Skip

Why Europeans And Arabs Hate America And Israel:
April 14, 2002 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Why Europeans And Arabs Hate America And Israel: In this brash, provocative essay for The Weekly Standard, good old David Brooks blames what he calls bourgeoisophobia. He may have gone too far in his desire to make his point, but there's something in what he says. Is it envy? Is it anti-semitism? Is it hypocrisy pure and simple? There's definitely a ressurgence of the pushy, garish, ostentatious and arrogant "ugly American" stereotype after September 11. Apart from the conservative Daily Telegraph and Spectator, it's becoming more and more difficult for Atlanticists such as myself to avoid ritual America-bashing in the European mainstream press. What in the hell is going on? My feeling is that Americans themselves are going out of their way to reaffirm their way of life and reinforce those prejudices. It's as if you vont to be alone. Or is it, as I suspect, just us? [More inside]
posted by MiguelCardoso (84 comments total)

 
I'm a great fan of Mark Steyn's take on this issue. For the Americanophobes(who don't know he's a Belgian-Canadian Jew...) he must embody every unappealing facet of the stereotype - but he certainly stands up for what he believes in. Here are two recent articles of his: one from The Spectator and another from The New Criterion which complement the Brooks piece quite usefully.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2002


Not to warry. When the next world war breaks out, or there is a great ecomic crash, or sudden need for humanitarian help, we (America)will once again be seen as the Good Guys. If history runs in circles, those with hate are in a circle jerk.
posted by Postroad at 9:01 AM on April 14, 2002


What in the hell is going on?

Sadly, Brooks himself, despite the interminable length of his rant and the seeming erudition of the term he borrows from Flaubert, doesn't even address this question in any meaningful way. Rather, he seeks to bash his political opponents -- a bashing they have well earned, to be sure, but one which has practically zero value, except to earn Brooks points with those who already agree with him.

And, even more sadly, that is what's going on. Instead of discussion of the issues, we instead have pseudo-intellectuals jockeying for political position, each trying to prove, once and for all, that the other is a great and horrifying evil.

Essays like Brooks' just make me think they're both right.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:05 AM on April 14, 2002


just stay tuned miguel, watch this next one coming up.
posted by clavdivs at 9:08 AM on April 14, 2002


So French intellectuals of the 19th century paved the way for Osama Bin Laden? Right. OK.
posted by Summer at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2002


Matt: Sorry to butt in so early but isn't there a perverse sort of bullying going on? America is on the defensive, because it feels fragile and its opponents, who have always gone out of their way to fight and ridicule the U.S., whether it's attacking Hollywood, MacDonalds or the Zionist so-called dominance of the media; seem to be engaging in gross opportunism, enjoying and milking the momentary weakness for all it's worth.

The worrying thing is that America's listening. Tony Blair and the countries who stand up for the U.S. and NATO are mocked as "poodles". But any anti-Zionist, left-leaning, habitually America-hating writer or journalist is taken more seriously than ever before. I say all this because I agree with your analysis - specially regarding Brooks - but isn't there also an element of masochistic exposure and vulnerability? People like Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, to mention only U.S. citizens, have been more widely read and discussed since September 11 than ever before, while the Atlanticist intellectuals are considered ass-lickers and dolts.

Even here on MetaFilter we constantly seem to be discussing the merits of the anti-Americans and scavenging for the stigmata of American culpability, measuring every word of The Guardian-reading class as if it might contain a clue for an entirely fictional and unnecessary salvation. So reactions to that are equally one-sided and worthless - thus justifying your analysis. But prompting the question:

Why?

(Postscript on preview)Summer: French intellectuals of the 18th century invented terror as we know it. Flaubert and all the others perfected the hatred of the bourgeoisie which paved the way for the success of Marxism and class hatred in the 20th century. I mean: do you, as a young English woman, like the middle classes? Do you like "rich" American tourists? Don't you, as all the English do, feel superior? I bet you do. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:37 AM on April 14, 2002


brooksophobia: an aversion to David Brooks' seemingly endless stream of trite, cheeky media buzzwords.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:01 AM on April 14, 2002


ah yes. the stigmata of american culpability. alas, we knew him well.
posted by quonsar at 10:05 AM on April 14, 2002


I am deeply suspicious of arguments, like Brooks', that lump together anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Anti-Americanism has a lot to do with the fact that the US is the only remaining superpower, the most powerful country in the world today. Even if you defend the US's actions around the world (which I don't), you should at least expect that the arrogance of power will arouse some hatred.
But, in European history, Jews have always been a despised minority, with very little power. It is only in anti-Semitic fantasy of the 19th and 20th centuries that Jews were portrayed as ruling the world, and resented on that basis.
In short: America really does rule the world. Jews don't. Despite the many bad and oppressive things the state of Israel has done to the Palestinians, there is no comparison between America and "the Jews."
I think it is important to see where Brooks is coming from. He has a right-wing, pro-American-power agenda. When Brooks lumps together anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, he is attempting to discredit anti-Americanism by this link. This is because anti-Semitism has been officially reviled in the West since World War II. (Imagine an article that compared being anti-American to being anti-black, or anti-Palestinian. It wouldn't have the same effect). But in actuality, Brooks' analogy only works if you buy the anti-Semitic slur that Jews, like the USA, actually do control the world in the first place.
posted by Rebis at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2002


I think it is a false argument to bring nationalism into it. Although the hubris and unilateralism of the Bush administration is reason enough to question the U.S.'s motives. There are plenty of anti-bourgeois Americans. In the city where I live suburban sprawl and traffic congestion are a growing problem. But the people who are causing and complaining about the problem the loudest are also the people against mass transit and constantly clamoring to lower taxes. To me it is about glutony and it is ugly.
posted by chrismc at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2002


There's definitely a ressurgence of the pushy, garish, ostentatious and arrogant "ugly American" stereotype after September 11.

