talking about those who are descended from before the big 1880-1920 wave of immigration. But from then on it gets different. Perhaps not out west where the Italians and Irish and Poles no longer have any ties to the old village-like urban enclaves, but in the Northeast and the metropolitan areas of the industrial Midwest things are different.  Here you get fourth generation Italian kids going wild over Italy's soccer team, waving their flags as they run through the streets. Kids who don't follow soccer, have never been to Italy, and don't speak any Italian - but they sure as hell are Italian, and Italy won.

This town is a mosaic of tribes and sub-tribes for whom their ethnic identity is an essential part of both their intense local identity and their national (American) one.  Even when they  move out into the suburbs they retain their ethnic identities, thus giving us phenomena like Congressman Peter King (R/Sinn Fein-NY) whose Irish Republican allegiance takes precedence over his US Republican one.  

The new immigrants here have been replicating the same pattern - settling in concentrated groups, filling their neighbourhoods with markers of the old country - all as part of the process of assimilation.  My impression is that this is also true of Latino and Asian immigrants in California.

by MarekNYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:17:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
will still get you big laughs, even though there are only like 4.3 Jews left in those regions.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you also get to hear Kohn & Grün jokes?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:48:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel cheated! Are there any you could share on the Net?
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:10:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
None I can find in English. But you can read of them on the Wiki page on Hungarian jokes (though AFAIK Kohn & Grün were known all across the Habsburg Empire). Here is one example.

Kohn suffers from a guilty conscience, because he had a fallout with Grün and feels it was his own fault. So he goes to the rabbi, tells him the story and asks for advice.
"You have to say sorry!"
"Do I really have to say sorry?"
"Definitely."
"Can I also do it on the telephone?"
"Yes."
Hearing this, Kohn goes home and dials Grün's number. The other end of the line answers:
"Hallo?"
"Hallo... is that Mr. Smith?"
"No, I1m Mr. Grün."
"Then sorry."

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:30:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and thanks for the great link, too.
by Matt in NYC on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 09:15:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that Americans for several generations love to talk about their genealogy,,,,1/16 this, 1/8 that.  and in the first few generations may stay close to one of their countries of heritage, due to relatives they may know, soccer teams they may follow.  and then they have to pick which soccer team they like best,,,because they're half, something, and 1/4 something else, and then again.  it's all part of the melting pot effect in America.  but I didn't take the hyphen-American comment to mean that at all,,,but rather the opposite, that Americans stay divided,,,which they don't.

I guess my experience in Chicago and California is that these enclaves break down over a generation or two.  The German area in Chicago I believe is now Latino, with people moving out to the suburbs, or just marrying and moving.  In California I live in an area that is 40% Asian (lots of countries when I say Asian) and 60% everything else.  However the various China town areas do seem to maintain their Asian roots--but some of that seems business related.  Like in that area in London just south of Soho,,,very Chinese/Asian it would seem, and everyone knows where to go to get various varieties of Chinese food.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But of St. Patrick's Day, even 1/1024th Irish-Americans are 100% Irish-Americans, no?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:50:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The integration takes a totally different form (assimilation, "nos ancêtres les gaulois", etc), but that's another point.

Actually that is the point.

by MarekNYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:32:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That France is not a country of immigration? That it does not see itself as such? That it is not seen as such?

It is a country of immigration, where immigrants are expected to become French. How is that different from the USA, a country of immigrants where immigrants are expected to become Americans?

Are you saying that the way the French define being French somehow negates the fact that it is a country of immigrants?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:43:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Immigrants are expected to become hyphented-Americans, so even if they're 10 generations away from immigrants, they still think they're from elsewhere. That is the difference.

France is a country of French people, regardless of your origins which, to boot, it is illegal to keep track of.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:46:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I understood in Marek's first comment already, too. I get the feeling that we hit on a nation-myth as difficult to communicate about with a French believer as about those redstar mentioned with most Americans.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying that the way the French define being French somehow negates the fact that it is a country of immigrants?

This discussion is about national identity - i.e. self identification. So it has to do with self perception, and the way Americans relate to the immigrant experience is very, very different than the way the French do.  To take one example, the political calendar of NYC, and every other old line city, is littered with celebrations of its constituent groups - St. Patrick's  Day, Columbus Day, Puerto Rican Day, gay pride day, MLK day, etc - waving their flags as they march down Fifth Ave, with every local politician jockeying for a place at the front of the parade. Affirmative action and de facto ethnic quotas have a long history here predating the Civil Rights movement and were used as a way of integrating the various groups.

by MarekNYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
interesting... we're mostly in agreement on the facts - but we still seem to end up with totally different conclusions...

I fully agree with what you say on national identity. The one thing I don't like is when Europe in general, and France in particular, is described as a place not welcoming to immigrants, which is the logical next step (which YOU did not make) of the point you state about integration.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:19:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The one thing I don't like is when Europe in general, and France in particular, is described as a place not welcoming to immigrants, which is the logical next step (which YOU did not make) of the point you state about integration.

Well I might make it, though it would be even France, not particularly France, - I think it's pretty clear that there is considerable anti-immigrant feeling in France and that there is a racial component to it - but that's  obviously true in the US as well. In fact just now it's been stronger in the US, but that goes in waves in both countries so the reverse has been true as well.

I also think that Germany is substantially more unwelcoming than either France or the US - think of the Christian Democrats campaign against changing the law to grant children of long term permanent residents citizenship.

Where I have problems with France has to do with my liking of the hyphenated model, and my instinctive distaste as an American liberal for what is effectively a model very similar to the one promoted by the pro-immigration faction of the US right, albeit embedded in a very different historical context.  I think that some parts of the US liberal model - namely affirmative action or actually allowing the governent and researchers to collect data based on categories of ethnicity and race - would be helpful in France, and feel that there is a bit of a kneejerk little c conservative tendency to reject such changes out of hand. Other parts, like ethnic and race based political mobilization, which has been one of the most powerful integrative forces in the US,  probably aren't transplantable to France's political system and culture.

by MarekNYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've looked through this discussion and really don't understand where you're coming from on this point, Jerome. France is mostly populated with people descended from families who have lived there since pre-history, is that not correct? I don't know the percentages, but would it be correct to guess that at most perhaps 25% of "French" people are descended from historical immigrants? Obviously, ALL Americans (well, 99%) have immigrated within recent historical times.

And while Americans are pretty well homogenized, don't think that people here are unaware of their immigrant background. Everyone is aware of their heritage, and while they might not know any details about what it means to be Russian, or German, or Irish, and while it might not matter on a day-to-day basis whether somebody is from one background or another, people are very much aware of it and they do take it into consideration at times of marriage, for example. "Is he Irish?" or "Is she Russian?" or "What church will they go to?" are standard considerations.

I simply do not understand how you can group France and America (both U.S. and Canada) together on this point. It is one of the (few) significant differences between our backgrounds.

by asdf on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 11:06:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The end of the second paragraph is a bit passé for most people in the US, don´t you think?  Maybe in some circles people still ask that, but in my experience, what they really ask about is race and religion.  Even that is becoming uncommon for most generations, I hope.

Everybody knows their background, but only minorities seem aware on a day-to-day basis, and viceversa, for obvious reasons.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 03:52:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 France is mostly populated with people descended from families who have lived there since pre-history, is that not correct?

That is not correct. It's been an immigration country forever. Romans, Normans, all the Celts, The English later on, and, in more recent times, Russians, Poles, Germans,  Italians, Iberians, Arabs, Africans, Vietnamese, etc...

Fun fact: France has the highest number of different surnames of all countries in the planet.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 03:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a continuity that only concerns a small minority

No. It is a small minority in some regions, it is even a majority in other regions (including Western ones, I'd put for example Spanish Basque lands in there).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:09:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First, I'll say there's nothing wrong with being snippy, condescending, or arrogant, on certain subjects, even if they offend. If that attitude, however, derives from a host of racist or chauvinist beliefs that are without foundation, then there's a problem. Both the US and Europe have superior characteristics in comparison to one another. We shouldn't be ashamed to utter them.

I enjoyed afew's diary but I would try not to read so much into the testy exchanges as evidence of differences between Europeans and Americans. Especially since Kos's site is monomaniacally interested in the Democratic Party.

I'm responding to Sven's post mainly because I think that he's on target in divorcing criticism of Americans from that of the American political elite. We do not have the sort of democracy in the US envisioned by our founding fathers. We have a corporate military culture ruled by elites. We have a perverted from of government. Why? Mainly because the corporate mass media has established power and hegemony over the political process, and serves to distort the meaning of democracy in America.

Now, this may be a cynical view of the US held only by a small percentage of voters (say, 15%) but it's an important distinction to make. If I were to generalize about Europeans I would say that because they have done a better job at keeping the corporatists and oligarchies at bay, that doesn't mean it's necessarily because European people value their freedoms more. It could come down to certain defects in forms of government, which may be more susceptible to assault by the rich and powerful. And, it could be that Europe is actually headed the same way that America has traveled in the last 40 years. Domination by corporations. I think the EU is already headed this way, ex. Monsanto's rights over consumer rights, the media's rights, etc. Greece recently tried to shore up their democracy by preventing monopolies in their media. Their new laws to prevent monopolies were shot down by the EU because they obstructed Euro media corporations from merging and acquiring smaller media. You tell me, is there a corporate encroachment going on in Europe? I actually see a lot of uniformity in European reporting which makes me suspect that the corporate factors which dominate American media have their tentacles all over European media.

As for Sven's last paragraph, I disagree in the sense that I think Americans do appreciate diversity, and in many ways they do it at a more profound level than what I've found in Europe (I can only speak to my experiences in France, Spain, Italy and Greece). Individualist tendencies also pervade, especially in places like Maine and our libertarian west.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Being an American who has resided in Europe (in Switzerland, to be precise) for a little over two years now, I can definitely see the differences...and feel them in myself too. I used to be incredibly defensive about being American...and by that I mean, while always quite left, I would not like to hear negative things said about it/us. But I now have a much different perspective than ever before, and a lot of it (I believe) has to do with living out of the US. The US is a huge country...so big that it kind of consumes the attention of the inhabitants, and makes it hard to have perspective of anything outside of it (or ourselves). I think...for example, even the neighbor states of Canada and Mexico are seen as foreign nations...it just hard to have perspective living in a land that big. Sometimes I think it would be better if it were to break into regional nation-states, like what is happening here in Europe. Anyway, I can say that for the first time I have more perspective about America and Americans, because I'm not in it. It's good...and its difficult too.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:30:00 PM EST
and it might happen to the States. There are already sf novels written with the idea of an USA broken up into different independent (and warring) nations...
by Nomad on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:20:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope you will believe that this was written before I bumped on top of the comment of Bruce, below, describing the Nine Nations of North America (but I think there are other writers than Garreau who toyed with the same idea)...

Grief.

by Nomad on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:27:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really good diary, keep the dialogue going. And apologies for my insensitivity on occasion, the posterior insensitivity of one with his butt between two chairs...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:34:23 PM EST
I think (I hope) I understand your position, and nothing in this diary was meant to cast aspersions on it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:46:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't take it that way at all. I was just meaning that I've had my own run ins in this regard, and I hope my sometimes rash and sloppy treatment of various aspects of the issue are not overly off-putting.

This being said, I think that a certain level of conflict in these relationships are inevitable, insofar as European interests are not American interests, in fact, quite a lot different as we are seeing today. America is a different place, with different history and, though many (esp on the left) claim otherwise, an increasingly different people with a different ideology steeped in the history, culture and the peculiarly insular geography (relative to other world powers over history) which is America.

The quicker Europe and Europeans get comfortable with this difference, the better imho.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:55:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My response was simply meant as encouragement.

Yes, there are substantial differences, and we're not going to change that. It would be good, for progressives on either side, to understand those differences sufficiently to be able to hold a conversation. At least, I think it's worth a try.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:07:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been my experience (as someone who's lived on both sides of the pond) that:

  1. when it comes to the Rest of the World Americans know nothing

  2. Europeans THINK that they know America but they don't (which is often worse)

  3. Sweeping generalizations like Statement 1 and 2 above are the root of the problem.

Further, I was in Moscow in 1989 or 1990 and they too were rather defensive when we told them that their country was going down the drain.

Americans right now are also defensive because the US, too, is going down.

