Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Change I can believe in

by r------ Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 02:30:06 PM EST

Today, on my way to work, I listened to a National Public Radio report on the state of the health care system in Germany, a report which concorded globally, if not in the details, with my own experiences with the health care system in France. In terms of the actual report, the general thrust was to attempt to dispel illusions that Americans typically have about social health care, and as such, was accurate and also well argued, though given NPR's small audience, one which will fall, literally, on deaf ears. This is a big redwood tree, falling in the forest, but alas, few are there to hear it.

One piece of it, the Intro, really struck me as the first time in US media I have heard a theme we talk about often and which Americans, average Joe Six-pack Americans, simply don't get:

Germany has the world's oldest universal care system and is arguably the most successful. Like Americans, most Germans get their health coverage through their employers. But Germany's rich pay higher premiums to subsidize insurance for the poor -- a principle the Germans call "solidarity."

There's that word: Solidarity. And it's not just Germans calling it by name. It is the expression of our shared European values, of each according to ability, to each according to need. Or, if you prefer a less Marxian giving of the phrase, it is the product of a shared belief that we are all in this together. And it is a concept truly foreign to the values of Americans, for whom the overriding, if inefficiently and unevenly applied, value is Charity.

Now, I'd likely have gone on some polemic about the merits of Solidarity versus the merits of Charity, and I'd certainly have mentioned in doing so that others have covered this ground much better than I could hope to do. But on the way to writing that diary, another bit of news, this time personal: a neighbor, friend and mother of my children's friends here in the US was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, which has spread to liver, brain and certainly other places. The prognosis is grim.

Those who know me know that, like Jerome, my child has had the terrible misfortune of a cancer diagnosis. Unlike Jerome, Malcolm's misfortune befell us in the United States. And so, first hand, I saw what lack of Solidarity means. Unnecessarily late diagnoses (and poor prognoses) due to lack of adequate health insurance coverage, resulting in potential exposure to hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-dischargeable debt and corresponding parental hesitancy at getting a sick child in to see the doctor in a timely manner. Seemingly arbitrary insurance rejection of treatment and palliative care options. Children who undergo treatment alone, who sleep alone when recovering in a strange and scary hospital environment, because their parent is unable to afford to take time off of their sometimes distant job for fear of loss of insurance, and loss of income to pay the rent, food, clothing and bills. Indifferent, no-pay last-served care for those with the misfortune of getting sick without insurance. And so on. Always a pretty firm lefty, my experiences with the US health care system radicalized me, filled me with a profound disgust with the bipartisan political class which found such a system satisfactory and a deep dismay with the attitudes of most Americans who, misfortune not having befallen them, most often seem oblivious of the travails of the least of their brothers.

Those who know me also know that I am about to move back to France. And, in sum, the primary reason is exactly this: Americans do not have this value of Solidarity; it has to be introduced, by way of an NPR radio piece, as essentially a foreign concept, and subsequent events of the day drove home to me just how alienating this lack of human values on the part of my (half-)fellow Americans is for me personally.

And it goes beyond healthcare. As Europeans, we take these things for granted, that if we, as spouses, die, our partner who survives us will not be at risk of poor health outcomes, bankruptcy, and homelessness and our children who survive us will still have access to quality educational opportunities equal to those of children upon whom misfortune has not befallen. We do so at our own peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted our equal access, on more or less meritocratic rather than class grounds, to the same university programs and degrees as anyone else. We do so at our peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted our ability to take time to recharge our batteries, go on holiday, spend time with our children and attend properly to our personal affairs. We do so at our peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted our ability to be cushioned, if imperfectly so, from the blow of losing one's livelihood, one's home and one's self-respect, due to quirk of market forces. We do so at our peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted, and increasingly so, our access to affordable and, if necessary, free social housing, for ourselves and our famililies. We do so at our peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted our right to feed and clothe ourselves, and buy for our children the bare educational necessities to give them an equal chance at success in school. We do so at our peril.

As Europeans, we take for granted our ability to properly take care of ourselves in our old age and, when the time comes, to be taken care of. We do so at our peril.

The peril is nothing less than undermining our core European value of Solidarity, and replacing it with the retrograde, and base, concept of Charity and Charity alone.

And so, after 12+ years in America, I'm moving, myself and my whole family, back to Europe. It's time. My job in Paris has already begun (I'm still working from the Twin Cities, but only for three more weeks). My lease in Chaville begins on 1 August. All the administrative formalities have begun, my consular registration ended, and I move on to a city I haven't lived in since the Montreal Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup. For all the talk I'm hearing around me about "Change We Can Believe In," the change I can believe in, after watching 12+ years of neo-liberalism in action, is to go back to my own core values, which are simply not found in America.