It is precisely because of 9/11 that I have no problem with this media bashing. Bash away in the media all you like, just don't fly planes into our buildings. Some of the bashing will invariably be silly and easilly ignored, but some of it will be genuinely constructive criticism. A superpower should always be constructively criticized, that is healthy. What bothers me more is the criticism=treason crowd who seem to be willing to sacrifice the principles of democracy in order to save them.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2002


America is on the defensive, because it feels fragile

I think it is exactly the opposite, Miguel. I don't remember a time in my life that America has felt stronger than it is now. September 11th wasn't an attack on a weak target, it was an opportunistic attack on an otherwise strong target, which was made even stronger than ever by said attack.

What many 'anti-American' Europeans fail to realize is that the vast majority of Americans don't care what they think about us. It's enough to worry about what we think of each other.
posted by evanizer at 10:49 AM on April 14, 2002


French intellectuals of the 18th century invented terror as we know it. Flaubert and all the others perfected the hatred of the bourgeoisie which paved the way for the success of Marxism and class hatred in the 20th century.

Actually Miguel, although the French may have invented terrorism, the Russians perfected it in the late 19th Century when the old Populist party threatened and killed leaders to promote their own ideas.

But any anti-Zionist, left-leaning, habitually America-hating writer or journalist is taken more seriously than ever before.

That's ludicrous. The left and pro-Palestinian movements are being heard more than ever, but only because we are searching for answers. The US hears them, but I find it hard to believe that anyone is actually listening.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2002


America is on the defensive, because it feels fragile and its opponents ... seem to be engaging in gross opportunism, enjoying and milking the momentary weakness for all it's worth. The worrying thing is that America's listening.

(I hope I interpretted that correctly.)

This doesn't seem to be the case, from here. The best way to judge, I think, is from the American political landscape -- if the American people really were listening, our politicians would be all over it, making speeches and campaigning on it. They're not. Hardly anyone dares criticize the current Administration in any substantive way, even when it's warranted, and the Administration itself is hardly concerned about anything that's been said.

Moreover, the Administration doesn't even seem concerned about its relations with Europe relative to this issue, except (perhaps!) where Iraq is concerned. American policy is one thing -- it's hard to see that it is substantively wrong in any way. But diplomacy and statesmanship are another, and Bush & Co. haven't even bothered to indicate to European politicians that they're listening to (not to mention considering responding to) their concerns.

That is, not only do American politicians think Americans don't care about these criticisms, they're not even concerned that they'll care if relations with Europe suffer as a result of their political leaders' disregard.

So, from here, it seems very different.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2002


its opponents, who have always gone out of their way to fight and ridicule the U.S. [...] seem to be engaging in gross opportunism, enjoying and milking the momentary weakness for all it's worth

And you don't see it taking place on the other side? The administration using the situation to support unrelated, pre-situation initiatives? The rapidly expanding market for anti-intellectual conservative columnists?

A few initial opportunists on both sides, followed by hordes of chain-reactionaries on both sides. And it all comes down to transparent word play -- on one side, you're someone who stands up for your beliefs; on the other, you're a habitual America-basher.
posted by skyline at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2002


Miguel ... really liked the New Criterion piece ...

"...The Anglophone culture has succeeded because it is in its way an anti-culture—a culture of individual rights, not collective rights or group rights (which the Euro-left have always been partial to) or identity politics (in which form collective rights have made a critical beachhead here)..."

To your initial question ... "What in the hell is going on?" ... I'd say that, as an American that has traveled more than a little around the 'ol blue marble for both business and pleasure, I've always experienced two completely different realities: That projected by the intelligensia of various nations (oddly including - as the article points out - the American elites that run most of our campuses), and that which resides in the populations themselves.

The intelligensia itself generally seems almost universally opposed to most things American. The question is never whether the US has a damaging effect on the world's cultures/arts/economies/environment/politics/etc., - this is just assumed to be a given - but rather lies in exploring all the different ways in which the US is damaging, and the various means necessary to mitigate the damage.

At the personal level, however, I must say I've rarely experienced anything other than warmth and friendliness from individuals in the EU nations and other 1st world countries, and sentiments ranging from curiousity to outright envy in 3rd world locations. From dinner with Parisian colleagues at the Tour D'Argent to the streets of Madras, from the charming folks of the Amalfi coast to the Dionysian wierdness of Rio, I've rarely felt anything other than positive feelings ... including several Middle-Eastern countries where I've done business.