In 10 years it'll be a completely different ballgame.

by Lupin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:41:38 PM EST
Great diary afew. Are you going to cross-post it at dKos and BT - I think it would be worthwhile, though one never knows, the reaction might be different as expected.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:43:25 PM EST
I'd have to adapt it to cross-post, and I don't have the time right now.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 12:55:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:

TeHe. Excellent idea.

DL's impeachment thingy is up to 1400 comments.

I do think we can help develop the incipient agent provocateurism that is afew if we launch him gently into the DKosasphere.

Once established, the DL/Afew tag team could drive them to distraction over there once a week.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very Well written and thoughtful.

Will try to respond a bit when I get back from weekly groceries.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:06:58 PM EST
I'm a leftie outlier on the ET Political Compass, but it's the first time I've been called a Wobbly! ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:12:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the political compass put out for the Dutch elections I was a slightly left-of-center progressive.

On both of these, I seem to be a bit further left.

So, on the first test I got -4.25 left/right and -7.64 libertarian/authoritarian. On the second test I got a (normalised on a scale of ten to be comparable) -3.70 left/right score and a +0.72 pragmatic/idealistic score. Almost the exact same place as Charles Kennedy there.

So I guess that would make me a pragmatic libertarian center-lefty... or something.

I think the libertarian side was probably skewed a bit by the questions on religion, though. Religion is no longer an important part of tradition for (some of) us Europeans (to go back on-topic), so a negative attitude towards it doesn't necessarily reflect anti-traditionalism or anti-authoritarianism.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:55:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I took the first test and got

-9.00 Economic Left/Right
-7.95 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian

The second test gave me these results:

left/right      -8.8032 (-0.5299)
pragmatism     -0.3778 (-0.0227)

Seems like I'm pretty far to the left.. no surprises there.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Being called a Wobbly is a compliment.  

Fellow Worker.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 09:50:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans don't understand the attitudes and concerns of the rest of the world. I'm not sure this is any different than in other countries. It is just that when the US decides something is wrong they have the army to go and do whatever they wish to "fix" it.

Not only do most Americans not understand the issues in the rest of the world, we don't even understand the issues in our own country. For example whites think at about an 80-20 ratio that racial discrimination is not a problem, while blacks believe at just about the reverse rate. The result has been the dismantling of most of the programs to remedy several centuries of mistreatment over the past 30 years. The final nail in the coffin of equality as a goal will be placed shortly as it is expected that the Supreme Court will rule that voluntary school busing programs to achieve racial diversity are unconstitutional - this despite evidence that the programs work.

Another example has to do with people's understanding of the economic prospects of the average person. The middle class doesn't realize how poor they are in relation to the wealthy, nor how little chance they have of moving out of their social strata. Nevertheless a majority still supports policies that favor increased economic inequality.

DailyKos and similar places are a good barometer on "liberal" opinion. The left believes their own set of myths and resents anyone pointing out that they may be misinformed or wrong.

The variety of outlooks is what, for me, makes ET a more interesting place for discussions of fundamental issues.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 01:30:25 PM EST
Two hands:

On one sit...those here who are americans or have lived in america for some time.  Or have (an) interest(s) in global politics, which involves knowledge of the structure (and people involved in)...america spelled with a "k"?  But also europe spelled with...whatever we could use to designate something negative about Europe.

On the other sit...(s) me, who has never been to America (south or north--I mean the continent), and didn't come to European Tribune via Daily Kos.  I'm interested in people's perspectives, their personal views from where they are--whether they be political, cultural, economic, scientific, yadda, etc.

So back to one hand...I was reminded of Agnes a Paris's comment about all the text messages she had cancelled, followed by Helen's comment that writing many messages saying how you don't care sorta defeats the object of the messages.  (I hope I got that right!)

A bunch of youze here are on the one hand up there; I'm on t'other.  From that other hand, I would like to say that I enjoy reading anyone's diaries/comments from anywhere in the world...as long as they're...enjoyable...and if they manage to prise (prize?) out a few of my (oh so many!) prejudices...not to mention everything I learn...so if you can all work out yer difficulties (ps, the idea that europeans--not the progressives, of course...my point is that national identity could become the new fundamentalism for, okay, let's say those who...those who consider themselves over run by "foreigners"...I'm thinking of the BNP, Lega Nord, M. Le Pen (20% of the french vote?)...DoDo's photos of the hungarian right...I think they're 20-30% of populations (wild guess), but a friend of mine once said that...

30% don't give a flying f---
30% only give a flying f--- when it affects them personally (and then they'll vote their personal advantage)

That leaves 30% who are interested...of which how many are progressives?  Yadda blah!  News from around the world, please!  Yeah, the whole world, no barriers--dolphin and whale posters welcome!  Write, post, and be merry!



Small projects need much more help than great - Dante Alighieri

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:00:13 PM EST
rg, you are awesome.  I should probably remember to tell you that about once a week, in case you forget.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:34:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll probably reply as a diary, hopefully this weekend.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:14:44 PM EST
This whole thing about understanding and misunderstanding between the U.S. and Europe goes way back, and is a common, often-studied theme in U.S. literature: the U.S. had to prove its credentials in relation to Europe, maybe especially England (language) and France (culture), but nevertheless found Europe somehow a bit decrepit. Two remarks: Europeans can't even begin to imagine how culturally isolated most Americans are in their thinking and action, witness the relative rarity of people with a second language; and Europe has regained a lot of confidence since the end of the second war, has become a sort of power because of the EU's development. Slightly off topic, I have always been sort of fascinated by the chance historical reality that Great Britain's empire spawned especially successful countries on the land of native peoples: U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand.
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:29:42 PM EST
I am sure the Dominions and Aborigines are intimately linked.

Britain was then master of the seas - with sailing being the www of that time, to the watery connection of the oceans as the Internet.

It was not that they specialized in hoodwinking native peoples, but that when you have an almost friction-free communication environment, you go further and explore.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quentin, about languages. Consider this: language is often about a projection of power. As English takes hold all over the world, American universities are now doing away with a language requirement, in direct proportion with the rising usage of English elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in American private and public elementary schools, only Spanish remains (for obvious reasons) among the old group of options (when I was in school 30 years ago I had the option of taking Latin, French, Italian, German and Spanish in public school.

At a certain point in the 1980s, Russian and Japanese became very popular languages in public schools in the better educated parts of the US.

20 years later, most second language instruction is gone. But now we read articles of public schools everywhere adopting new classes in ... Chinese.

What else are we to conclude but that there is an implicit message that language study is to be undertaken as a means of financial integration, and not cultural integration.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:59:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with everything you're saying here, but I also think that the American educational system dooms Americans to monolinguality (if that's a word), no matter what languages are offered or not offered in their schools. I had an interesting experience this past summer, when I taught a Yiddish class (don't ask how or why!) to a group of about a dozen sophisticated Manhattanites. For the first time in my life, I came to understand how terribly difficult it is for Americans to grasp the simplest concepts of language, even when they are -- as this group definitely was -- highly committed to doing so. "Now, tell me again: what exactly is a preposition?" (From someone with a PhD!) "But I'm a man, why do I have to learn 'feminine' words?" [Meaning words of feminine "di" gender like Amerike and nakht].

So I've come to believe that Americans are sadly handicapped when it comes to learning foreign languages not just because of our cultural myopia but also because of our linguistic ignorance.

by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:04:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what happens when all the teaching of your own language is limited to spelling, and no grammar.

I am observing the same in my Czech lessons right now (only the Russian and the Spaniard understand the Grammar: the British are at a loss).

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I didn't want to slight anyone but my own compatriots, but UK-educated people also seem to share this "handicap." Maybe it's part of being proudly anglophone?
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:18:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it has to do with a pragmatic approach to language instruction ("just say it even if the grammar is off and they'll understand it anyway" or "just figure out the rules as you go, now let's talk") and the fact that English has a really simple grammar to begin with, its difficulty being the spelling/pronunciation and vocabulary.

So when you try to teach a language with a simple phonetic system and straightforward spelling rules, but heavy on the grammar, heads explode. And part of the problem with teaching in this situation is that you're trying to teach both the grammar and the foreign language.

An (educated/language-aware) English speaker, would need just a crash course in English grammar (parts of speech, tenses, etc) to learn to think grammatically, and then they could learn the new language. If you're trying to teach a language (and from an entirely different family) and the concepts of grammar at the same time, I'm not surprised it was difficult.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:25:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ack, I understood Hebrew, not Yiddish. Forget about "a different linguistic family"

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:30:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yiddish might just as well have been from an entirely "different linguistic family!"  
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:35:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me just say that Matt's experience of the American educational system is very very different than mine. I always criticized American English classes as being way too heavy on the grammar.
by Upstate NY on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:36:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
why American adults know so little about grammar. I agree, my traditional Catholic school had a lot of what was called "grammar," but as I remember it, it mainly consisted of heaping scorn on "double negatives" and rote-learning, with no audible results in later life, "lie/lay/lain" and "lay/laid/laid."

Test: ask three of your U.S. friends to explain the difference between "who" and "whom." If at least two of them don't say, "Well, whom is more formal," or "Who is the colloquial form," you have one very smart set of friends!

by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:54:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you remember graphing sentences? No other educational system I know engages in that preposterous exercise.

And yes, my friends would know the difference between who and whom, and they do say "you and me" instead of "you and  I" and one even knows what an ablative absolute is!

by Upstate NY on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:08:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Graphing sentences? What's that? Something like underlining usbject, object and verb?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:12:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Upstate's referring to diagramming sentences?  I don't really remember exactly how to do it, but I recall vividly that it was my favorite thing in elementary school.  I'm sorry to hear it's fallen out of fashion.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:41:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link. Upstate is at least right in my case, such diagrammatic grammar education is new to me. (Thus I can't say anything about its positiveness or negativeness.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 03:02:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. My God, I spent thousands of hours of my life doing that. 4 straight years of English instruction doing that, plus more homework.

Can I have those hours back?

by Upstate NY on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 04:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pretty much, though you can also do it with a tree diagram, etc.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Upstate NY on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 05:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain does engage in Graphing sentences. It's often called syntactic analysis.

The whole point of this discussion is that, if you don't have even a basic grasp of syntax, you're going to find it hard to learn a Foraign language. And God help you if you need to learn a flexive (case-based) language without understanding syntax and parts of speech.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:37:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migueru, I think syntax is practically in the flexible-past in public schools, from my observation.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 08:12:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When our English teacher in our English language high school in Geneva decided we should do some grammar he quickly realized we didn't even have the basics. He solved that problem by switching to French grammar to explain the English version since most of us had a good grounding in that - so a native English speaker explaining English grammar in French to a majority native level English speaking class.  But I only really learned some grammar when I taught ESL in Poland after college - I realized I had to teach myself when on the first day one of the kids asked me something about phrasal verbs - something I'd never heard of before. And as for Polish grammar all I know I learned in Russian classes in college and grad school.
by MarekNYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, learning grammar and learning names of grammar structures separates. As Indo-European languages are so different, there was no other way to learn them than with words and grammar in parallel. But I would have to look up "phrasal verb". Or "Dativ", for that matter...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:03:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"But I'm a man, why do I have to learn 'feminine' words?" [Meaning words of feminine "di" gender like Amerike and nakht].

I must admit that as someone with a mother tongue that lacks genders, I still struggle with gender in Indo-European languages (witness the innumerable cases when I write "s/he" or "his/her").

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:44:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you're not from Tokyo, where they not only don't have a concept of grammatical gender but also pronounce "hi" and "shi" exactly the same.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:46:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's surprising about prepositions, because Americans are taught grammar to the exclusion of almost everything else in highschool and elementary school.

Do you Americans remember graphing sentences? Limbs shooting off for every prepositional phrase?

A Canadian friend, an excellent writer, was astounded at the knowledge of Americans when it came to grammar because in Canada, you basically read a lot in English class, are read to, and you engage in analysis. Language is supposed to come naturally. In the US, when I was growing up at least, we dissected language as though it were a science.

by Upstate NY on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His argument was: the world looks at American foreign policy and would consider it a disgrace if Bush were not impeached.