Accordingly, I have been observing the election in America unfolding before my eyes with an odd detachment, for the very fact of the matter is that 12+ years of hard knocks and first hand, painful experiences, have taught me that whatever changes come will not result from Solidarity, as changes tend to be grossly determined by underlying values, and Solidarity is not a core American value.

Does this mean I won't vote, as is my right, in the US election? Heaven's no! My absentee ballot application has already been sent off, and I have every intention to vote for the change other Americans, the full-blooded kind I guess, can believe in.

But the most important voting I will be doing won't be in the fall, but three weeks from now. For you see, I am voting with my feet.

A fine, sobering, Diary - not much need for comment, really.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:09:25 PM EST
I listened to that same program on NPR. That word solidarity stuck out for me too, I was thinking that 'what excuses have they for not building the same kind of health system in the US - when the evidence, especially that it is cheaper!!!, is there for all to see'.

20.000.000 US Americans are hungry, unable to live on 3 dollars worth of food stamps a day. How can this be?

I dread that the virus of beggar-thy-neighbour capitalism has already entered European society.

It's hard for me to fully appreciate your passion: I've never felt the gut-wrenching frustration of living in such a system. But I try.

If only the solidarity of family could be seen not as insular, but as a resource for society as a whole.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:20:05 PM EST
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in your last phrase, and I confess to utter bewilderment when listening to Americans, of all stripes, and walks of life, and political leanings, explain those hungry kids, those homeless single mothers and those 40 millions with dangerously inadequate access to healthcare.

It's not even ideological, it's deeper than that, and underscores for me, if I even needed it, that our interests are not the same, because (but not just because) our fundamental values are not the same.

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

by r------ on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:59:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Solidarity and Sustainability are the two most important terms in the current state of our 'movement'. All of the rest are details - difficult details to be sure, but the first task is to define and 'sell' these concepts. Your piece does an excellent job with respect to Solidarity.

To some degree out here in the 'country' there's substantial solidarity. I'm working on some sustainability issues, and I will write on these activities soon.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sustainability is connected with the idea of stewardship - taking care of resources and passing them on. The idea of ownership, especially of land, as Chris continually points out, is at odds with the idea of stewardship.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I recommend you crosspost this at Daily Kos with Jerome doing his best to have it recommended over there. It would be very interesting to see their reactions to your post.
by An American in London on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 03:20:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, I take this as a compliment. Not sure I have the time or energy to post it though, plus it's sort of a diss and they just need to make sure they get that change they believe in, even if it doesn't excite me much it's better than the alternative.

The diary of Jerome's I linked to was cross posted to Kos though, you can see the reactions to that diary. I'd expect the same.

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

by r------ on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 12:36:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
20.000.000 US Americans are hungry, unable to live on 3 dollars worth of food stamps a day.

That's just the number of Americans eligible to receive benefits.  The actual number is close to 40,000,000.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:21:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:25:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome home, redstar!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:41:18 PM EST
Thank you, Melanchton!

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:56:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that my opinion matters to you, but I support the decision you've made. I'm not trying to attack, but rather I'm trying to observe.

Not knowing your back story until this essay, I wondered, as I read, this: if your child was not diagnosed with cancer and you didn't have "12+ years of hard knocks", would you be moving to Europe?

On some levels, I think your move is an incredibly American thing to do. You're looking out for yourself and your family first and doing what is best for them.

You are moving to a place where solidarity has been developed and improved upon over 60 years of post-war rebuilding. Obviously, the solidarity in Europe wasn't always like it is today. Europeans today are benefiting from the pain and the change of their parents and grandparents.

Even before the two world wars, thousands of Europeans once immigrated to the United States for a better life. Now your family is moving in the other direction across the Atlantic. I think it is safe to claim that everyone wants to improve his or her life.

But, I think you're wrong that solidarity isn't a core American value. Rather I believe solidarity is a forgotten American value. I believe it was once part of the American fabric during the 30s and 40s, when the country was going through some very hard times. Yes it has largely disappeared over the past 60+ years, but it may return.

If the U.S. was in as devastated a state as Europe was after WW2, would the social safety net have been furthered here? Did winning the war allow Americans to gorge themselves and grow fat and selfish? I believe so.

I think you are right to call attention to how much is taken for granted by Europeans. I wonder though is European solidarity any more perfect? Or is it more solidarity with decades worth of established benefits that rose out of the devastation of two world warrs?

I also wonder if today, does European solidarity extend to immigrants? Is European solidarity eroding because of less cultural and racial homogeneity?