I've had dinner in everything from palaces to hovels, and on the whole, those in the palaces often send their children to college in the US, and travel quietly to US hospitals when they are seriously ill, and many of those in the hovels would trade what few possessions they have without a moment's hesitation if they had a shot at moving here.

This, I believe, is what the intelligensia - from the Taliban scholars to the French political class, from the leaders of "glorious revolutions" all over the world to the EU bureaucrats, from the Chomskynaderites to the writers of "manifestos" - hate more than anything.

The founders in the US - who coined that brilliant phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident ..." - noticed something significant and, I believe, universal. They came from places where one was either the "subject" of a monachy, or the "servent" of a church. What they said was this: That before one is the subject or servent of any person or institution, one is the master of oneself. Very few ideas on earth are this powerful, and resonate this deeply and universally.

And very few are more dangerous if you are someone who believes you know better than people how people ought to live. It is not just rulers and academics ... even many of the self-professed "populists" on this list commonly speak in very derogatory and dismissive terms about "the masses"... about their ignorance, their crude tastes, and alledgedly slavish comformance to popular culture.

For those that fancy themselves shepards, nothing is more lethal, and nothing needs to be fought more continuously, than the spread of the idea throughout the flock that you are superfluous.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:21 AM on April 14, 2002


Occasional CNN commentator Eric Margolis has written an interesting rant today about Israel, probably critical enough to make Chomsky blush, even brings up the phare "ethnic cleansing". The thing is is that Margolis is a fairly right-wing and really pro-American, but he just doesn't like their policies on Israel.

Whether you agree with him or not, I just thought I'd post it as an example of foreign journalism that is critical of U.S. policy that can't be dismissed as bourgeoisophobia or American-bashing.
posted by bobo123 at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2002


Ugh, damnit, don't link the US with Isreal just because our leaders have some sort of hard-on for that shitty little country.

The sooner we cut ourselves off from that country, the better.
posted by delmoi at 12:19 PM on April 14, 2002


Good points, MidasMulligan...

Rotten point, delmoi. I don't think it is useful or acceptable to call any contry on earth a "shitty little country", regardless what you feel about its policies. Why try to derail what has heretofore been a rational and interesting discussion?
posted by evanizer at 12:34 PM on April 14, 2002


Robespierre: "straighten up and fly right"

Danton: "hey thats a song"

Robespierre:"what is Camille doing with this Meta...

Danton:"wine?"

Robespierre:(stiff upper lip)

Danton:"dohwhurryboutit, its the british, and spanish not to mention the 'guioteen' at the eastern front. If you blah-blah-blah.

Robespierre: (thinks of this Antwerp nestegg and his Lisbon flat)

...a stiff knock on the door.

Danton: (gestulates incoherenty)

St. Just: "A Msser...Resin to see the committee head."

Robespierre: "Sacre Bleau?"

Lackey: "thats what the card says"

Robespierre: "send him in" (thinks of a Throng of robed beings on the Champ de Mars)

ya know...whistle while ya work."And very few are more dangerous if you are someone who believes you know better than people how people ought to live" HMMMM.

I hate to say it , seems that that Vlad Dracul.. sometin invented, well was a prototype for the 'prince' who uses terror in order to ah get order. grant you he was a foot solder in the higher scheme, ya know a new notches down for a king or pope, non the less effective and quite guiling.
but the french claim is still...iffy Salot Sar studied there, look where it got him, do you blame the school? France is France, using the Terror as an example seems a typical intellectual card trick to create an illusion of precedence.
posted by clavdivs at 12:44 PM on April 14, 2002


The intelligensia itself generally seems almost universally opposed to most things American.

I stopped reading as soon as I got to the italicized word, given that you've already proudly told us that you attend academic foreign policy conferences. Who is this anyway? Journalist Edward Said? (A freakin' journalist?) James Q. Wilson? Samuel Huntington? Francis Fukuyama?
posted by raysmj at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2002




I think clavdivs is really Thomas Pynchon.
posted by crasspastor at 1:23 PM on April 14, 2002


Midas, I'd have to say that, on a personal level, you could be a brain in a vat for all that you keep repeating how important you are--why as I was saying to Vaclav Havel, who does take me so seriously, that I find it hard to take you seriously on the grounds of Well, I Said So, especially when you go off the deep end with your sneering junior high school level put downs and Clintonphobic Subgenius-meets-the-Dr-Bronter-bottle-label fonted rants to all the great liberal unwashed here on MetaFilter. Here you seem to be someone who believes you know better than people how people ought to live because of your wealth, wisdom and hobnobbery with the world's elite--because you say so--you're always telling us at length how important and worldly you are. But you could be some smartass kid in prep school, for all we know. So pardon us if we all don't run out and sell everything we own to start a religion to you and your self important pearls of wisdom.
posted by y2karl at 3:20 PM on April 14, 2002


It's quite clear you seem to have a personal problem with MidasMulligan, y2karl. Why do you have to restate it in every thread?
posted by evanizer at 3:36 PM on April 14, 2002


you could be a brain in a vat for all that you keep repeating how important you are

Seconded. If only there wasn't the occasional point buried somewhere there in the self-aggrandizement, my scorn would be flawless.