Kos' counter-argument was:

  • we cannot actually convict, so a failed attempt would vindicate Bush much the same way it did for Clinton;
  • it would prevent the new Democratic Congress from pursuing progressive democratic legislation, which it does have the votes for.
  • it would take at least a year, by which time Bush's term would have only a year left anyway.

Jérôme's argument can be found irritating to Americans because it doesn't go into the details of American domestic politics, which is of course of central importance to Americans.

This makes American readers feel that their needs aren't being considered, only the rest of the world's.  So their instinct is to lash out, even people who detest Bush and would love to impeach him if they could.

Ironically, of course, Jérôme regularly complains about media in English-speaking countries making broad generalizations about continental European economic policies without actually studying them in detail.

by tyronen on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 02:51:58 PM EST
I found Jerome's argument counterproductive for impeachment advocates, because a general impression that the rest of the world wants him impeached is his surest ticket to see out the rest of his term.

But since I am not an impeachment advocate for now, and probably not for another six months, that did not aggravate me very much.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:08:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a relevant or useful comment, if you don't mind me saying so.

I'm not personally so concerned by the impeachment argument per se, rather by general misunderstandings, and more on ET than on DKos, because I'm much more interested in maintaining a good level of discussion and exchange here than in whatever Kos wants to make of his mega-machine from now on. So the impeachment question wasn't my topic here.

I find this is right beside the point:

Ironically, of course, Jérôme regularly complains about media in English-speaking countries making broad generalizations about continental European economic policies without actually studying them in detail.

In what way Jérôme is equivalent to the entire English-speaking media beats me. And Jérôme (or anyone here) doesn't complain about the English-speaking media making broad generalisations without studying the detail -- or at least, that isn't the main thrust. What several of us say here is that the English-language media peddle ideologically-determined propaganda about continental Europe, and that they set the agenda for media in other languages too, creating a corpus of globalised conventional wisdom about who is ahead of the curve and who is dragging their feet, about what is "inevitable", about what must be "reformed", and that this CW is in fact entirely favourable to the copious lining of rich men's pockets.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:37:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually understood Jerome's argument as also being cogent and centrally important for American politics and the needs of American citizenry.

We need a mechanism which dissuades leaders from lying (in order to cover up blow jobs) in order to start wars.

What are these mechanisms?

I can think of only two: impeachment and criminal trial.

It's a pretty short diary that can make this case to the American people.

"You have to do something about leaders that lie in order to start wars."

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:05:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing to do with domestic politics...

The Bush administration has spent the last five years subverting the US constitution and planting poisonous legislative, executive and judiciary seeds that need to be purged from the system. None of this will happen and it will come back to bite us. As for Kos, if he gets a Democratic President in 2008, he'll probably argue that Bush's expanded executive powers come in real handy.

That is the problem.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:04:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IMHO, there is not even close to a majority view in America that Bush should be impeached.  there clearly is a strong view that either A. we went to war prematurely in Iraq, or B. we screwed up the post-war,,,and I agree with both.  The most receptive audience to Jerome's call to impeachment would be found on DKos.  But evidently, and I don't read Dkos, even they have rejected that view.  

Jerome is of course welcome to voice his opinion on what Americans should think and do, but he shouldn't be surprised at the reaction--it would have been far, far stronger if posted to the American public generally.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:47:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i agree, probably not for the same reasons :

i think since most americans were for this invasion, mainly without giving much importance to Bush'aguments but just by revange after 9/11, they had to show the arabs, whoever arabs, the price you pay when you kill american and humilate America.

an impachment would be like putting themsleves in trial, it is not confortable to look at your own mistake and thus would not be popular.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 03:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IMHO, there is not even close to a majority view in America that Bush should be impeached.

Well, there was in January. There can one be again.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:21:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I would also imagine they would have voted for impeachment on a question like: "If President Bush murdered 7 Democratic senatators for not agreeing with him, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

The question did not address the facts of the wiretapping--calls from suspected terrorists from overseas.

We'll see of course what will happen regarding this now that the Democrats are in the majority.  I agree with what purportedly was one of the themes from the Dkos comments:

we cannot actually convict, so a failed attempt would vindicate Bush much the same way it did for Clinton;
 Just my opinion, but I think a significant majority of Americans would back Bush's efforts such as this one to protect the country, and this would backfire dramatically on the Democrats in an impeachment hearing.  The election results were an important victory and should allow the country to get back on course.  But the American opinions on this website and Dkos are all to the left of the American center--either slightly left, or very left.  Even look at the group that initiated the poll you quote, "a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003".  This whole thread has been very interesting, but I see the context, and I think it is intended to be so, as trying to understand how the American left thinks--not how America thinks.  the comments regarding the singing of the National Anthem make that very clear--they don't represent the comments of the center of American thought, imho--if they did, people wouldn't stand at the singing of the national anthem.
by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:06:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you are saying a majority of Americans agree that Bush should be allowed to wiretap American citizens without a court order on his own say-so that the said American citizens are receiving calls from suspected terrorist abroad?

Do you agree?

What do you call "efforts to protect the country"? Lying to Congress to pursue an unnecessary war of choice in violation of international law?

Talk about "points for effort in the wrong direction".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:20:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, I believe most Americans do agreee with that.  i would like to see some oversight, and I think Congress and the administration can agree on the specifics.

My comments on protection, I thought, were clearly focused on the subject of protecting the country from terrorist attacks, like 9/11.

So you think both of these efforts are "in the wrong direction"?

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:52:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought Iraq was supposed to be "protection" as in "fight them there so we don't have to fight them over here".

But, really, if the American people don't think the Executive could have obtained court warrants to carry out these actions supposedly intended to "protect" them from crime... What are they saying, that a judge can't recognise clear and present danger when they see it, or that there was really no evidence to support the claim that these actions were taken as "protection"?

Maybe the American people would like a taste of UK-style surveillance state, for "protection"...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK style surveillance is pretty tame compared to the prospect of having all of your communications tapped without oversight and without the need for a warrant.

Of course communications are tapped in the UK as well. It's just that no one admits to it. And it can't be used as evidence in court without at least some token nominal legal oversight - which makes it less of a free for all than in the US, where the Preznit has decidered he can listen to anyone for any reason and it's okay for (here comes the cliche...) national security reasons.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK style surveillance is pretty tame compared to the prospect of having all of your communications tapped without oversight and without the need for a warrant.

But if you have nothing to hide you won't be wiretapped. Honest!

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:53:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well you do have the UKUSA signals intelligence agreement, from 1943 which is apparently still in force which would  allow both governments and intelligence services to bypass the legal restrictions placed on them. Neither government or intelligence service is meant to spy on their own people. but under this exchange of intelligence, both governments could simply spy on each others populations and pass the information over.

Perhaps the change in the rules signal that President Bush no longer trusts British intelligence?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:58:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<head explodes>

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:09:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and there was me thinking you paranoid enough to already consider something like this.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:35:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's been CW in the tech-community, since the mid-70s, all foreign calls and all calls within the DC/Arlington area are taped by the NSA.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 12:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

His argument was: the world looks at American foreign policy and would consider it a disgrace if Bush were not impeached.

Kos' counter-argument was:

  • we cannot actually convict, so a failed attempt would vindicate Bush much the same way it did for Clinton;
  • it would prevent the new Democratic Congress from pursuing progressive democratic legislation, which it does have the votes for.
  • it would take at least a year, by which time Bush's term would have only a year left anyway.

You make kos's case better than he did, but I agree that this was substantially was he said, minus the snippiness. I also agree with your characterisation of what i wrote.


Jérôme's argument can be found irritating to Americans because it doesn't go into the details of American domestic politics, which is of course of central importance to Americans.

This makes American readers feel that their needs aren't being considered, only the rest of the world's.  So their instinct is to lash out, even people who detest Bush and would love to impeach him if they could.

But the point was precisely to point out that other people are watching (even if they have no say in the process), and the details of American domestic politics are precisely of no importance to these watchers.

And of course foreigners will not worry so much about these domestic considerations, only with their actual consequences for US policies. But then foreigners can very easily be ignored or told off (MYOFB - mind your own fucking business) - and I was by a significant minority, including much of the brass of the site.


Ironically, of course, Jérôme regularly complains about media in English-speaking countries making broad generalizations about continental European economic policies without actually studying them in detail.

  • as has been pointed out elsewhere, i'm just a single voice with a small audience, I'm not major media outlet with the corresponding influence. so the comparison is silly because the impact is not proportionate;

  • I'm not complaining about broad generalizations, I'm complaining about specific errors, lies or sloppiness that gets repeated ad nauseam because it fits a narrative created by a very coherent ideology.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:17:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason you were wrong on impeachment is that as a foreigner you don't have the standing to talk about domestic US politics. Didn't you get the memo?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:25:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The impeachment of a leader who lied and propagandised his compatriots into waging a War of Aggression against a helpless, half-starved, largely disarmed but exceptionally oil-rich country far closer to our borders than to its own - and directly resulting in the deaths/maiming of hundreds of thousands of people in Eurasia.... with already significantly tragic backlash-effects in/against Europe itself and the prospect of further consequent regional devastation and turmoil against/amongst Eurasian nations.... is viewed in the USA essentially as... a US domestic issue - even by US "progressives"?

Heaven help us all!

If the US does not yet see the need to purge this festering foreign policy boil from its body politic by impeaching the person/persons responsible for its war-crimes, it is long overdue for international containment.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:27:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to speak of the festering domestic boil, which won't go away ust by removing Bush - this is like a tick which buries its head in the flesh and, if you pull out the body, still leaved the head there and continues to infect the host.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:49:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the core issue, I think.

When I look at the cheerleaders for the Washington Consensus - including the neocons, the CEO cult, the FT, the Economist, and the Straussians - I see no sign of empathy or human values.

This is a quasi-religious tribal cult that sees the rest of the world - and that includes everyone and everything outside of the privilieged circle - as either a threat, or a resource to be exploited.

It's completely pathological. It's beyond simple criminality, because it's not just about exploitative or violent practices. It goes much further into the systematic promotion of these exploitative values, and  a deliberate attempt to destroy any point of view that promotes empathy, fair negotiation, and mutual respect among individuals, businesses, or countries.

This week's Economist headline is 'Why ethical shopping is bad for the world.'

I mean, come on, let's be honest about this - how utterly insane are these people?

And under it there's a stench of death and self-hatred, which you can see clearly in Bush and the other neocons.

This wouldn't be so bad, but Bush is America at this point in time. Those exploitative values are the values that the US seems to run on - competition without quarter, winner takes all, break the law if you can, and if you lose, you fall out of the bottom of the system. And best of luck.

There's still a sizeable interest in fairer values down among the populists. But the (would-be) artistocracy has lost the plot completely, and they really do need help before they drive everyone off the cliff.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:21:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a million 4's for this comment, britguy!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 12:43:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Triple melo.

Snowballingly "utterly insane".  That´s why, to understand eachother, we need to
>>>>SEPARATE people from "power" and not generalize.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 08:18:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've a lot of agreement for jeromes basic argument.  but would like to take it further. It's argued that it would be a disgrace if Bush was not to be impeached. I would say it is an act of political and moral cowardice that will come back to haunt the democratic party if they do not at least try.

Kos' counter arguments are somewhat simplistic. his first point

we cannot actually convict, so a failed attempt would vindicate Bush much the same way it did for Clinton;
 Well I'd argue that they are such a piss poor gang of incompetents, that it would be hard for any investigation not to turn up enough to damage any feasable candidate that the republicans are going to put up against you at the next election. plus it will distract their entire election machine during the next couple of years when they are trying to get their campaign running properly. If they want to find George not guilty, they are going to have to deflect blame to other quarters.

it would prevent the new Democratic Congress from pursuing progressive democratic legislation, which it does have the votes for.
 What? is there some strange unwritten rule that says that the houses of government can't do anything else whilst impeachmet is happening?  If the media is concentrating on this, it may be an oppertunity to slip through far more progressive legislation, whilst they are distracted.

it would take at least a year, by which time Bush's term would have only a year left anyway.
Now that argument really makes my Blood boil. How is that of any relevence at all? If the  American government is not willing to hold its members to account, then it is essential the populace holds its elected representatives feet to the fire. The power that drives American exceptionalism, is that it is meant to be a pure democracy where politicians are heald to account by the people. Much of the world is willing to go along with this myth, but you have to live up to it for this dispensation to be granted, without it you are just another grubby nation state.