Does solidarity in Europe continue to exist across ethnicity or culture? Do the Italians see solidarity with the Roma? Do the Germans see solidarity with the Turks? Do the Scots see solidarity with the English? Do white Europeans see solidarity with African or Arab Europeans? Do Europeans even see solidarity with other Europeans?

I hope so. I hope that human solidarity — human rights are what will govern us as a people. Solidarity is important to all of us. We humans are all on this earth together. Regardless of where we live.

All the best to you and your family. I hope you get the healthcare you deserve... we all deserve.

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:18:25 PM EST
When my son was diagnosed, we were in the middle planning a move back. I was in at Insead and ready to go. So yes, we would have gone back either way, though if he hadn't been diagnosed, we'd've been back seven years now already.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:32:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you think were the drivers for that loss of solidarity?

Has something changed, other than the limit of resources being reached?

To me, the Great American Dream was always built on the euphoria of winning - to the detriment of the losers. This fact has been covered up by the achievements of US culture. However, historically this culture always 'won' - to the detriment of the losers.

History, that great repository of how not to do things, is packed with faded cultural stars that were once golden, but later became environments for Wall-E. How many empires have disappeared over human history? Europe too will one day disappear. For the moment though, we are trying to find some relationship between a single human life cycle, and the longer rhythms.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the biggest thing was that there was a relatively empty chunk of very prime real estate that was easy pickings-many had very hard lives, but there was room.  There is much less room, and less resources, basic resources such as water are in very short supply, and the notion that we can continually grow is beginning to look suspect.  And what then?  What if we have had our heyday?  If the party is over and we have to sober up and take a look around and survey the mess, what then?  I don't think we know.

We don't have much of a chance politically, there are the structural problems with our form of gvt, that parlimentary democracies just don't have, and now that its been co-opted to the extent that we are hearing Obama castigated for being too liberal-well, I think we are well and truly fucked.  This should have been the election where we actually moved left but we got sold on identity politics and the chimera of HOPE.  My grandpa used to say "Wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which one gets filled first."  Crude, but it was memorable.

Interesting article in the Economist that comes on stand tomorrow, they actually praise the NHS.  http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11670271

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

by NearlyNormal on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:24:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you think were the drivers for that loss of solidarity?

I only have a few only loose, unfocused thoughts on this.

Probably one of the first dent in American solidarity probably came in the 1920s when we started speculating in the stock market to get rich quick and started traveling separately in automobiles instead of together in mass transit such as streetcars.

I believe solidarity regained some lost ground during the American Great Depression, but as life became easier after the end of the Second World War, there was less of a reason for Americans to band together. When times are bountiful and food and riches are plentiful, I think there is less motivation or cause for solidarity. I believe hard times create solidarity.

Additionally, American consumerism was developed and perfected in the years since WW2. Consumerism, or Keeping up with the Joneses, individualized barometers of success were accepted as the norm. Be the first on your block to get a radio, refrigerator, ..., color television, microwave... the list is endless.

Now add to the consumerism mix a system where wealth can buy vastly better healthcare. Miracle cures are expensive and not everyone can get them. America has decided to ration the miracle cures based on a person's money rather than other ways.

Has something changed, other than the limit of resources being reached?

I think that's the main change. Once cheap unlimited resources are now becoming limited and no longer cheap. Oil and overseas labor is not quite so cheap anymore.

The whole decline has been accelerated by decades, maybe a century by Bush's oil wars this decade.

Right now, we're treading on new ground, not just in America, but everywhere in the world. The combination of peak oil and climate change throws old patterns about recovery/growth out the window.

Hard times can encourage solidarity, but it can also bring out increased increased selfishness. I think the Bush years demonstrate increased selfishness  in the United States. The wealthy or the people they pay to keep them wealthy see the dangers to individuals and nations with a world of peak oil and climate change, and to mitigate those problems for the individual they've accumulated unbelievable amounts of wealth.

Add to this, my believe that the rich are now stateless regardless of where they presently live. If things become uncomfortable to the super rich in one place, they can easily buy entry into another country. There are no rich Americans, and I'm willing to guess there are no rich Europeans. There are just rich people living in those places.

These are exciting times, but I wish I was reading about them in a history book rather than living them.

by Magnifico on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:53:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is clearly imo an American belief system (not necessarily confluent with religion, but historically all the religious weirdos emigrated to America), that adheres to the 'all the worldly goods' view of life metrics.

But all historical empires show distinct phases of evolution, leading up to collapse. The arc always begins with a brilliant description of the dynamics of society - the US Constitution, for example. And the arc always ends with dissolution 50, 100, 1000 years later. Sometimes within a generation like the Khmer Rouge.