I think Karl keeps repeating himself (if indeed he does), evanizer, because MM keeps pompously repeating what an important and influential business leader he is, and it's a bit of a joke, really. (Put in your profile, BusinessBoy, and get on with trying to make a cogent argument that's not based on how wonderful you are.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2002


More to the point:

And, even more sadly, that is what's going on. Instead of discussion of the issues, we instead have pseudo-intellectuals jockeying for political position, each trying to prove, once and for all, that the other is a great and horrifying evil.


What mattpleff said. Like we need more ideologues to reify the grays and complexities of the real world into simple black and white. Brooks and Steyn are a couple of overwritten full of shit wind bags--Steyn especially:In America, blacks talk of the ‘white Negros'. What fucking planet is he from? When did Norman Mailer become Malcom X? It's bad enough he tilts at a windmill of his own device but to come up with this pretentious lying garbage-oy vey!
posted by y2karl at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2002


evaniser, he would be more persuasive if he didn't tell us how important he is at infinite length. And, well, if he was more persuasive. Also, I quit smoking, so I'm irritable.

And, yes, stavros was right--I'm parodying up there a bit.
posted by y2karl at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2002


Also, I quit smoking, so I'm irritable.

Oh, I see... Been there myself, and failed.

*lights cigarette*
posted by evanizer at 3:57 PM on April 14, 2002


Cruel, evanizer, cruel.
posted by darukaru at 4:22 PM on April 14, 2002


The intelligensia itself generally seems almost universally opposed to most things American.

i'm sure that particular reaction is inspired in large part by a self-defense instinct. american culture does have a large anti-intellectual streak running through it, especially in the current era of 'market populism.'
posted by maura at 4:28 PM on April 14, 2002


A good example of fallacious reasoning in action.

Firstly we have spurious reasoning in the definition of 'successful' as opposed to 'bourgeoisophobic'; the writer seems to be asserting that no person who is successful can be bourgeoisophobic, and no person who is bourgeoisophobic can be successful.

Secondly we have an appeal to the 'two wrongs make a right' idea. He quite adequately points out the wrongs of Mammonism, but tries to claim that because bourgeoisophobia somehow leads to terrorism, female enslavement, and numerous other wrongs (a pretty tenuous link), Mammonism is now OK.

Self-centered, short-term-focused, rapacious, avaricious, cruel and stupid behaviour disgusts me, whoever does it and whyever they do it. If this makes me bourgeoisophobic, it's because some of the bourgeois, along with lots of other classes of society, behave that way. If they stopped (and I ask that everyone do, forthwith), I would no longer be bourgeoisophobic. I recognise the right of homo diabolis vendor, to exist, I just don't recognise his (or anyone's) right to do evil.

Ash.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2002


It's quite clear you seem to have a personal problem with MidasMulligan, y2karl. Why do you have to restate it in every thread?

Actually, yes, he does. I've apparently become a mission in his tiny little life. Not responding to the points, mind you, just attacking me personally. But I'm proud (or at least a little tickled) to earn the rancor of the likes of Y2and starvos. I wouldn't feel as though my point was getting across unless the likes of those two were making predictably incoherent replies. It is especially gratifying on days like today, when Y2Karl appears to be nearly frothing at the mouth.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:01 PM on April 14, 2002


My, aren't we sensitive.
posted by y2karl at 5:14 PM on April 14, 2002


My, aren't we sensitive.

Do read your own post dear boy. I'm afraid you've already taken the "sensitivity" prize tonight.

To Miguel - thanks for some interesting reading, from a viewpoint somewhat unusual on MeFi. And for provoking what was quite an interesting discussion (until the cheap-shot gang stepped in).
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2002


And attacking people personally, as always. It just seems to me that if you really were so important and successful, you wouldn't need to go on about it at such length, unless you have some deep seated feelings of self doubt--or you are playing a part.


From dinner with Parisian colleagues at the Tour D'Argent to the streets of Madras, from the charming folks of the Amalfi coast to the Dionysian wierdness of Rio, reads like something written in a freshman English course, if you'll pardon my saying so. Maybe you are the well traveled successful person you say you are at such hackneyed length--but why the hackneyed length? And why say so over and over? Methinks you doth protest too much.
posted by y2karl at 5:32 PM on April 14, 2002


Not that you don't have a point now and then, Midas.

And really, cheap shot? That's pot kettle black coming from you.
posted by y2karl at 5:35 PM on April 14, 2002


Ah, y2k, but you missed the documentary on MM's life.
posted by riviera at 5:44 PM on April 14, 2002


....yah...Jack Zelig, (William Alberts, aka, Big Jack. hadda nipper named Chick Tricker as part of his crew. Lured Julie Morrell into a 2nd Ave joint, turned off the lights and 'lemmin havit,' one shot. Killed by Red Phil Davidson, Oct. 5, 1912 on a 13th ST. trolley.
posted by clavdivs at 5:57 PM on April 14, 2002


lifes funny eh guys.
posted by clavdivs at 5:58 PM on April 14, 2002


y2karl, you're my man, you know that, but jeezus evanizer has a point, this hatfields and mcoys routine between you and midas has got to stop, if just for the sake of variety.
As long-winded as Midas can be, he also is fair-minded and has a good sense of humor, and FWIW, he's one of those people who(whether ya love him or hate him) the 'Filter wouldn't be the same without, just like you.

