|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
A Wry Analysis
Europeans and Americans — Some Differences
Here we present some excerpts from a recent article in the Guardian, a London periodical.
by Henry Porter
The United States’ decision to abandon the Kyoto agreement and put its own energy requirements above the planet’s health has supplied Europe with an unusually rapid means of deciding the worth of George Bush – if indeed we needed one. At any rate, in little less than a week Europeans have concluded that the US government has been captured by an exceptionally irresponsible and foolish man. Bush seems too bad to be true.
And then something fascinating happened, something which had long been waiting to happen. All the resentments about American national life – the continued use of the death penalty, the refusal to address guns, the overbearing nature of its entertainment industry, the disinclination to ratify treaties against landmines, and rejecting the International Criminal Court – coalesced into a single charge sheet which damned American society as being arrogant and out of touch with global concerns.
The mood has been building for a long time.
Something less than 25% of all Americans have passports and it follows that the American experience of the outside world is extremely limited. While Europeans are exposed to a constant flow of fascinating information about American life, there’s no reciprocal interest in the US about Europe, except when we have floods and foot and mouth and atrocities in the Balkans. Then the US takes notice, but this only serves to underscore the impression that life outside the great republic is far from comfortable.
(William Pfaff, writing in the Los Angeles Times the other day, noted a mistake made by the new secretary of the treasury, Paul O’Neill, who had commented that something had to be done to help the Japanese achieve a higher standard of living. As Pfaff writes: “In fact, Japan’s problem is that its living standards are so high – much higher on average than in the United States – that Japanese consumers can’t think of much they want to spend more money on.”)
In 1925 Mencken saw how the two cultures rubbed each other the wrong way. Europeans, he wrote, despaired of “our growing impatience with the free play of ideas, our increasing tendency to reduce all virtues to the single one of conformity, our relentless and all pervading standardisation … We protect the status quo and so make steady war upon revision and improvement.” That still encapsulates the European doubt about the United States of America. George Bush is a product of that deeply conservative strain in America that wars against revision and improvement. In Europe we are brave enough or foolish enough to think that we can revise and improve, which is why the clash occurs.
Continental drift: how the US and Europe see the world Cuba
The European view: Hip holiday destination du jour, home of record-breaking athletes, lyrical love poetry, and salsa
The US view: Depraved, child-snatching, tyrannical dictatorship hell bent on – and close to achieving – world domination; home of massive narcotics industry, cigars, and (a particularly clever form of cultural warfare, this) salsa
The European view: Lethal weaponry enabling alienated American high-school internet enthusiasts to massacre their unsuspecting classmates
The US view: Constitutionally enshrined form of protection enabling high-school students to defend themselves against attempted massacres by their alienated classmates
The European view: Expensive, time-consuming, intimidating system allowing rich people to stop everyone else from saying nasty things about them
The US view: Popular recreational sport, like baseball, allowing Americans to generate a useful second income from spilling coffee on themselves
Foot and mouth
The European view: Hugely problematic catastrophe that threatens the global importance of Britain’s agricultural industry
The US view: Yet another reason to steer clear of London, like pickpockets, and the aftermath of war in “nearby” Bosnia
The European view: Worryingly unstable West African country benefiting from a spot of good old-fashioned British army training.
The US view: Where?
What’s your opinion? Notice any other differences? Tell your views to The Progress Report!