It is my belief that culture is cyclical. It evolves in a pattern sustained by belief in the system as an answer to the perennial problems of existence. It is a macro answer to micro problems. ie the fundamental quandary of democracy.

The collapse of belief in a system is more rapid than its slow adoption. This is what we are seeing in America now. It would have happened in Europe 70 years ago, were it not for a war that produced such depravity of behaviour that Europe was renewed Phoenix-like by fire. In Europe this buys us time. We fucked up big time, and only now are people beginning to forget.

There is no difference between societies - they evolve according to organic drivers. The perceived differences are only a matter of where societies are on the cycle. Collapse is always in the future.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:45:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like Oswald Spengler--who I haven't read in years.

My two cents-- I think if you look toward the time of the 3rd Great Awakening in the mid-West, you'll find a compelling example of Protestant religiosity mixed with the rise of unionism and ultimately socialism in the states (Eugene V. Debs was the most visible example).

What happened? That sense of 'solidarity' was co-opted by social gospel preachers and missionaries who emphasized charity over unionizing, systemic criticisms of capitalism and active resistance. Instead of a solidarity movement that could have changed the system to align it with progressive spiritual mores, we got prohibition.

Add to this the brutal suppression of anything smacking of socialism/unionism by the capitalists--Debs was jailed, Huey Long was assassinated, Wobblies were effectively wiped out--and it's not such a mystery.

Always remember, in the U.S., whatever elements of socialism FDR managed to assimilate into the system were always considered 'compromises' so that an over turn of the existing capitalist system would not occur. The important point to consider is what elements in society ultimately maintained control of the state. Even under FDR, it was never the unions.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you read anything on American labor history it's visible. I don't know what happened.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People stopped living close to each other - poverty is always easier when it's invisible. Workplaces became transient and alienated, so work-based communities ceased to exist, making solidarity redundant. (Often literally.)

Physical oppression and violence became symbolic oppression and violence, which are harder to recognise. The dour but necessary old socialist and communist narratives were ruthlessly weeded out and replaced with a jaunty consumerism which doesn't make personal, moral or intellectual demands. The media started repeating lies about economic theory, and the inevitability of the Wall St view with no space for possible progressive alternatives.

After Carter's career was murdered, the country lost its collective mind.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 07:15:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Throwing Carter out was the biggest mistake this country ever made.  You can pretty much trace everything that has been eating away at the country's foundation to that moment.

Ask your fellow countrymen to turn down the heat and put on a sweater, get kicked out, replaced some senile airhead from Hollywood who completely destroyed the country, and ridiculed for the next 30 years.  It's a shame nobody listened.

Maybe that's why his favorable ratings are at an all-time high now.  Perhaps the country's ready to finally shut the fuck up and listen.

Probably not.  After all, there's always a new season of Dancing with the Stars coming.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 07:44:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I consider this book to be the instruction manual for a good portion of the "how." I don't know the answer to "why."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People stopped living close to each other - poverty is always easier when it's invisible.

You hit on the head. Two year ago now I wrote on the rising incidence of economic segregation in the United States.  When you have segregation of this type, the impact of economic policies that favor the wealthy is largely lost on the people who live in wealthy suburbs.  Poverty literally becomes unseen.

Now thinking about the current context, with energy prices calling the suburban model into question.  Think about what happens to American politics when you have people moving from the suburbs that are economically homogenous to mixed income neighborhoods.  Maybe it will help them see the working class as human beings. And also less positively, think about the difference between social unrest when the wealthy are insulated by distance as compared to when they are cheek and jowl with the afflicted areas.

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 Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:35:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Among the effects of suburbanisation, as people started living away from work, the work community became much less tightly knit : it used to be that your colleague was your neighbour, your children going together at school, having barbecues together on Saturdays - workplace solidarity, unionism are much easier in that kind of environment. The cars and suburbia have broken that solidarity.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 04:02:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we weren't poor, we just had no money...

i think it's about fairness, and opportunity.

the poor always had a kind of solidarity, a feeling of being losers together, united against...bad luck, the throw of the dice, being born to a family that couldn't give the kids much of a 'leg-up' to the next level of affluence.

and the rich had a different kind of solidarity, a circling of the privilege wagons, and shared the secret handshakes with their kids, to prolong the dynastic wealth advantages.

after the war, america was ready to take over the leviathan of the age of steel, (since britain, germany, france and japan were on their knees...) oil, the biggest commercial energy bonanza in telluric history, was oozing and gushing out of texas and the sky was the limit, for a new middle class was born, with the g.i. bill prodding millions into higher education, and suburban sprawl became the new frontier.