So play nice, OK.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2002


I mean, have we forgotten the immortal wisdom of Dave Mason, gentlemen...
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on April 14, 2002


Y2k just can't figure out why, if he's so smart, he doesn't have a pot to piss in.
posted by mikegre at 6:22 PM on April 14, 2002


jonmc, I guess I was rankled by this fair minded on topic comment he made last night, and humbled by his well spoken and factual response to this point riviera made subsequent to his original on topic fair minded comment.

You have to admit Mida just blew riviera out of the water with his response.

And it was fair minded and good humored, both his original comment, and, his well reasoned and sourced--if a bit long winded--response to riviera's points, wouldn't you agree, jonmc?

As for my methinks he doth protest too much, well, methinks he does. But for you, I'll lay off him...
posted by y2karl at 6:32 PM on April 14, 2002


Oops, I mean this point riviera made--D'oh! I was in two windows looking this up and got mesmerized by the subtle thoughts of mikegre's arguments in the Missile Defense thread...
posted by y2karl at 6:39 PM on April 14, 2002


Anyway, Midas's comeback to that point was a real contribution.
posted by y2karl at 6:41 PM on April 14, 2002


As for my methinks he doth protest too much, well, methinks he does. But for you, I'll lay off him...

For all I know Midas could be a homeles guy logging on at the public library after reading The Wealth of Nations one too many times, but has shown style on occasion like in the Riotland conversation we had a while back. But then again he's probably never listened to Frank Hutchison, so you've got him trumped there, dawg...
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on April 14, 2002


And, waiter, um, could I have whatever Mr. clavdivs is having?

::looks up in preview::
ps. shucks, jonmc, Midas and I have even agreed in the past.
posted by y2karl at 6:55 PM on April 14, 2002


Man, you guys are a LAFF RIOT tonight! You oughta have your own tv show!

"Mulligan's Island", perhaps? 'Cept, I think there's too many Professors and not enough Maryannes...
posted by groundhog at 7:17 PM on April 14, 2002


groundhog...more like too many gilligan's with incredibly one-sided perspectives that make for goofy comedy.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:22 PM on April 14, 2002


Unfair. How could Midas have made his point about Europe and other countries - that, as in the U.S. and probably everywhere, there's a big divide between the media and the people - without speaking from experience? I'm also guilty of revealing a lot about my life because well-grounded personal observations are important. They at least seem less volatile than opinions based on reading the newspapers.

I know Europe very well and his remark rings entirely true. You find very little anti-Americanism outside politics. Americans, Canadians, Japanese, the Irish, Brazilians and the Scots are probably more liked than any other nationalities. Not because they're polite - unlike the English, Dutch, Germans, - or friendly - unlike the aloof and stand-offish Scandinavians, Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Argentinians etc.

I think it's because the U.S. is a country of immigrants and so a sort of rags-to-riches story - a sort of happy revenge on the ridiculous, fossilized and oppressive European class system. Cool clothes, music and movies for everyone - and an intense love of freedom and respect for diversity - are major factors.

So it did help the discussion a lot that MM made the point that anti-Americanism, outside politics(meaning that left-wing Europeans are generally anti-American), is a bit of a media invention. Perhaps that's why American politicians don't pay any attention to all the waffle in the European press.

Mattpfeff's point is entirely convincing - proof that MetaFilter does change one's mind. I'm glad that the impression over here, of American fragility, is not borne out by popular sentiment on the ground there. I still wonder, though, if there isn't some old-world rancour and snobbishness, allied with intense rivalry and the consciousness of American dominance, that leads the European elites, even when they're not left wing, to pretend they're anti-American when all they have is the jealousy and pique of the recently - and imperially - dispossessed.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:28 PM on April 14, 2002


The intelligensia itself generally seems almost universally opposed to most things American.

Hmmm...could that be why they call them "intelligent"?
posted by Optamystic at 7:44 PM on April 14, 2002


You oughta have your own tv show!

He's a old-time music-obsessed DJ with a stubborn streak. He's a charming capitalist with a knack for verbosity.

They Fight Crime!

(also starring jonmc as "Huggy Bear")
posted by jonmc at 7:44 PM on April 14, 2002


The intelligensia itself generally seems almost universally opposed to most things American.

Hmmm...could that be why they call them "intelligent"?


Hmm, then may I suggest the term, "arrogansia".
posted by BlueTrain at 7:47 PM on April 14, 2002


Not because they're polite - unlike the English, Dutch, Germans, - or friendly - unlike the aloof and stand-offish Scandinavians, Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Argentinians etc.

Hey Miguel, aren't you stereotyping all these nationalities? The way I read it, you just catagorized all of the English, Dutch and German people as impolite, and all Scandinavians, Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Argentinians people as aloof and stand-offish. That possible cannot be correct.
posted by Rastafari at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2002


You're absolutely right, Rastafari. But since we were talking generalities - I mean how would you define "American" as in anti-"American" or "Arab" or "European"? - I thought I'd narrow it down a little. They're still gross generalizations but I'd still stand by them. What I really mean is: the impression that comes across from most[insert nationality here]visiting Europe is that they seem generally to be more or less[insert adjective]than the majority of other nationalities.