We don't say the average burglar only is going to have your tv for half an hour, before he trades it in for drugs, and his life expectancy is way down on the rest of us and as he's not going to be around for long, we should let him get on with it. why should we deal with crooked politicians in that way?

Jérôme's argument can be found irritating to Americans because it doesn't go into the details of American domestic politics, which is of course of central importance to Americans.

This makes American readers feel that their needs aren't being considered, only the rest of the world's.  So their instinct is to lash out, even people who detest Bush and would love to impeach him if they could.

I'd say it does, If you dont deal with the whole gang now, then the next generation of republican operatives will turn up, having been taught the valuable lesson that we do not expect responsibility from our politicians. and that any half assed, crack brained scam that they can come up with will be tolerated "for the good of the country". It's hard to see any republican president who hasn't come to office without some severe political impropriety. It is in the American publics interest that these Jackals are removed from the process, and I fam frankly incredulous that any American cannot see it that way.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:29:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My thoughts exactly....

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:20:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I do so use the term Empire when I get in a cranky mood.

... but I can't keep up the offense for very long as the rest of it is about right. Large numbers of Americans are simply tone deaf to irony that is the slighest bit dry, and our common heavy reliance on tone of voice to convey sarcasm has been causing havoc in the internets since the emergence of Usenet News.

And then there is a feedback relationship where people get in the habit of speaking very explicitly, like this very same fracken pedantic tome that this comment has become, and so people assume that there is not something there if it is not spelled out, repeated and underlined.

And so social conventions evolve and have been since before the dawn of time (or maybe 10:37am PEST 6,324BCE).


One thing that dawned on me in my decade in Australia ... the United States is far more nations divided by a common language than countries are used to coping with within their borders. Maybe the UK, if I can be persuaded that the Scots and the poms share a common language. While the Nine Nations of North America may be off by a nation or two (I expect there ought to be an Appalachia in there somewhere, f'rinstance), its in the right general ballpark.


Eight of those reside in part in the country of the US, and the most insular (or two most insular), naturally enough, reside entirely entirely the boundaries of the US.

I think that this may have something to do with the way that the outside world vanishes from consideration in US media. The constant redefinition of America to create the myth of a single nation-state is also accompanied by a constant contest over which nation has what influence in that definition tends to squeeze out the consideration of the nation's profile in the world. As any conversation that does not have room to grow, it becomes dominated by crude caricature and unfounded myth.

At the same time this analytical device, as with any analytical device of this kind, is only partly true. The genuine diversity between regional cultures in North America loom largers due to the greater familiarity ... the better we know a neighbouring people, the easier it is to recognise differences that an onlooker might overlook or see only dimly. And the extraordinary parochialism of experience of most people in the US fosters a how much greater a range of diversity there really is among the peoples of the world.

The phenomena of an hour or more of local news, combined with half an hour in the evening for national and international network news programming ... boilding down to less than 24 minutes of programming ... with up t half of that coverage devoted to puff pieces, and the majority devoted to national coverage leads to an extraordinary realization.

Except for a small portion of news junkies, the citizenry electing the government which is the locus of power of a World Empire receive maybe 5 minutes of actual information about what is happening in the current world outside the United States.

And when there is an ongoing involvement of the World Empire in military action, the coverage of international affairs from outside that realm of conflict can boil down to 5 minutes a week.

This is, of course, not a conspiracy ... it is a system. It evolved because the various parts of the system support each other.

The keystone of the arch, however, is probably the development of a system whereby Americans could be inundated with data without the serious risk of becoming informed. This freed Eisenwhoer's MI complex from the natural ebb and flow of American imperial adventure, in which a defining national myth was mobilized for external aggression, and then the people were revulsed by the failure of the external world to conform to the myth and there was a countering move to demobilisation. After WWII, blinding the American public to what is happening in the outside world and replacing it with replays of the myth played out on the screen allowed the mobilization to continue.

Every system has its Achilles heel, and the Achilles heel of this system is the freedom that it grants the MI complex to engage in monumentally foolish external adventures. This is a system for the MI complex to explore to find out exactly how badly they have to screw up in order to re-spark American isolationism.

As we have seen in the last five years.

There is no uncertainty that this experience will cause a revulsion. The uncertainty is whether we can find any of the knots that are tying the blindfold on, or whether we will simply go blundering blindly off in a different direction.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:02:01 PM EST
Great map, Bruce.  Thanks.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:16:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the map, thank Joel Garreau for engaging in the journalist travels that helped map it out, and the kind people of Wikipedia for making it easy to point to.

Edge city, now, I hope will be a less enduring cultural exploration.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:33:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By my own egregious typo ... the end of the third Par. after the map ...

... fosters a how much greater a range of diversity there really is among the peoples of the world.

should be

... fosters a myopia regarding how much greater a range of diversity there really is among the peoples of the world.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant
by cambridgemac on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Real good points here (and elsewhere) about the power of the media (and the MI that rules it) on shaping American views. I can pretty much predict that when you are in America and you watch a news program, this is what you will get in a half-hour program:

Half hour news program starts at 5:30. Besides 10 minutes of commercials, there will mostly be lots of local news. Some national news. Sports. then at 5:55 there will be this international news: "Yep, there's a world out there. Okay, after this commercial, we want to show some cute dog show clips"

Clearly I'm being snarky here...but not too far off (really!). The national news hours might give you a little more international news, mostly as these relate to the US...our wars, our efforts to help in natural disasters, natural disasters, etc. And so it goes...that's what an American hears, unless they are motivated to seek more info out elsewhere (like here at ET).

Am I inaccurate with this characterization? I don't think I'm too far off...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great deal of the MSM throughout the world, especially in the US but also in Western Europe, are wallpaper. Even in Finland.

This wallpaper is the background radiation of daily life: news, music, celebrity, sport, corruption etc. It tempts the externalization of thought. It allows people to stop thinking by continuously amusing them. It also betlittles seriousness.

But the worst thing is that it creates an environment of soundbite jingoism that comes to replace discussion and debate. And that suppresses learning.

As John Cleese enthusiastically explained, as an earnest Blue Peter-type presenter "How to play the flute: you take a hollow stick with holes in it and blow through it while putting your fingers on some of the holes. Right. And next we'll be seeing how Fluffy the giraffe is getting on in his new home" Or words to that effect.

Too many of us are tourists in life, taking snapshots as evidence for our friends and family to prove that we have indeed visited interestng places - when in fact we have experienced nothing but the facile documenting.

I am not against the banality of life. I am actually rather fascinated by it. But it is the different banal experiences that are interesting. I don't need a photograph of my sitting outside a Rome cafe at 10am enjoying a perfect espresso. What I need is a conversation with baarista Vittorio about what goes into a perfect espresso - the coffee, the grind, the constant mechanical adjustments for outdoor temperature and humidity. Because I'd like to learn how to do such a banal thing perfectly myself, at home.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:06:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, no, that is not right at all.

First, the local news is a seperate show. Often two half hour shows back to back, with the second one being the traditional local nightly news, and the first one being a local "infotainment" show that calls itself a current affairs show.

On the main local news show is the local news, state news (regional news for some very small states), sports news, and weather. Its viewership, therefore, is much higher than the viewership of the national news.

The national news is half an hour, at most 22 minute of programming, starting with whatever the 24 hours news networks and the major newspapers have decided is the "breaking" story of the night. That can be followed by one or two follow up stories on that breaking news, espcially if it involves a missing little blond white girl or a big winter storm that will disrupt business travellors lives, and the less there is to say the more likely they are to have additional pieces.

Then comes a sound bite apiece from a republican and a democrat on something, then a magazine piece that shows that they care about the issues that matter in your everyday lives, then coverage from overseas if there is a war on or an American politician is visiting a place where they have stringers, then a piece in a human interest series, and then the dead donkey and its a wrap.

I would satirise it, as series of Australian comedy sketch shows satirised their nightly news, but American nightly news is self-satirising.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:05:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
he United States is far more nations divided by a common language than countries are used to coping with within their borders.

Methinks superposed on the Nine/Ten Nations of North America, there is a US-countrywide trend of uniformity. This trend is the moving-around, the high mobility of the US population. This trend is not new, but it was greatly facilitated by the government-encouraged construction of the suburban-spread-plus-cars settlement structure. The underlyíing architectural, city-structural uniformity made a much stronger cultural uniformisation possible than the EU's basic right of free movement across borders will ever do. Thus both the regional and ancestral identities are hollowed out, its remains often 'worn' in a fetishistic way, in the sense redstar wrote about.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU also faces linguistic barriers, and a mental barrier of strong attachment to home, to one's neighbourhood, even.

What all the free movement of persons is doing in the UK is fostering the appearence of hundreds of expatriate businesses, like Polish bakeries distributing Polish bread to the whole of England, or Lithuanian corner stores, or Turkish convenience stores with signs announcing "we have Czech/Polish/Slovak food" in the respective language, or carrying Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish [yummy childhood flavours!], Danish products without announcing them.

We'll see whether the free movement of services [such as construction] and the participation of expatriates in local elections will have an impact on local development of housing and infrastructure. I doubt it, so the various EU member states (and regions within them) are likely to preserve their distinctive flavour, and the American "no-place" [for if, as in suburbia, every place looks like every place else, there are no separate places to speak of] won't happen.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:32:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant to raise a stronger argument than that: I think the attachment to home and one's neighbourhood is a function of the settlement structure, and a uniform architecture caused high mobility. So as long as European architectural uniformity won't go much beyond the all-prevalent outlets of Tesco, Auchan and Shell, and old city cores and less old urban belts won't be razed to the ground or totally depopulated, I think architecture itself will maintain local identities (one mobile European will adapt to when moving).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:53:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And broad pattern of networks of towns and cities seem to be a long-standing one in Europe{NB}, with long established local families, inmigration from their local hinterland (including lower level urban centres within its hinterland), and more mobile classes of professionals and artisans who expect that they may reside in multiple cities across their career would

The American frontier economy was based on settlement in newly taken land, building up the economic value of the settlement by establishing a local export-based economy, and then the next generation moving on to the next zone of newly taken land.

After the frontier closed around 1900, America eventually settled on the highway system as a way to engineer new frontiers to engage in the same process.

Even as dimly as I see a European model, and as briefly as I sketch that above, it is easier to see how it becomes a sustainable steady state system by providing for a regular outmigration from the urban centre to the hinterland (which may be smaller centre in the hinterland).

Making a frontier expansion model sustainable is tougher, and I am sure some would argue it is impossible. My outer-suburban retrofit ideas diaried in the Daily Kos involves using an interegional public transport line as the infrastructure subsidy for a process of frontier settlement of low density outer suburbs with a network of higher density outer suburban villages.

However, on its own it is only a transitional system. The hope is that it is a transition in the direction of sustainability, rather than another transition trying to avoid sustainability.

{NB. I try to speak very carefully here of A pattern IN Europe as opposed to THE pattern OF Europe. "Singular and comprehensive" pattern is not assumed.}

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:49:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After the frontier closed around 1900, America eventually settled on the highway system as a way to engineer new frontiers to engage in the same process.

In addition to neo-colonialism, of course.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:55:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... but I'd see neocolonialism as rather a complement to ensure access to the material subsidies required when the frontier is replacing a more productive system (the trolly / interurban rail / interregional rail system) with a less productive system.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:06:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, people in the EU are more likely to encounter a broader range of diversity than people in the US, but there are fewer people in the EU who imagine themselves to be Europeans first and foremost, and French and Pole and Slovak and Spanish and Scottish after.

The EU in that regards is, in other words, far more like the US of 1800, when most people thought of themselves as a State citizen first, and a US citizen as well.

Of course, if there is a tendency among USofAmericans to equate Real_World=USA, there is also a tendency in Europe to equate Real_World=Europe.

What makes the Nine Nations thesis so useful for analysing events in the US is the very strength of the myth of a common national identity. That is what makes the understanding of the main regional identities so important in understanding social and political events in the US.

However, it must be recognised that if the myth was firmly establish that the US is a confederation of Eight (or more likely Nine) Regional Nations, using a state federal system as the arena to decide upon cooperative confederation-wide actions, it would be equally necessary to point out how the common impacts of those common actions makes for very real threads of common identify contained within the national boundaries.