even drone jobs paid enough to send the kids to college and own your own home, and people felt they had a fair shake in life, (unless they were american indian!!).

even black folks got ahead financially with factory work, so could hold their heads higher in a world were the then-almighty dollar bought respect. many people who would have been too poor to travel to europe went and witnessed the ruin and desolation, maybe they got a message from that, maybe many, including the feeling that it was america's turn to carry the torch of liberty, to embody the best in man, rolling down the ribbons of new highway in a well-machined, built to last-mobile, i sense it in kerouac, this feeling of moving through the present in a petroleum-powered bounteous dream, glittering lights welcoming as  modernity took over, (though he was one of the first to see its dark side, the freedom to escape was irresistibly intoxicating.) its hard to go back to the farm, after you've seen paree.

solidarity is never built in a day, or a week, or even months, it's what people do or did, even if often enough the same people who'd ' help build your barn or feed your animals, may well feel a lot less solidarity if you didn't want to go 'string up a nigger' with them. solidarity forms faster with an enemy, be it natural, the best kind, bringing the realest, most unconditional behaviour, or the unity of purpose between soldiers about to go over the top, willing to risk their own lives to help a brother in need, whom maybe at home might not even be given a nod. solidarity can have obligations you agree with, then suddenly when you don't agree...ostracism.

america became the mobile society, huge v8's munching the miles, got a problem? move on down the line, bonds with relatives and land becoming evermore tenuous and diluted with distance, while we europeans marvelled at stories of americans driving 200 miles to go for breakfast...

keep on movin'... movin' right along...jobs, wives, identities, roots shucked off like old wornout snakeskin sneakers...

solidarity...human decency, philosophy, patience...a society that has time...to slow down and feel the silence...to talk to and listen to and play with children on their level, instead of hurrying them onto adults' harried schedules, laying layers of angst onto forming nervous systems. i get a flash of it watching national geographic, lol! any place as yet untouched by lucifer's shiny baubles, people are solid, their hearts are still open and soft, the children and old people smile more, no matter how penurious their existence relative to ours.

so much of this shit starts there...if you don't see people living kindness, and 'monkey see monkey do' it too to be sympathetically resonant with them, learn it at your grandmother's proverbial knee, then you have to take what you have gathered by coincidence and go into the wide, wide wicked world and figure it out the longer, harder way, chasing mirages of ego, chimeras of desire, phantasms of ideology, running away from demons of fear, that, lo and behold, are waiting in the next town with new faces, or come rolling in with tales to tell just when you have your new 'self' sorted!

solidarity has become politicised, fox tries to sell it to us with amazing americans.com while simple folk have always practiced it, without moralising about it, though they eventually did that too!

you offer salt in the desert, even to your enemy.

it started before, but the eighties wrote it in stone, greed was good, amorality was wisdom, gordon gecko, thatcher (there is no such thing as society), reagan (it's midnight in america, but soon it will be mourning), fullthroated yuppieism was something to behold, it's sadly unwondrous how hiphop culture mirrored it right back, with the sick sparkle of extra jumbo-whopper bling...

one thing's for sure, the rise and fall of the american empire will be the best documented in the plant's history, that is if the drives don't fragment, the films mould, the archives flood or burn...

i'd feel solidarity with everyone by default, but i ain't as gullible as i used to be! now i let people work a bit more for my trust. solidarity's great, but it's no solitary tango.

many hands make light work, if we all took our share of responsibility, it wouldn't feel so damn heavy to try and hold up hope, to know what we know, but when you see how many people are yet clueless, and you see how sick certain people have to be, and are, to take advantage of the 'ignorant masses', then it's easy to understand why it weighs so, even to understand how some go crazy, when they really see what we're up against, and and realise how few living in their often faceless world really do feel their humanitarianism (humanism?) as solid.  good civics education would be a positive scholastic approach, but that's still just a fancy name for simple human kindness.

great diary, redstar, you can really write your ass off, i'm glad you stepped back into the euro-fold... best wishes for a smooth transition, and the best possible care for your son, and just as important, you as primary caregiver.
because sometimes their/your needs get to be ignored in the shuffle...

sorry for the length y'all, in a ramblin' mood i guess...

'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 Jul 4th, 2008 at 12:37:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you melo, compliment right back at you.

You know, you should make this billet a full diary post, don't you think?

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

by r------ on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 02:12:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
right from the git-go (of course, the punctuation was a clue, too). Brilliant, melo. Fits right in with a brilliant diary, plus excellent comments by all.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 11:51:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I work in IT, and I've worked with a number of Indian-Americans (from India, that is; not First Nations people). One thing I noticed was the way they help each other. Americans have this dog-eat-dog approach to life where each individual is trying to get ahead. The best way I was able to come up with to describe the difference was saying that they had a "farm team" approach.