They're my own personal impressions and are probably wrong. But cultures are different - I'd say "Europe" covers more differences than any likely similarities - and attitudes towards others are quite easily surmised.

I'd add that my broad categorizations have nothing to do with my personal affection for nationalities. I'd say Israelis, for instance, were rude and arrogant - yet I love them. I also like all the Argentinians, Swedes and Indians I've met. Same as I have only good things to say about the Scottish and yet have never met one I really liked.

It's still better I think to admit you're generalizing("Americans", "Europeans")than to say it all depends and say nothing. For instance, here in Portugal people from Africa(an enormous continent with thousands of separate cultures and languages)are almost universally considered "easy to get on with" and therefore much liked; whereas Asians are considered stereotypically "inscrutable" and Arabs and Persians are treated at arms-length.

This is probably the most West-is-West and East-is-East country in the world. It can't be right, but that's the way it is. It's a historical thing or something. The Discoveries and all that. That's why America is admired - it's actually achieved a multicultural society. Something the Portuguese tried to do in Brazil, Africa and Asia with much less success.

So, hey, forgive me if I was too prejudiced and sincere...! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:21 PM on April 14, 2002


It's still better I think to admit you're generalizing("Americans", "Europeans")than to say it all depends and say nothing.

It's better to make gross generalizations and categorize people into ignorant stereotypes instead of understanding that most of the world is grey and say nothing?

This sentiment amazes me and explains why people remain obvilious to multiculturalism.

That's why America is admired - it's actually achieved a multicultural society.

While I appreciate this sentiment, I disagree. The only truly multicultural societies exist in large cities, where minority populations thrive. When I was living in Madras for a summer, I discovered a multiculturalism that still amazes me.
posted by BlueTrain at 9:34 PM on April 14, 2002


Fair enough, BlueTrain. I was basing my observations on New York and Los Angeles. But, from the European point of view, what's most amazing is that all Americans are from somewhere else(a concrete country)but it becomes, at the same time, unimportant(because they become American)and important(because they are able to reconcile it with their distant roots).

A fact: Europeans who emigrate to other European, African or Asian countries come back when they have enough money. When they go to the United States, they never come back. They become American. This is something unique in world history and deserves celebration.

As for my stereotypes, they're not ignorant. They're based on a wide experience and reading of the world. The fact that I admit them as prejudices is enough. Though I tend to agree the "world is grey", I still think that on a website such as this, where we're not being judged academically and have to make our points quickly, it's better to state our impressions than to just say "who knows?"
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:53 PM on April 14, 2002


I forgot to say that an example of how important personal impressions are on MetaFilter or any other Internet board, I'd like to hear more about your experience in Madras. So many cultures, castes, religious differences, inequalities - and yet people live with each other without obvious envy or violence. Why do you think this is? Is it anything like the American co-existence? There's no "melting pot" effect - or is there? I know absolutely nothing about it and would appreciate a brief description, seriously.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:02 PM on April 14, 2002


I still think that on a website such as this, where we're not being judged academically and have to make our points quickly, it's better to state our impressions than to just say "who knows?"

IMHO, only a lurker would write (if they wrote) , "who knows?" I don't disagree with stating impressions...although the more we write, the more prejudices we reveal, which might be the case here.

So many cultures, castes, religious differences, inequalities - and yet people live with each other without obvious envy or violence. Why do you think this is?

It isn't, but envy and violence occur everywhere, so I don't believe them to be accurate qualifications for a multicultural society. Truthfully, it seems that multiculturalism is defined by numbers and statistics, which are easy to manipulate. I do not have a clear definition of multiculturalism. I have my perceptions, but they are, again, based upon the quantities instead of qualities.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:32 PM on April 14, 2002


You two boys should be ashamed of yourself.
posted by Settle at 10:38 PM on April 14, 2002


Thanks for that, BlueTrain. It's true that multiculturalism is defined by numbers and statistics, which say nothing about the interaction between minorities - and much less about their quality. I'm remembering the thousands of government publications that thrive on statistics about cultural origins - and they do seem kind of empty. Though they exist. Something to keep in mind, certainly. It is a tough definition...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:44 PM on April 14, 2002


Since here is as good as any place, Miguel, I will re-hijack your thread for a bit. I went back to Midas' user page and slowly clicked through the comments, and this one jumped out. It's really moving and I remember it from the thread and time. The name meant nothing to me then and then it went by.

Some other place when Midas was in full sneer, he got on my nerves and I started forming a presupposition about him. And I really did just quit smoking--I'm thinking I should go away for a while--and his rant about Clinton yesterday was so over the top, irrational, off-topic and wrong, that, well, I wasn't predisposed to read him dispassionately today. But his points here, given the ideological lens through which he views the world, were not without merit however debatable his conclusions and larger view are.

People get on people's nerves here. I know I do just from having opinions. But I am not my opinions nor are they that fixed. What interests me in the comment I linked is to see Midas's compassion and humanity revealed, along with a certain thoughfulness not always obvious elsewhere.