An attempt to understand current social, political and economic events WRT the Nine Nations thesis alone would not stand up, not without substantial further political evolution. It would be incoherent to pretend there are no coherent differences that line up on the US-Canadian border that runs through New England, Foundry, Breadbasket, Empty Quarter and Pacific Northwest, and the Mexican-American border that runs through Mexamerica.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:24:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, people in the EU are more likely to encounter a broader range of diversity than people in the US, but there are fewer people in the EU who imagine themselves to be Europeans first and foremost, and French and Pole and Slovak and Spanish and Scottish after.
The question is, how many people see themselves as Europeans first? I don't know what bodily orifice the following is pulled out of, but 5-10% seems about right...
How many MEPs does Newropeans reckon to obtain in the European elections of 2009?

Newropeans reckons to obtain between 5% and 10% of the votes in the European elections of 2009 and therefore between 50 and 75 MEPs. This would immediately turn Newropeans into a key political actor in the European Parliament: the only one with a European group from the same political movement, and the only one to have a direct relationship with European citizens from all over the continent. That will allow us to implement the programme, and to attract MEPs and other movements represented in the European Parliament. In function of such a result, Newropeans would hope to obtain over 150 seats in 2014.

This is from a political movement that wishes to contest the European Parliament election and whose constituency is precisely those who see themselves as European first.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:48:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they are right that they can draw 5%, and if in complete ignorance of how many who view themselves as Europeans first prefer support a New Europe strategy and how many prefer a stragey of engaging with existing national parties to reward those that are more PanEuropean, that was estimated at 50:50, pr'aps 10.

Of course, maximum entropy estimates are admissions of ignorance, and therefore an inducement to fill in the blanks with knowledge.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:02:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, I'm really just going to use this comment as a big exercise in free assocation, sort of a dumping ground for a lot of stuff that's been floating around in my head regarding this over the last couple of days, as I've beem largely (but not entirely) refraining from participating in these Americo-discussions.  And I know I'm gonna regret hitting that "post" button, cuz this is a total stream-of-consciousness thing going on here, I haven't really thought any of it through.

The first kinda snarky thing that leaps to mind is to say this:  Hey, I've got this great idea for a website, we're all sick of American hedgemony and all, we don't want to hang out on the American political sites all the time and talk about nothing but American issues, so let's get a bunch of smart people from all over the world together, make our own website and... talk about America all the damn time anyway.

Honestly, I do think it's boring.  I'm tired of talking about America.  Aren't there other things to talk about?  I hear there's some kind of water on Mars?  (And if there's life there... no wonder they're hiding from us!  Just look at the mess we've made of this planet.  Nope, no water here, nothing to be seen, move along....)

I really just don't get the obsession with America.  I'm an American who lives in the Middle East, trust me, I get to have the old Amreeka-hedgemony conversation every day.  I try to talk to people about things totally (or largely) unrelated to Amreeka, and lo and behold, there they go, bringing Amreeka back into the conversation again.  Amreeka, Amreeka, Amreeka.  I get it already.  (OT:  do any of y'all remember the Brady Bunch episode like that?  "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia...."  Or is that too American?  And is it spelled Marcia or Marsha?)

No, seriously.  Where was I?

On sensitivity... I think I'm not terribly sensitive.  I have a pretty high threshhold for Amreeka-bashing.  At dinner one night, I think it was mid-2001, this woman I didn't know chimed in with some comment about how she hated Americans so much that she would be perfectly happy to kill every last one of them (in a very dramatic fashion that she actually described), and she wasn't joking.

Yeah, so having had a few too many glasses of wine, I got into an argument with her, and that was kind of when I learned not to bother, cuz there's really no reasoning with someone like that.  So, whatever, yap yap yap.

Anyway, watching Jerome get all hot 'n' bothered about the way the Anglo press deals with France... well, we can all be sensitive, I guess.  It's all about which buttons get pushed.  And everyone has them.  America is not exceptional, contrary to popular belief, but neither is anyone else.  Y'know?

Maybe we just push the Americans buttons a lot more... it's more fun.

As an Ugly American living overseas, I try pretty damn hard not to run around telling other people what I think about their various countries and systems and problems and whatever.  I figure I'm a guest in their countries, and I'm really conscious of the whole arrogant-Americans-pushing-us-around thing, y'know a lot of people are kind of sensitive about that, so I try not to be the Arrogant Opinionated American, I try to be the "I want to learn about your country" American.

But I swear to you, I get pestered every day for my opinion on this or that or the other thing, as if my opinion was some indication of something greater than just the opinion of one 30-something American chick.  As if I have a direct line to George Bush and some magical control over how he makes decisions.

Example: I'm on like my second day of living in Cairo last year and I get into a taxi.  They're in the middle of campaigning for the Egyptian presidential election.  The driver wants to know what I think of Mubarak and the opposition.  And I'm like, um, I dunno, I've been here two days, I really don't have a clue.  And he won't give up.  No, you must have an opinion.  And I tell him that what's really important is not what I think about his presidential candidates, but what he thinks.  And he doesn't buy it, he pesters me the whole ride for my opinion, which honest-to-God, I didn't have.

Why he did this is because he's internalized the whole support-from-America thing; the whole election has been cast in terms of who's the bigger American lapdog, and so the opinion of an American on this election is connected in some way to, I dunno, maybe to who he thinks should win.  Or will win.

The president, Hosni Mubarak, scored big points with people by claiming that his main opponent (who won a whopping seven percent of the votes) took money from the Americans.  This is enough, in many people's eyes, to completely discredit him.  Never mind that the Egyptian government, headed for 24 years by none other than Hosni Mubarak, gets something in the neighborhood of $8billion a year from America.  Whatever.

OK, back to the subject at hand, which was I think me rambling nonsensically.

See, I think this is my point, if I had one.  You could spend all this energy dissecting any country if you wanted to.  Everywhere is fucked up.  America is fucked up.  I don't understand why it's like it is, and I can't explain it to you.

I'm perfectly happy to talk about how fucked up it is.  I enjoy other people's observations about this.  I have posters on my office wall from protests outside various American embassies, posters that say things like America stop blackmailing tactics etc.

But I really, truly don't get why we have to talk about it all the time.  I mean, it seems a little like the ex-girlfriend who keeps insisting to her friends that she's over him, really, I don't think about him at all anymore, that jerk, I wouldn't take him back if he came crawling on his knees, honestly, I'm over him.  What?

See, there is this narrative here about American exceptionalism, the idea being it's a bad thing, right?  And my thing is that we could really probably deconstruct any other country on Earth just as thoroughly as we do America, but we don't bother.  And on a sort of meta-level, why is that?  Because we're not really over him yet, I guess, maybe we're just saying that because we really want to believe it.

Because we just can't stop talking about him....

Because if we were over him, we'd just move on.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:15:31 PM EST


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, stormy, I really like and respect you, so I'm trying not to get all sensitive and thin-skinned ;). But I think your comment is a bit of a dump, frankly.

let's get a bunch of smart people from all over the world together, make our own website and... talk about America all the damn time anyway

You're talking about some other site? We talk about America all the time here? We don't talk about other things, (those you mention, btw)? Take a look at my diaries, for instance, and tell me how often I write about America. I too have kept out of the American-European debates. This diary is just an attempt to get something more positive out of what often looks like a snarl-up.

I really just don't get the obsession with America.

I'd have thought that you might have understood (because of your experience in a number of countries in the world) that America is in fact the big wheeler-dealer on this planet. When I asked: Could Americans be less innocent about the projection of American power in the world? I didn't think I'd be needing to remind you of it. I'm sorry if people bug you and bother you as an American person, but that America is kind of important seems to me too obvious to have to explain.

Anyway, watching Jerome get all hot 'n' bothered about the way the Anglo press deals with France... well, we can all be sensitive, I guess.  It's all about which buttons get pushed.  And everyone has them.  America is not exceptional, contrary to popular belief, but neither is anyone else.  Y'know?

So fighting media spin is all about being over-sensitive? Some of us here actually believe firmly, rationally, that it matters. That we don't want to see continental Europe pushed too far down the globalising free-market road. That we think Europe may (may) be able to set an example in this that will be useful to other parts of the world. Perhaps we need to do more explaining, since intelligent people like you who've been here for quite a while don't appear to have understood our motives.

See, there is this narrative here about American exceptionalism, the idea being it's a bad thing, right?  And my thing is that we could really probably deconstruct any other country on Earth just as thoroughly as we do America, but we don't bother.

Please go ahead with a series of diaries bothering to deconstruct other countries as thoroughly as I-don't-know-who has apparently deconstructed America "here" and demonstrating they all share a similar kind of exceptionalism as America does. I'll enjoy reading them.

You pushed a button? Yeah. My thoughts above didn't deserve this.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really just don't get the obsession with America.

The obsession started when Amerikkka (deservedly written with 3 Ks) invaded, occupied and devastated Iraq in the face of massive worldwide attempts to stop it, with no justification whatsoever save for a pack of transparent fabrications and highly-improbable lies, asserting the "principle" that it-and-it-alone was entitled to invade, smash, devastate and otherwise massmurder whoever/whatever it saw fit wherever/whenever it saw fit, simultaneously telling the rest-of-the-world and its institutions that they/we were a weak-kneed, no-good bunch of "irrelevant" appeasement-wimps who would soon be crawling back to kiss glorious Amerikkkan ass.

Until 2002 absolutely no-one outside the USA was obsessed by the US and its doings/role, since then its armed presence outside its borders and the consequences/implications thereof have become an obsessive source of worldwide non-US concern.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say there were quite a few already obsessed with America, but typically not in Europe, and in Europe typically not in the centre.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:06:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah, but here is the key measure to tracking obsession in Europe for America:
McDonald's reported that U.S. November sales rose 5.1 percent, while worldwide sales rose 6.2 percent. In Europe, sales rose 8.4 percent, the 10th straight month that sales have improved in that region.
Obsession with America is obviously on the rise.<snark>
by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:45:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or is it the opposite, boycotting wearing out?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:05:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or the Euro-Dollar exchange rate?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 02:33:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
taking your question as not a snark,,,,,the two effects are broken apart in commentary sales for public companies.  sales growth/fall are normally reported based upon in-country currency, and then the foreign exchange impact, if significant, described separately.
by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:46:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Until 2002 absolutely no-one outside the USA was obsessed by the US and its doings/role

If you meant to exclude most of the 20th century, particularly post WW2, then yes, I'd agree.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK - clarification: I'm writing from Europe, and to be precise, from Italy - your central med. aircraft-carrier - so can't presume to write for central and southern America, India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq etc etc.  

Here: most of the time during the cold war our attitude towards the US was friendly: we saw the US essentially as a big, young, go-ahead, prosperous country a lot of Italians had emigrated to in the 19th and early 20th century.  We watched a lot of US films, danced US dances, imitated American-type clothing - some still do. So the US was a "trend-setter"- it had an image of modernity, big open spaces, fast highways, tall building  - but we didn't actually TALK about it much "as such".. it was remote, somewhere "over there" = both familiar (movies) and exotic (different climate, language, customs, food...).

In the vietnam war years the left protested against the needless slaughter but, as has already been pointed out elsewhere on this diary, this did not imply  hostility to America-as-such as at the same time it was emotionally and ideologically linked to the American left and its culture. Plus we did not feel personally threatened = south-east asia is too remote from Europe. However, the US-promoted military coups in Chile and Argentina plus ditto in Greece just when we were being "strategy of tension" Gladio-bombed were scary... so we feared a US-backed military coup - but carried out by our OWN far-right - i.e. not involving US planes bombing our villages and cities and US marines shooting into our crowds and kicking down our doors pointing machine guns at us and screaming at us to lie flat on the floor or they'd blow off our heads, as you have been doing to our Arab neighbours in Iraq.

 

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 08:11:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wish I could go back and correct that last post of mine: apologies for writing "you" = you personally - when I meant "Amerika"/"Amerikans".  Sorry...!

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 08:20:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh afew, I told you it was a dump!

I also thought I made it clear that what I was writing wasn't entirely about your diary, it was sort of a product of days of little things floating around in my head.  So I really hope I haven't offended you in any way, that would really upset me.  Really.

Anyway, I certainly didn't mean to single you out for criticism, and in fact I didn't think of my comment as particularly harsh criticism at that.  (If I'd meant it as such, trust me, you would have known.)  I'm just saying...