A "farm team" is something in American baseball where a major league team has a minor league team (or, several of them at different levels) that they are associated with, and they build up players until they are ready to move up to the major leagues. Of course, some will never reach that level. Contrast that with the other image from American sports, the draft, where a pro team tries to recruit a superstar player. It's a difference between building people up and just waiting for the stars to come along so you can snatch them.

Anyway, that was the best I was able to do to describe the difference in attitude I saw from my Indian co-workers, but now I've found a better way to describe it. They displayed solidarity.

Thanks, redstar.

Il faut se dépêcher d'agir, on a le monde à reconstruire

by dconrad (drconrad {arobase} gmail {point} com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:21:39 PM EST
This is an incorrect view of how good teams look at drafts.  The NFL draft is obviously the big one in the states.  The greatest draft coaches are the ones who know good players who will improve the team up and down (but who are not superstars and consequently go in later rounds), and who simply use the superstar top picks as bargaining chips to go after more important additions in the later rounds.

It's not a process of simply picking superstars, unless a team badly needs to fill one or two positions with excellent players, or unless the team is run by idiots.

The Dolphins were fortunate enough to have one of the all-time greats among draft coaches -- Jimmy Johnson -- years ago.  Built the best defense in the league with solid players nobody had heard of.  The talking heads on ESPN always ridiculed his picks, because no one had heard of the players.  But funny thing: By the end of the next season, those players wound up going from nobodies to Pro-Bowlers.

Since Johnson left, we've had coaches who looked for superstars in hopes of igniting the team.  It's failed miserably, because our coaches have been too stupid to play the draft properly.

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
off topic: any luck selling the house?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:36:29 PM EST

But good luck renting it.

Everything else fell into place quite nicely though, so I don't really care.

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

by r------ on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:39:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a pretty "full-blooded" American, the french side has been here for centuries, since they ran us protestants out, the Irish side since the potato famine, my grandpa got shot in Belleau Woods, and an uncle lost at the French coast in '44.  I think its going to take a hell of a catastrophe for us to redevelop solidarity, if we have ever had it to begin with, and I suspect that catastrophe is on the way-I think it has to be on the way without solidarity, since I think that is the one thing that might avert catastrophe, the willingness to share and to have faith that together we can prosper.

I'm glad that you have a place to go and be accepted-it is a luxury that not everyone has.  Cherish it and I hope that you can go home, again.

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

by NearlyNormal on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:10:57 PM EST
I am an American.  A suburban American who has a pilot's license, three patents and three children.  A typically normal scene right?  I also have a lump on my leg I have come to call my tumor.  I have a scamming health insurance company which routinely scams all of my co-workers out of payments for legitimate health car costs.  This link illustrates some of the depth of the Massachusetts scamming govenment scam of mandating medical insurance that government refuses to regulate.
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17827922&BRD=2731&PAG=461&dept_id=574902&r fi=%5C'

We tried to use the company email system to exchange information on how not to get ripped off by the scamming insurance company but alas the company said such things were an abuse of the company provided IT infrastructure.

In addition to that Scamerica is now making the transition to all digital medical records.  These medical records are available to any agency who wants to data mine them to later be used against you.

As you can see while the government makes this elaborate and detailed program to market the idea of medical record privacy to stupid people the reality is far different.
http://www.patientprivacyrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Who_Can_See_Your_Medical_Records&JS ervSessionIdr009=saacpb8j94.app8b

I have neither the money or resources to blow this place and I hesitate to even apply for a renewed passport.  It is after all the New Germany here in the United States and the year is 1939.

by Lasthorseman on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:29:44 PM EST
Intellectually, I have to agree with you and Jerome about Charity, at least as it has come to be practiced, i.e. "Let the bleeding hearts take care of those problems.."

However, I suspect that part of the problem in the USA is reflected in this more recent construction of the meaning of the word.  In the King James Bible, Charity was synonymous with Christian Love--i.e. empathy and compassion, and was at the heart of the religion.  For some it still is, and those are the Christians I can respect.

But the core of the teaching has been repeatedly perverted in the service of "socialization" and "social control."  When Methodist and Baptist preachers first started preaching to slaves in the south, they got chased out as their gospel riled up the slaves.  Then they adapted to the slave based capitalist society of the south and Southern Baptists emerged as the dominant Protestant denomination in most states where slavery had been practiced.