I get tired of being beaten over the head by proxy with his braying when he's on a tear about something, and being a soul searching type, feel at a disadvantage with someone who never admits to being wrong or fallible. But I know I reacted here to a comment in another thread that was ill considered, emotional and wrongheaded. Not that my contribution there--unlike riviera's--was of merit. And I so reacted here to a certain tone and on stylistic points. And the irrititations, jr high putdowns and self-serving self-importance from long before.

Then there's the age old mystery of trying to figure out who is really behind the words on the screen, and, if he's so important and busy, where's he get all the time to spend here with the largely unemployed or goofing out at work? Sometimes it just doesn't compute. And does he realize how pretentious and pompous he comes across some times? Does he ever question himself?--I so distrust those who don't.

And I get so tired of all the politics and omniscience bandied about here in general, some more than others. We all look at the world through the wrong end of our own telescopes.

But we're all human beings here, many coming to this place after a very traumatic event and often finding ourselves crawling over each other, like drowning well diggers in a cave in, trying to make sense of it all.

And we should probably cut one another a bit of slack.

No argument there from me. I would just say maybe a lot rather than a bit. End of hijack.
posted by y2karl at 10:52 PM on April 14, 2002


y2karl - I consider you a real friend, so I feel at ease to say the main reason I respect you are your sequenced, constantly-revised opinions. Whether adding nuances or contradictions - sometimes recanting completely - you are never peremptory or totalitarian. You want to be sure of something, like all the rest of us, but you're too intelligent to feel you've won the opinion lottery first time.

So I hope you won't mind me saying - as someone who almost died from quitting cigarettes and has since gone back, big-time, to cigarillos and cigars - that it's definitely the nicotine withdrawal that is getting to you. What I like about you is that you yourself furnish your critics - and those you rib, tease and downright persecute - with the information to answer back.

The truth, I think, is that there can never be any agreement between left-wing and right-wing people. I'm right-wing. You're left-wing. I don't buy the American sense of "liberal" because I think conservatives, in the sense of standing up for liberty and diversity, are just as liberal - or more - than social-democrats, socialists and social anarchists such as you.

But that's the real barrier. Right-wing Europeans like America a lot. Left-wingers don't. But, just to confuse things, left-wing Americans like Europe(because they think it's less right-wing and vaguely more welfare-minded)and right-wing Americans like America almost to the point of exclusivity.

As the neatest expression in American culture says:

Go figure! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:10 PM on April 14, 2002


I'm right-wing.

Miguel, you're not right wing...I'm guessing here, but here are some very general *giggle* American definitions:

conservative: social and economical
liberal: social and economical
libertarian: liberal socially, conservative economically
populist: conservative socially, liberal economically

I believe that you, in terms of American definitions, are a populist. I don't believe in categorizing people; in fact, I detest it because you totally limit the perception that people have of you. But, if you insist on labelling yourself, I demand accuracy.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:17 PM on April 14, 2002


I just want to say that I've traveled outside the U.S. quite a bit, and I have encountered a lot of anti-American sentiment. I'm not saying that people were burning US flags in the streets, but it was there. Sure, a lot of people want to move here for personal gain, but that doesn't mean there isn't widespread disapproval of our international policies. Not only that, but wealthy American tourists, especially retirees, have a deserved reputation for being obnoxious. Canadian travelers walk around with their little maple leafs all over their backpacks so nobody thinks they're American. Even most foreigners living here I've met, value the country for its economy, opportunities, etc. but are quite critical of the way we weild our power on the global scale. I watched the Clinton/Bush debates from Holland in a roomful of international students, and my skin crawled with embarassment as Bush shrugged incredulously and said "What are you talking about? I think you're forgetting that this is The United States of America" as though he were invoking the ancient Hebrew name of God.
posted by bingo at 11:57 PM on April 14, 2002


I have been around and involved with many diverse peoples in my existence (the art world'll do that to ya) and I personally love making Euroleftist's skin crawl. It's so easy! And fun! I remember wearing a 'Bush/Cheney' button around the art department at Yale and everybody that saw it was freaked. I suppose I just don't like any kind of orthodoxy, and if one moves in certain spheres, there is always an unspoken party line that you better follow. In the art world, people are so indoctrinated into a very narrow pseudo-liberal type of political thinking that they don't even realize that they are indoctrinated. The same goes for right-wing oriented spheres, I suppose, but I try to stay away from them too.

I always found it amazing that more gay men and women and artists in America weren't Libertarians. It seems to be the political ideology most aligned with individualism and limiting government-enforced morality. Why there are so many art world people who profess to be Marxists is beyond me. Communalism in any form seems to be bad for those of us who like the freedom to love and paint/sculpt who we chose.

I'm rambling, sorry...

As for nationality-based personality traits, nobody beats the Danes for all around rudeness and over-the-top-ness. One of my best friends is Danish, but man, watch out! I once asked him why he and his friends were so surly and violent and he shrugged and said: "We're Vikings."
posted by evanizer at 12:13 AM on April 15, 2002


A fact: Europeans who emigrate to other European, African or Asian countries come back when they have enough money. When they go to the United States, they never come back. They become American. This is something unique in world history and deserves celebration.