I'm just plain sick and tired of talking about America.  I lived there my whole life.  I moved away because I wanted to learn about other places and other peoples.  I came to ET for the same reason.

We talk about America all the time here?

You don't think?  Um, six of the eight recommended diaries at the moment are either entirely or significantly about America.

Sure, we talk about lots of other things here, which is the reason I'm here, but yes, we talk about America a lot here, and often in the most-commented-upon and most-recommended diaries.  That's probably partly because there are so many American participants here, and probably partly for... um, other reasons.

So fighting media spin is all about being over-sensitive?

Of course it's not, but that isn't really the point.  In life and here, I don't bother to call people on some things, because if I complain, it's obviously just because I'm just the over-sensitive American.  Even if I'm right.  Being right isn't the issue.

Please go ahead with a series of diaries bothering to deconstruct other countries...

But I don't really want to.  I want to like everyone, and everywhere.  Honestly!  Can't we all just get along?! :-\

Yes, I get frustrated with the country I live in, endlessly frustrated, but as I said, I'm a guest there, and it seems rather ungracious to tear them to shreds.  Besides, as an American, it would feel a bit like being a bully, picking on the little guy.  Because everyone's a little guy compared to us.

Sigh.  Where am I going with this....

Of course I recognize that America is "the big wheeler-dealer" on the planet.  Of course I don't need to be reminded of that.  If I didn't respect you so much, I'd take offense at the suggestion... ;-)

I think the problem is that despite not needing to be reminded, I keep being reminded.  Done.  Mission accomplished.  We get it.  Mister, the horse is dead, you can stop hitting it now.

OK, this next part is serious.

I really wan't going to mention this, but I spent a large chunk of my summer in Lebanon, a country that was at the time being bombed by my government's closest ally, using bombs that my country sold to them, while my government sat by and said, "Oh, it's all very awful, but Lebanese lives are worth less than other lives."  Essentially.

I'm in Beirut right now, and these people are amazingly, unbelievable, breathtakingly gracious:  "Oh, you're from America, I love Americans, I have three sons in America... they all support the resistance...."

An so part of it is yes, I am well and truly familiar with how bad we can be at our worst, how hideously and grotesquely powerful, I have seen ample evidence of that, and I am surrounded by that evidence right now.

But I am also surrounded by evidence that criticism and anger need not be rancorous and personalized and simplistic.  And yet sometimes it gets that way.  Even here, and that disappoints me.  And what disappoints me more is that when it is not recognized for what it is.

Because if these people can be so gracious, and my bombs have destroyed half their country.... ag, words fail me.

Maybe I just lose a little patience with the complaints of people for whom all of this is a little more abstract.  I should work on that, cuz you don't have to have had half your country destroyed by America in order to have a valid opinion about America, right?  Just like you don't have to be an American to have a valid opinion about America.

Ag, I'm still rambling.  Anyway, I guess I just need to say again that I really wasn't trying to offend you, and I'm sorry if I did.

Good night.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:58:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stormy Present - I personally want thank you so much for taking the time to write your thoughts down, both here and further above. To me, I think it did come across a little like "why are we bothering to talk about America? b-o-r-i-n-g...", which I also don't think you meant to say (though, I too often have similar feelings...though just not about this article). But dialogue is important, so we all understand each other...and I have found the conversation here really informative.

I do think you have a unique perspective, for one, that you have lived and traveled in Africa extensively, and secondly, that you are currently living in Cairo and working in Beirut. I don't think most of us can fully understand the impact of the experience you may be having in Beirut right now. That the people you are having contact with now are being friendly and gracious is truly amazing. Somehow I can imagine having mixed feelings myself, if I were there...like, "what the hell did we just do??"

For me, as an American-expat living in Europe, who was kindly invited to participate as a volunteer administrator of this Pan-European culture & politics blog we call ET, I have tried...and will continue to try...to do my damnest to write articles & promote diaries that focus primarily on European and International topics over American topics here on ET. Its not about being anti-American, as much as having to do with the fact that there are TONS of American politics blogs already. What we need is more Pan-European blogs. Of course, I am also the guy who often pesters people about writing more diaries (punkt), so beggars can't be choosers so much. I'm glad Americans come here and participate as readers, commenters and writers...but I do hope (and have frequently asked) that we keep the focus on European and the international issues, first and foremost. Occasionally we have to remind people...but in a sensitive way, so they don't get pissed off and leave...but just change the focus away from US topics so much. And for the most part, when this has been brought up, people have responded. Maybe it is just another one of those times...I personally want to see more European diaries, and with all the variety of countries and cultures, there is SO much to write about...we really don't need to focus on US stuff so much. But...we are also continually being bombarded by US politics, economics and culture here too. I mean, I often shake my head at how much the Swiss seem to want to become more like "Americans" (or their picture of Americans), ie, Paris Hilton, fashion, free-market bullshit, corporate hostility towards workers, etc. The Swiss right wing seems to think the Republicans are worth copying. So...I only hope an alternate vision prevails (and in this respect, the dialogue here is important).

Anyway, now I'm rambling...but having myself for the first time in the last year taken trips to Egypt and Eastern Africa, one really gets that it is a big, rather different world out there. Though, perhaps different from your experiences, I have mostly been met with indifference (which I prefer) or with "shh, don't tell too many people you are American", or "you didn't vote for him, did you?". As for gracious Lebanese, I have made a friend here in Switzerland who is from Lebanon...who is an avid watcher of Hesbollah TV. And unfortunately, it appears that network is as full of bullshit as the worst that Fox network in the US comes up with...the things he thinks are true about America and AMericans are obviously propaganda based, that it is maddening. So we don't see each other too much these days...he's too damned conservative and angry...though I suspect, there are many who feel/belive just like him...which as an expat, is quite disturbing.

Anyway...take care of yourself out there TSP...and please keep talking about your experiences, as you add important views!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:23:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Bob.  I'm on my way out the door right now, but I did want to thank you for your comment.

I really am grateful for this place (ET) and for the people I have a chance to interact with here.  And I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

<sniff>  I love you guys.  <sob>

No, really.  I do.

OK, I'm outta here, need lunch.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:54:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please, please, please...tell us more about your experiences and/or perspectives about Beirut/Lebanon!!! Is Beirut very badly shot up, or are is it more that certain neighborhoods are? How are the people feeling there now. Etc., etc. Curious minds wish to hear...

(Hope you enjoyed a good lunch stormy!!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:50:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hope lunch was good, stormy. I didn't think offence was meant by your comment above, and none is taken. I just thought, what am I going to do, ignore it, fluff around it, or say what I think? So I said what I thunk.

In fact you're right that if America's the subject, there'll immediately be a big discussion. And there are diaries on America at the moment (but to some extent Kos's elegant remarks on the status of non-American contributors set that off). Partly, too, diaries on American topics are (welcome) cross-posts. And ET's biggest single constituency is Americans living in the US. Add to that US power and intervention in the world, and you've got reasons why people talk about America here.

Imagine we didn't. We would hear: you people aren't talking about the elephant in the parlour, why is that?

Anyway, the focus of my piece above was misunderstandings between Europeans and Americans in discussions here and on other blogs, and not America per se. I just sneakily put "America" in the title so I'd get lots of comments and recommends. This place is getting like DKos ;)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:10:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I said what I thunk.

I would never expect anything less.

And it's not like I want to ban America as a topic of discussion here.  That would be (a) impossible, (b) stupid, and (c) did I say impossible?

No, look, I want to talk about the world, and America (much to its dismay at times) is a part of the world -- a big, sloppy, insecure, powerful part.  You can't talk about the world without talking about America.  It'd be like talking about Of Mice and Men without mentioning Lennie.

But it's not all about Lennie.  You can't leave out George, either.

(How's that for an American metaphor?  I don't know if this means anything to you, maybe non-Americans don't read this book in school.  But trust me, it's deeeeeeeep....)

Anyway, like I said, I don't really mind talking about America, I just wish I lived in a world where I didn't have to do it so often, or at least in a world where those conversations weren't so resounding, relentlessly, unflaggingly depressing.

This place is getting like DKos ;)

Astaghfirullah!  God forbid.  :-0

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:59:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hah!

I saw the movie with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, and then read the book...

Deep metaphor, and funny.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:21:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is one for Dood Abides...

Imagine "Dubya" Lenny saying "I just wanted to pet 'em Iraqis".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is sort of the image I had in mind...
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:11:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:57:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I swear to you, I get pestered every day for my opinion on this or that or the other thing, as if my opinion was some indication of something greater than just the opinion of one 30-something American chick.  As if I have a direct line to George Bush and some magical control over how he makes decisions.
I laughed out loud at this.  I spend a lot of time in Europe, but the last time I lived there was the late '80's, in the UK.  I had exactly this experience, and often.  I would be at a meeting with 10 people around the table,,,,small talk before the meeting,,,and usually some American topic would come up--10 heads turn in unison to me for explanation,,,,as though I had a hot line to Reagan or Bush Sr.

and then when Europe won that golf thing, must have been '88 (walker cup? or whatever--i'm not a golfer), the celebration by a few of them because they had beat America!  I thought to get my goat--they seemed quote disappointed when it was obvious I could care less.  Hmmm, nationalism EU vs US?

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:08:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm. What you write (1) is more Britain-specific (especially that thing on golf -- most European couldn't care less about golf!), (2) reflects more what American expats have to endure as 'representants' of their country than how much Europeans speak about America among themselves. E.g., your presence is take as opportunity to talk more about the subject, and sure you notice this strongly. (I'm not saying the attitude, also described by stormypresent, is not bad in itself, but that you have a filtered sample for evaluating obsession with all things US.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 04:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your comment may be true of this one particuler experience.  I told it only because I found it ironic that it was so similar to Stormy experience,,,and I found it was quite humorous.  (Interesting however, on the sporting level, there does some to be some particular glee in the World Cup when America loses.  And I found that glee on the continent, actually not in the UK.  There was even some comment on a thread here that the American's were not going to be disadvantaged on the refereeing,,,and that certainly was the case......though it's also the case that we are not a top 8 team, imo.)

But do you mean to broaden my comment beyond my specific story, and to my broader experiences of living in Europe, traveling frequently there, and doing business in Europe (not just the UK).  It's an interesting thought that we all to some extent see things because of who we are, I guess--ie. our experiences are partially due to who we are.  But I think one gets through that as you develop friendships, have long discussions that yield deeper understandings, and through all of one's experiences of decades (reading, discussing , observing) you gain a pretty deep understanding of the other's mind.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:23:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]

watching Jerome get all hot 'n' bothered about the way the Anglo press deals with France...

I'm sorry you see it this way. I've explained repeatedly that this is primarily an ideological fight, which includes the old Franco-British rivalry and is colored by it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:25:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As to your wider point about why we talk so much about America, two things:

  • this site is a spin off of dKos. Whatever the reason, I started writing for an American audience, and I built a readership over there, and some if it came here;

  • it is America's administration which has created havoc around the world as we see it right now, and we all worry about how it will end - and it depends to some extent on what happens in Washington. So it's hard to avoid the topic, even when discussion other bits of the world.

But when I describe this site, I say it is about energy and European issues.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You make it sound like you just got a chunk of Kossacks at the beginning of the site, but you also do the bulk of your off-site contributions on DKos still today,  so you keep bringing in more Americans than any other group. I don't know what the readership of The Oil Drum Europe is like, maybe things will change a little now that you are a front-pager there.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:00:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a personal view. Energy is your thing and we are all happy to contribute to the topic with words and action. But to me ET is a dialogue about life in all its different viewpoints, rather than issue-based.

That may seem wishy-washy. It's not. From the SOS POV, our job is to provide a fertile conceptual environment by uniting dfferent expertise. The 'crop' that we grow will be a function of the seeds we sow, the weather and the effort we put into nurturing it.

The issues emerge as a result of that process.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:03:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Sven, you're right, and i'm glad you bring it up - no, actually, I'm glad you see it that way, because on my own I wouldn't be able to create what you describe, so it is a collective work, and that's way better than just the blog of me writing about the things I know or care about.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:06:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why community blogs are better than group blogs, which are in turn better than individual blogs.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:15:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And, of course, I have the utmost respect for your founding of this forum, and your wisdom in letting it flow.