This accommodation could only be accomplished by learning, consciously or unconsciously, to develop blind spots in our world views, and not only about race.  Interestingly, it was the Evangelicals, who emphasized a direct and personal experience of God, who  were the most open to interracial fellowship in the Jim Crow south.  In matters of charity, or love, the emotions are perhaps a better guide than the intellect.

Given the degree of religiosity extant in the USA, rediscovery of the original English meaning of Charity may be a vital link in the development of a sense of solidarity.  While we are a hyper-competitive people, there are times when we become concerned with having a "level playing field" and there are times when we become concerned with everyone having an equal start.  If we have leadership that can and will properly exploit these characteristics of the American psyche, there may be hope.  Else--THE ABYSS.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 09:17:55 PM EST
Excellent diary.

Too tired to say anything substantial.

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

by ATinNM on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 09:54:43 PM EST
Good to see you around, AT.  How's the house coming?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 10:46:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barely touched it recently.  Spent the last 6 weeks doing/working on Other Stuff.  We decided we'd better get rid of all our outstanding debt and capital assets to get to a 100% cash position.  So that meant packing and moving piles of useless junk various possessions from one property to storage & etc.  Hope to have the process done by the end of this week as I've got a cardiac infarction scheduled for Saturday ... ;-)

We're cashing out the capital accumulations of 25 years pretty much for the reason redstar gave in this diary.  As we have to rely on ourselves for backup in the event of an emergency, coupled with the various Peaks running around, limiting risks (eliminating debt, discounting future expectations of earnings on assets, & etc) seems a smart move.

One Action Item in progress is the organization of a local co-op for bulk food items: grains, beans, coffee(!), and so on.  The idea is to create a baseline of success expandable to bigger and wider areas.  People around here don't 'get' Solidarity intuitively.  They have to experience the benefits.  Our hope is once they see how it works they will come around.

We're not sanguine but unless one of the Euro-ET'ers has a spare closet for us and our 4,000+ books to move into (LOL) its all we can do.


The Federal government is talking about spending billions for new, advanced, weapons systems.  They aren't talking about spending anything to fix our crumbling infrastructure, prepare for Peak Oil, fix the health care system, prepare for Climate Change, & etc, etc, etc.  The entire political system from Bush to Obama are operating under the assumption the next 40 years will be roughly the same as the last 40 years.  They miss the substantial changes in the offing.  Peak Oil is a fact with broad-reaching effects on every aspect of American life and I don't see anyone in government at any level acknowledging Things Will Be Different.  

And PO just one predictable change coming down the pike.  

(Just reread the comment.  Man, am I depressing!)

Oh well, what the hell.  Visualize Whirled Peas.  Think Globally, Act Locoly.  Save the Whales and Earn High Interest Rates.  

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

by ATinNM on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Relying on the political system to deliver is probably pointless.  Fortunately, I think we're starting to reach the point at which prices are getting out of hand, and people are starting to look at ways to reorient their lives.  Just wait until oil goes to $200/bbl.  I didn't expect to see people get off their asses because of $4.00 gas, but man....

Just wait until it's $5-6.00.  We might actually have people getting ahead of the politicians.

Oh, wait....

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

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 11:00:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We might actually have people getting ahead of the politicians.

There is power,
there is power,
in a gang of working men.
When they stand.
Club in hand.

Two things are good to have in your toolkit to get through this thing:

(1)  Ya gotta keep a sense of humor 'bout It All

(2)  Local organizations (co-ops, etc) responsive to their members

Eventually national organizations (government, unions, & etc) will be forced to pull their heads outta their asses.  The trick is staying alive until it happens.

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

by ATinNM on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 11:22:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They won't have a choice eventually.  And I reckon that day is coming soon.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 11:26:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what perfect karmic symmetry, america's lefty intellectuals come to yurp for freedom...i anticipate many many more...benvenga!

bring us your fired, your cuddled masses...

(just leave the guns behind, as helen would say!)

'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 Jul 4th, 2008 at 12:58:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
don't need or miss them at all.

I always wanted to do biathlon, though.  But can't do that here, my skiis have been in the cellar for the last four years, no decent snow.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 07:08:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

so tough..so well-said.. so well-written..
No words.

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 Jul 4th, 2008 at 09:11:40 AM EST
Well, I had no idea about your son, and I am truly sorry about that. It does seem like more ET regulars than we'd like have had their share of misfortune...

Though I didn't know you enough to know that story, I do know you enough to appreciate that you would have understood the value of solidarity in any case. Now that you can expect more of it (far from enough -we are way too individualistic even in France), I hope of course that it won't be needed.

Anyway, it will be good to have you around in Paris. France needs more people like you.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:44:15 AM EST
Interestingly, I have seen more than one commentator note that France has the distinction of probably being more individualistic than the USA.  I see no inherent conflict between individualism and solidarity.  It is the attitudes of a society about individuals that matters.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 12:54:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your kind words Cyrille, and I look forward to seeing you again in September.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 02:10:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary. I wonder how much of our differences in perspective come from different experiences of America. For all of the talk about glaring contrasts of wealth and poverty in NYC, the reality is that unlike most of the US those contrasts are always visible. The eight figure apartments of Fifth and Park a few minute walk from the extreme poverty of East Harlem; the seven figure renovated apartments of the gentrified areas literally next door to the long time residents in their rent stabilized apartments. Everyone rides the same subways, plays in the same parks, often attending the multitudes of free events put on by the city. Which brings me to another point - there's a much stronger safety net here than in most of the country. That comes partially through direct aid, but even more through various laws and regulations. There's a limit to what the city can do - most of our tax dollars go to DC, and contrary to the perception of much of the US, NYC is a huge net contributor to the federal (and state) budget. Still, the differences are real. And finally, there's the social geography. We're a throwback here - intense city identity plus  small town like neighbourhoods (some of those small towns may have the populations of small cities or be a square kilometer in size, but you get the idea).

Anyways, I hope Paris brings you more joy than the Twin Cities, and good luck.

by MarekNYC on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 03:09:02 PM EST
I logged in so that I could comment.

I am glad I moved to Germany, and just got reinsured in April.  Things still are not all that rosey, though.  With the new law, I am compelled to pay all the way back to April 2007 for some reason.  I don't have the euros and my VA compensation check continues to shrink every month of the dollar dive.  Now I may be able to pay that back money in installments but I don't have enough to make even the current 135 euro monthly payment.

Additionally, AOK will only pay for acute treatment for anything related to war illnesses, meaning my PTSD.  And since the depression and anxiety are diagnosed as secondary to that, they are only taken care of acutely as well.

But at least I have something for run of the mill illnesses.  We are looking at an August marriage date and my fiancee has BKK, and I understand they will take care of me and it's free as a family member on her policy, so I think we will go with that.

But I talked to the AOK lady on Thursday and she is coming by the house on Monday, she feels like there is a solution.   Which is good, because other AOK reps were here, while extremely sympathetic to my situation, informing me that I owe the money after signing up in April for an entire year and they are the ones who can take household belonging to satisfy debt.  Luckily, everything is pretty much my partner's.  They also encouraged me to talk to this particular lady and that she could help.

Lastly, after finding out that my US Social Security contributions of 24 years will count in the German system, I applied for disability and waiting to hear on that.  Hopefully, that will help as our combined income is 200 euro too much for social assistance (she makes 1000 and I pull in 550 euro a month).  If the dollar keeps diving, then in a couple of months we may qualify.

So, I guess I'll find out monday.

Sorry to hear about your child, I hope you find the care your family requires in France.  I am voting absentee for Obama, too, and I still don't regret immigrating.  In fact, I am kinda relieved.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 06:53:13 AM EST
Are you sure about that? I always understood that the Soc Sec and equivalent European payments count towards each other only in the sense that the total number of years is added to determine whether you qualify for either, but that the money itself comes from both countries in accordance to how much you paid in each. Is disability treated differently, or am I wrong?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 09:22:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you may be right, I am not sure of the specifics, just that the consulate informed me that they would be calculating my US Soc. Sec., which made me feel less of a parasite

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 09:41:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This diary has been on my to-do list for the last several days, and I've now read through all the comments. Thank you for writing it, and for those who commented.

It's very hard for a frog being heated up here in the pot to get any perspective beyond the surface of the stove, especially when the glass lid is halfway across the top of the pot. So I am grateful for all the long and substantive comments.

I'm also struck, as someone said above, by the differences in comments here and at the big orange. Here, long and substantive. There, not so much, where I've learned to be short and snarky.

As ever, I am glad to have access to the collective thoughts of ET.

by Mnemosyne on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 11:54:25 AM EST
I heard a radio show here (in the U.S.) not too long ago where a caller asked the conservative host if it was not shameful that America had such a lousy health care system. The host said that America is a capitalist country, not a socialist one, and that medical outcomes were not the point of a discussion about health care.

Obviously one might wonder where it is written that the U.S. is a capitalist country, but the really disheartening thing is the open acknowledgement of lack of care about one's fellow humans...

by asdf on Sun Jul 13th, 2008 at 11:04:20 PM EST
Hey, I live in Fourqueux. We are almost neighbors. We should get together for a glass of wine or something once you are settled in.
by unclejohn on Mon Jul 14th, 2008 at 06:56:52 AM EST

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