It has been an inspiration.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:13:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and this time I'm not joking ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 10:13:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The successful colonies are like a kind of capital that it has been profiting from ever since. Of course there's no link in a causal sense between dominion and native. Or is there? In each place they had the policy of not integrating with the locals and appropriating whatever they could. That's what I meant. Spain also had a go at it, but with quite different results.
by Quentin on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:21:48 PM EST
Spain didn't kill off the locals and pen them into reservations. Well, we did in Hispaniolaand some other places, but by and large the Spanish married into the local population. What is the fraction of English/Native mestizo population in the former British colonies, compared to the fraction of Spanish/Native mestizos (and even pure native) population in Latin America?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:07:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Miguel, don't make a tonteria of this.

By the time that the the English came to North America the poor personal hygience of average 15th century Castillian had taken it's toll in the native population.  Not to mention that there population densities of native populations in the areas colonized by the English were far lower than in the Valley of Mexico, and elsewhere?

The relationship between pre-Columbian population density and the percentage of the present population that is mestizo holds true in the Cono Sur  (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay) as well.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for that!

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:42:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Um ...

To give a potted history of the Spanish conquest of New Mexico would require more time (and energy) than I have at the moment.  Suffice to say, the conquistadors did in New Mexico what conquerors always do: enslave the population, steal everything that isn't nailed down, cause rebellions amongst the original inhabitants.

The El Camino Real running from Santa Fe to El Paso del Norte wasn't called Journada del Muerto on a whim.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 10:02:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was maybe being a little too sensitive.  What I'm trying to get across is the notion that there is a large contingent of Americans (US type) that are awakened and trying to move a ponderous machine in a better direction.  I really get a great deal of encouragement from reading this and some other European sites, and when I say encouragement I mean that it helps give me courage that a better way exists and is attainable.  When I read the stuff I read yesterday from Bad Colman, whom I admire from his writing but I think BAD colman has a wonderful ring to it, it dis-courages me.

I think of myself as somewhat typical of how the problem here started.  I was rather radical in my youth, and still think of myself that way, but in my mid-years, post Vet-Nam and Nixon my political activities waned and the sort of desperate attempt to raise kids in the Reagan economy took precedence.

I consider myself pretty well-educated and with a degree in Geography, more attuned than most of my countrymen to the wider prospects of the world. About a decade ago I had a young Spanish girl as an exchange student.  She used to come home bewildered by the ignorance of the kids here.  She came in one day and said, "they asked me if we had CARS in Spain."  It was embarassing.

A few years back I finally was able to afford a trip to Europe, primarily France.  One of my old military buddies had grown up in Germany as an Army brat and we, along with our wives, got passports and some money and a few days reservations in Paris and went.  we were there, and Amsterdam and a few little towns between for a week, then on the Fast train to Bordeaux for my wife and I where we decamped in the late evening with no plan, knowledge, or reservations.  We stayed at a very cheap place across from the station and rented a car the next morning and ended up staying at St. Emilion for a few days then back to Paris.  This trip was an eye-opener.  I knew, in my head, that Europe was different, I was not ready for the feeling that this was a better way.  It surprised me, I always sort of unquestioningly took it for granted that our way, deteriorating though it was, was the best way-maybe even only way.  I was smitten.

In the years since, there has been such a drastic catastrophe in the US political position that I often despaired, particularly after the '04 election.  It was about that time that I was turned on to the dkos site by my 22 year old daughter.  I found a large number of people that were as pissed as I was and who saw through the bullshit.  At the same time I followed Jerome"s link and came here.

I don't know how to say this exactly, but I believe it is desperately important to keep the dialogue alive between us, we need you.  I think we need each other.  If we cannot stop the corporate monster that has grasped the reins here and really is stronger there than is generally accredited.  I can't help but think that a good portion of the foolish swagger that is the public face of this administration causes much of the disgust toward the US right now.  And, that is fair.  It is our government that is doing this.  We are trying to change it.

I won't run on any longer, I just wanted to thank you all for your kind words to me, and to try to express some of the problems as I see them.  Mainly I say don't underestimate how hard many of us are trying in this battle to open up the debate to a more realistic range of choices.

I'm off to an office party, hopefully I won't get wasted and make an ass of myself.  But, one never knows.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 03:56:01 PM EST
Thanks for this comment, NearlyNormal. In fact I think I understood where you were coming from on this. And by all means let's work to keep a dialogue open, to improve it.

I should say that "Bad Colman" is Colman's own debunking description of himself. But he's very often Good Colman.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:37:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know about "Good Colman"  he's one of my favorites.  I just loved the look of Bad Colman so much.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:04:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This may be the best example of Atlanticism at ET right here! Well written, well said.
by Nomad on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:35:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 1974 I was counseling Algerian undergrads and graduate students about to enter university here in New England.  (Northern USA)

One student told me that he was asked (in Beverly, Mass) if "you have vegetables in Algeria!"  Another student told me how his hostess pointed to the carpet and showed him an ashtray and said, "Here in America, we use ashtrays when we're indoors."

These comments do not indicate ignorance of history and geography, any more than asking "Do you have gravity in Algeria?" indicates ignorance of geography.  These comments come from a religious perspective - one that makes the US the Holy Land - and absolves Merkans of any need to develop common sense, empathy, or the ability to listen.

by cambridgemac on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:29:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things:

  1. Has anyone considered that an America with citizens that have extensive knowledge of the world may not necessarily be a good thing? I wonder if a completely ignorant and insular America would serve the world better. Watch out when the learned people take an interest in youer country and its problems. Out of the goodness of their heart, they may suggest a solution.

  2. When I was over in Italy for a Literary Conference last year, we had a question and answer period attended by the media. A Sloevnian reporter asked me to address my feelings about America politics and relations with the world. I was actually shocked by the question, and I'm afraid I gave a bit of a diffident response. I simply said, "We all know what the problem is." Curiously enough, a lot of people nodded their heads at that answer. Obviously, most of us here agree. The question is, "What do we do about it?" And that's where the disagreement starts.
by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:11:55 PM EST
One of the things that happens often (at least here on ET) is that the moree we learn about the situation in another country, the less inclined we are to suggest a "solution", and we get called on it. The English Language press is full of op-ed decrying Europe's hesitation and indecisiveness. Maybe it is because we are aware of our limitations.

So I don't think it would be a bad idea for Americans to become more aware of the rest of the world.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:14:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed, I was just playing devil's advocate because I am too used to people in the US sticking their nose where it doesn't belong. Not to mention the willingness of our more nefarious foreign policy actors to suggest solutions far afield.

It makes me wonder, how much do the End-Timers in the United States know about Israel and Palestine? I suspect they know more about the history and events of that region than most Americans. They may not understand it, but they have a discourse about it.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 05:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One or the other.

Be ignorant and disengaged, interacting primarily through hands off trade rather than hands in mud direct control of corporate subsidiaries, very little standing army, essentially a professional cadre for a slight larger National Guard to form around, and a Navy that focused on halfway across and Ocean from an American coast.

That'd be OK.

Or be heavily engaged and have voters ready able and willing to kick the SOBs out when they engage in moronic acts or, even, well meaning and well informed acts that somehow turned out badly.

Its the heavily engaged and running blind combination, that's the really heavy going for everyone else, and gradually for more and more Americans as the costs escalate beyond 6% of GDO as current account deficit.

Of course, Rome conquered Greece, and when the Roman half of the Roman Empire fell, the Greek half lasted on for quite a bit longer. If that is a precedent, Europe may well do better out of the fall of the American Empire than America does.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:22:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When Rome conquered greece it absorbed its culture, not the other way around. When elsewhere they romanised the conquered peoples, they became hellenised when they conquered Greece.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Patience, patience. American mass culture is like dandylion ... its spreads and grows quickly in a barren environment of monoculture lawns on poor soil, but start developing a more diverse polyculture and it gets swamped.

OTOH, that is switching from analogy to metaphor, so if I was a poet I should have done that in verse.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 08:55:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In iambic pentameter, even.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well no, I'd ne'er complete the feet. So four, as cats prefer. Or three, I think, or those combined. Five lies beyond my reach.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bravo!
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:12:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
great diary, afew.

i am coming to appreciate your e-presence here more and more.

you make some great points, and a stormy present's post had a brilliant description of her feelings.

america is huge, and new yorkers are as different from californians as are welsh from puglians.

but they DO speak the same language, which we are only just beginning to with ant fluency.

this makes for a lot of variety in the cultural mix already, without going offshore, and with 2 huge oceans either side, and too.cold canada up north, and too.hot s. america down south, well, let's say it's like a big warm bath of their own funky culture-soup, complex and diverse enough to be absorbing, without any great effort other than to unpack the regional accents and patois of say maine or louisiana, certainly much easier than exploring french or hungarian cuktures, say.

we in europe have a batch of different regional soups that didn't blend, out of which we are creating a more unified menu, but the language issue keeps us 100 years less homogenous, and that has its positives to compensate, pehaps as new combinations of hitherto unexplored flavours undergo the formality of occurring.

the negative sodes of said homogenusation leads to eurovision, where schlock that is from nowhere is spattered across the continental imagination, and sold as a new pan-european emergency, when in reality it's just a bunch of suits squeezing vapid shit like toothpaste out of the boobtube, and telling us it's mothers' milk.

sorta like the chain restaurants in the states....wendys and arbys and howards, all lined up in anyville, usa.

the same unimaginative schlock threatens to over-run europe, and we don't want it...neither the american versions, nor our own pathetic imitations.

yet it happens....i respect the french for their salty opposition to this soft, gooey tsunami, though i don't always agree with them on the global supremacy of all things french!

a bit ot, but i am really impressed lately with the arab nations' mastery of english. it is a joy to hear one's mothertongue spoken so well and elegantly. (i'm thinking of the syrian president, for example or any number of extremely articulate pols'n'pundits on al jazeera)

classic and classy cultural collisions

brill!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 04:43:27 PM EST
In connection with several comments in this thread, I recall some things on the cultural insularity of many Americans. When I participated in various international USENET fora, it was a regular occurence for American newbies to bump into the discussion as if it were an American forum, both in focus and readership (and annoying the more educated American regulars with the attitude too). For what it's worth, one of these was once (before 9/11) countered by a Brit thusly:

I suggest you spend less time in your room. Go outside the straight edges of your county, beyond the straight edges of your state and go someplace with more interestingly drawn borders.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 06:28:57 PM EST
Sounds like Blair's moralistic BS.

Was that he posting there, by chance?

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:47:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or Perhaps Gertrude Bell?

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:50:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to have an interesting concept of what constitutes morals...
by Trond Ove on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 06:49:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to say that I was here.. that I love it.. that I love the comments...and that well... awsome afew.

Just to recall one thing, US political spectrum..correction.. the political discourse of what is right-wing and what is left-wing is titlted to the right on what US people call economic issues...but it is bassically the same as in Europe regarding social issues like death penalty, gay marriage, sexual norms, inmigration, culture, progress, etc...IN this area I would say that americans are even to the left of Europe on average and that the political process is more responsive to the wishes of the people. For example, in Europe people support broadly death penalty (more than in the US), but there is no death penalty.. in the US it depends on each state...and actually it reflects public opinion.

Foreign issues is a different history altogether due to the lack of any information by the average citizen.. but the elites are slightly titlted to the right..except for the neocons appearance to the fascist extreme.

I personally think that the economic narrative is the one that allowed for the foreign stablishment to tilt to the right.. if the US goes to the left again on eocnomic issues , it will also drive the foreign policy..I think I identified the narrative dynamcis on that, universal health care means less budget towards the pentagon, it measn more relevance for other discourses, it means less economic insecurity..it means more knowledge of the world..MY guess.

It is also worth investigating how the social political discourse thanks to the Hollywood narrative and the elites discourse has reamined unchanged and equal to any other part of the world despite the heavy tilt to the right one ocnomic issues.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:09:16 PM EST
Maybe a reason for the growing misunderstandings between Americans and Europeans is that we have less and less in common with each other? I'm an American living in the United States, so, well... here goes.

While America and Western Europe had economic ties, we were brought together in, more-or-less, a shotgun wedding by three wars: WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.

The American economy has shifted away from Europe and toward Asia. America's hot wars at the end of the 20th century (And yes, European nations were involved with the wars in Korea and Vietnam.) were being fought in Asia too. Since WWII, American focus has been continually shifting to Asia.

Maybe, it was only the threat, real or perceived, from the Soviet Union that kept the USA paying attention to Europe at all? With the Soviet Union's collapse, the last reason for the American-European marriage was gone. We found we didn't have much in common anymore and with the USSR gone, the reason to overcome differences was gone as well.

Maybe now, more and more, America is seeing Europe as economic and political competition while still using our military resources (yes, I'm sure many Europeans want Americans to leave and we don't want too) and not going along with hardly any American foreign policy any more? (I'm not arguing the U.S. foreign policy is always right, what I am suggesting is Europe doesn't go along with wrong American foreign policy anymore and it used to do so.)

Put it this way, you (Europe) don't need us (America) anymore as a protector and provider. Europeans rightfully want us to talk to and work with one another as equals. But we Americans are having trouble letting go of our old, co-dependant marriage. So, maybe when Americans think Europe is trying to be "better than us", Europe is really just trying to let the U.S. know that they need to move on, or at least, renegotiate our relationship in terms of who we both are now in 2006 and not who we both were in 1946?

by Magnifico on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:19:05 PM EST
excellent point.  I'm not sure I would call it a shotgun wedding, since for 200 years the primary immigrants to America were from Europe.  But living on the West Coast, as I do, it's quite clear that has changed--as our immigration is heavily Latino and Asian,,,,,and merging very nicely I might add.

The EU no longer needs US military protection,,,our bases there are a hangover of the past.  Most on this site have agreed that NATO should be disbanded,,,it does not serve well for either party.

Economics will drive a lot of this, and increasing trade and partnership with Asia, particularly with the exploding growth of China and India, will make some of this happen.  But politically, it would be better for the EU and the States to at least try a trial separation, and likely leading to a, hopefully amicable, divorce.

by wchurchill on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 01:30:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Europe and the U.S. have very similar attitudes on most topics, probably because we're mostly transplanted Europeans to start with. There are couple of glaring differences (mostly attitudes towards socialism), but is there really a huge difference between an Arsenal supporter and a Dallas Cowboys supporter? Between Sarkozy, say, and Hillary Rodham? Guys who camp out at Talladega and guys who camp out at Le Mans? Between a European college professor and an American professor? Or banker? Or car salesman?

It all strikes me as fraternal bickering. Jerome doesn't like American journalists who say the wrong things about France, Kos doesn't like French economists who say the wrong things about America. Well, I don't like Texans all that much, or those holier-than-thou Oregonians. And don't even get me started with the Quebecois.  :-)

If you want differences, talk about Africa or South Asia, where the cultures are significantly different.

by asdf on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 07:54:10 PM EST
NOBODY, even other Texans, like Texans all that much.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 10:04:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Jerome doesn't like American journalists who say the wrong things about France

Sigh... Is that really how you see it?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:35:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
America's a very diverse place.  Your average poster at Kos is going to be a white, well educated resident of a blue metropolitan area - specific social milieu in a specific type of place. We are intimately familiar with our own surroundings, not so much with the rest of the country. And our part is not Bush's America.

I like to tell Europeans who complain about American insularity and/or lack of foreign languages that most Americans I know speak at least one other language fluently, often more (and when I'm annoyed at them that I and many of my friends and acquaintances know much more about their own history than they do ;). Those abroad get their news from the media which when it is doing its job presents the political news plus a balanced sort of greatest hits slices of life, and when it isn't those faits divers and trends that confirm their own stereotypes about America. So you Europeans throw in your (European) media and personal political leanings filtered version of America, and it's not ours - not the one we see and hear every single day and we get annoyed.

by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 08:02:24 PM EST
most Americans I know speak at least one other language fluently, often more

But your sample is not representative. Language education is not compulsory even at university level (here two foreign languages are compulsory to the level of a state exam). According to no less official source than the Senate Resolution 28 Designating 2005 as the "Year of Foreign Language Study",

Whereas according to the 2000 decennial census of the population, 9.3 percent of Americans speak both their native language and another language fluently;

Whereas according to the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, 52.7 percent of Europeans speak both their native language and another language fluently;

BTW, if you have the time, I would invite you to read and comment/critique my seven-diary 1956 series.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:49:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like to tell Europeans who complain about American insularity and/or lack of foreign languages that most Americans I know speak at least one other language fluently, often more (and when I'm annoyed at them that I and many of my friends and acquaintances know much more about their own history than they do ;).

Well, considering you're in an academic department of European History...

As to the "European media filtered version of America", it is mostly uncritical regurgitation of American mainstream media sources, including canards swallowed whole, to the point that I wonder why newspapers bother posting foreign correspondents at all.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:56:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's true, but we should admit that there is also an undercurrent (paradoxically less visible today) of America-criticism in the media that is indeed equally shallow, one over-generalising varius trends. For example, urban East and West coast high culture is often taken for America overall; the importance of state and local politics, culture and traditions is almost completely ignored for federal equivalents, the role of religion is usually portrayed in such articles in two diametrically opposed over-generalisations (all Americans godless libertine consumption idiots/ all Americans fundies). I could get a sense of these things from discussions on the internet.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:07:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's also European media reflecting back what they get from the US media. Correspondents will be posted to DC [primacy of the Federal], LA or NYC [East and West Coast high culture] and the views about religion are gleaned from pundits' extreme positions [all Americans godless libertines - right wing pundit; all Americans fundies - left wing pundit]... and so on.

I think foreign correspondents started out [and the name suggests it] as people who were abroad doing something other than reading the local press and talking to local journalists and who wrote pieces about their experiences to be published back home. Then they became "professionalised" and jounrnalists with no other purpose than geing correspondents got foreign postings with no chance of interacting with their host country in any meaningful way. It is possible that the rise of blogging will lead to the death of the "professional" foreign correspondent, and media outlets will go back to syndicating "amateur" writing by expatriates, which is the way it should always have been.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:25:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is partly foreign correspondent-itis, but it is also never-have-been-there-itis, based on what they learn from various sources that include not only foreign correspondents but movies, books, American visitors too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 07:46:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I'm aware that the topis is drifting from the core issue, still this post to convey that I've been strangely irked by this concept of correspond-itis in its current fledgling form. Even while I think that the criticisms that have been levelled at the the failure of foreign correspondency are valid, I think it's really only part of the picture - and that the rest of the picture has not been properly investigated.

Because the recurring discussion so far excludes those correspondents which truly attempt to do their job but get caught up or even trapped in the framework of narratives which stem forth from either top-down directed media manipulation at the foreign location (which can be rampant) and if that's not enough, there's the narrative from the editors at home who hope for catchy headlines and experience complete disconnect with the foreign correspondent. And mangled in between rapdily evaporates genuine reporting, which is selective and skewed at best. It's not that some correspondents don't have the chance to interact with local people, as Migeru writes, sometimes that chance simply does not exist.

An amazing (Dutch) book was released this year by a reporter who described his correspondence years in Egypt and in Israel and the Palestinian territorities. It completely devastates the layman's notion that correspondents can properly function even when they want to. (Because the easy way out, the correspond-itis of copy-pasting press releases within a hotel suite, is abundantly present as well: see Migeru's El Pais example.) The book is called "Het zijn net mensen" (loosely translated "They're almost humans") by Joris Luyendijk. If it were up to me, it should become standard material for any journalist or those interested in this subject.

Anyway. This is a subject that really is in need of its own niche to allow further expansion.

by Nomad on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:31:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please expand this comment into a diary, or just post it as it is. We can quote our previous discussions into top-level comments.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 11:35:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But on Sunday. Now it's time for a Monty Python marathon and I will not be coherent from this point forward and/or backward.

Woop woop.

by Nomad on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 12:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
us Americans at this point in our histroy need to hear things straight and need a lot of criticism. We as a people need to get over our pathetic exceptionalist ideas. We need to get over our belief we are the greatest in every respect. We need to relise there is a lot we can learn and a lot of people and countries we can learn from.
To be honest in recent history, and to some degree this predates Bush if I am honest, we have an abysmal record of how we have treated others around the world. We have not listened to anyone. We can no longer really be seen as a respected and civilised member of the international community. I wouldnt want to add up how many we have killd world wide.
Now to be honest why should any critic of America worry about the sensibilities and feelings of us Americans. When we learn to feel for others, then we deserve to have others feel for us. My compatriots should spend more time insuring America rejoins the international community as a repected member and stops murdering foreigners for no reason, and stops bullying everyone world wide with not well hidden threats. Oh and by the way just electing Dems is not enough. Now we must see Dems take action on these points.
Until America demonstrably direction keep telling the truth. To water things down so not to upset a few people in the end will opnly do America a diservice. America needs to know the people of the world have had enough of its ill hidden imperialist plans, and part of that is telling us American people.
by observer393 on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 09:08:08 PM EST
People who read ET are not typical Americans. We're not likely to be Bush supporters, not likely to get our information from the MSM, more likely to be appalled and embarrassed by American Arrogance and Imperialism, and we have all gone out of our way to learn about Europe, which, for most of us, represents Western Civilization.

Most Americans don't need to go out of their way for anything, and why should they ? The neighborhood Wal-Mart has everything they need, and they think George Bush is just like them. That's why they voted for him, and they only turned against his party because they think he let them down. He screwed up. He's losing. If he were  winning, they would support him.

Jay Conner

by greatferm (greatferm-at-email.com) on Fri Dec 8th, 2006 at 10:27:11 PM EST
Wonderful diary, afew.  So much in this that needed to be said.

It's clear, to me, that Americans and Europeans need to develop better understandings of how the other works and thinks, because we do, in my opinion, have some fundamental differences in our beliefs.  Most, if not all, of these are hardly differences that would deliver a mortal wound to American-European relations.  I've written about the fundamentally different ways in which Americans and Europeans think about economics, for example, although the differences in that category quite often seem to reflect a simply desire to argue with each other rather than genuine differences.

Which leads me to also point out that I think it's fair to say that Americans and Europeans, whether they admit it or not, get a kick out of fighting with each other.  There's nothing wrong with it.  We love harassing you all, and I, personally, am not so thin-skinned that I can't laugh at myself and my country when Europeans return fire.  (My English friends and I do this all the time.)  Too many people on both sides of the Atlantic take too much of what the other side says personally.  As afew (in my opinion) rightly pointed out, Americans are too willing to take European criticisms, or even European jokes, as condescending.  Europeans are too willing to lump Americans into simplistic categories -- sometimes just one category -- and assume  that we actually believe we know what's best for you.  (Americans admire Europeans and, especially on the Left, envy them in many ways, even if they don't always admit to it.

The important point to make is that we're both too willing to jump up and begin screaming across the Pond when the folks on the other side so much as open their mouths to state a criticism.  (That was, after all, America's greatest fault in the run-up to Iraq: We didn't listen to our friends.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:38:32 AM EST
Hey, Bush won't even listen to James Baker...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 05:54:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, to be fair, Baker is an idiot, too.  Much smarter than Bush, I grant you, but that's exceeding a bar no one thought was very high to begin with.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 06:02:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good grief!

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 9th, 2006 at 09:38:05 PM EST
12 more to go before ManfromMiddletown's record is broken.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 03:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm writing a diary called "Why Do Americans Suck?".

I confidently expect 500+ comments.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 03:57:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am happy to contribute to your record breaking attempt, me duck.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 04:45:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And me!  Great diary afew, and fantastic discussion.  

I've long wanted to do a Bill Bryson and travel America and write my observations of the people, politics, culture and so on.  Perhaps when I win on the premium bonds...

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 06:25:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how about a diary: 'america sucks, and europe blows'...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 08:14:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that should limit the number of comments ;-)

I mean, we don't need another of these slow-loading marathons.


You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 08:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the myths that US members see on ET and in Europe?

What would you ask the ET community to watch for?...

Non-generalizing, non-assuming, non-insulting views preferred.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 09:22:46 AM EST
just start the diary. Maybe use the myths for various countries buried deep in redstar's last diary.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 at 04:06:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, as I contribute a few more comments to this wonderful and important discussion...can I request for afew to post a new thread on this topic? Maybe with a link here. But great, great post...and an awesome discussion by all! Thank you all!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 03:07:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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