Why am I always so late to these discussions? Miguel, this is absolute bollocks. Even if you were talking about recent history it would be totally wrong. Europe is full of immigrant populations that stay and make a life in their chosen country. Turks in Germany, Algerians in France, every type of African and Asian nationality in Britain, Albanians in Italy, Romanians everywhere. The fact you said "world history" lands you in it even more. Are you really saying no foreigners have emigrated to other countries apart from America, stayed there and integrated, ever at all in world history? It's fine to admire America, but do you really have to ingratiate yourself in such an embarrassing manner?
posted by Summer at 2:43 AM on April 15, 2002


Summer: not one of the various nationalities you mention is in the EU. Algeria, Africa and Asia aren't even in Europe. Most EU immigrants spend their working life dreaming of buying a house in the country they were born in and return to it. I wasn't speaking of foreigners. I was speaking of Europeans and not Europeans in dire straits either. So don't go squandering your embarrassment so freely in future. Save it for yourself; you need it.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:45 AM on April 15, 2002


FYI

in australia americans are known as 'seppos'.
as in septic tank = yank. i don't think this nickname was whipped up in an ivory tower, either.
just thought that might balance out midas and his 'intelligensia hate the aspirations of the common man' BS (IMHO).
midas, you have met people who re-affirm your opinions, as i have met people who re-affirm mine. congratulations to both of us!

not that i think all seppos are american, or vice versa.
posted by asok at 6:13 AM on April 15, 2002


Miguel:

Without wishing to continue the unpleasantness, may I humbly refer to the fact that the UK (at least, and because I know at least a little of its history) is built on waves of immigration in the much same way that the US is, but that goes back a long way, and much of this immigration came from other parts of Europe - Romans, various Germans (Saxons, Angles etc), Normans (French) and later the Huegenots (French again), Eastern European and German Jews (at the end of the 19th Century and then, to a certain extent, in the 1930s and 1940s), Italians (significant Italian communities in Glasgow and where my Mother grew up in West Wales and a lot of other places I'm sure) as well as the Irish community. And of course there are the African communities in Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool going back to Slavery days. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. Some communities have retained a strong bond to their "homeland" as they have in the United States, others have been absorbed into a general Britishness (wither the Huegenots today?).

The waves of immigration from the West Indies, the Indian Subcontinent and Uganda over the last fifty years (and everywhere else in the world, apparantly, in the last twenty-five) simply continued this trend. Some people resent the Normans lording it over the Saxons to this day (and are very clear about who is whom) and others are likely to see Britishness in terms of subcultures (such as two-step or jungle) that grew out of communities that are relatively recently arrived.
posted by Grangousier at 6:25 AM on April 15, 2002


And let's not dwell on the fact that I can't, apparantly, spell "Huguenots".
posted by Grangousier at 6:42 AM on April 15, 2002


I'm sorry Miguel, I was over the top and shouldn't have been so rude. But my point still stands. Even if you're just talking about the EU countries, immigration and integration has been going on for thousands of years, as Grangousier has pointed out. Immigration to richer nations with more opportunity is something that has been happening since the beginning of civilization. There's absolutely nothing new about it and the US isn't unique.
posted by Summer at 6:43 AM on April 15, 2002


Is it envy?

Yes. Strangely simple as it may seem, I've recently come to the conclusion that basic run-of-the-mill anti-Americanism here in Europe has envy as its main component.
envy: wanting what somebody else has: the resentful or unhappy feeling of wanting somebody else's success, good fortune, qualities, or possessions
In the 20th century European world domination spectacularly self-destructed. And no matter how much Europeans attempt to make a virtue out of powerlessness, they naturally yearn for their lost power, especially when American power and success is so grossly rubbed into their face every day of their lives.

Just as Americans don't run the world but have a disproportionate power within it, so the Jews do not run the world but are extraordinarily successful for a small ethnic group. I suspect envy has always been a crucial element of anti-semitism, distinguishing it from many other forms of racism.

Of course it's possible to have legitimate grievances against America, Israel, or particular groups of Americans or Jews. What I'm talking about is the reflexive enmity displayed by people whose feelings seem irrational and often contradictory with their experience.

If Americans were stupid yokels without power, Europeans would not resent them because they would not come into daily contact with them. Indeed they might find them endearing, like (the currently relatively powerless) Russians or Australians, say. And if Americans were the most sophisticated and enlightened beings around, and ran the planet, they would still be resented, unlike say, the (relatively powerless) Italians or the Tibetans.

(Absolutely no offense intended against any of the above-mentioned population groups).
posted by Turtle at 6:47 AM on April 15, 2002


i've always been a fan of clavdivs, but this is simply the most brilliant snapshot/analysis of the current situation that i've ever seen/heard.

good show, sir!

i don't really think that there's any need for further discussion. the sage has spoken: 'france is france' indeed.
posted by mlang at 7:06 AM on April 15, 2002


Simplistic definition, Turtle. What if the thing you parse as 'envy' isn't 'wanting someone else's success' but in fact is 'wanting to hold on to your own successes'? Because the anti-Americanism that I come across in London certainly isn't the product of jealousy towards the cultural capital of the USA, but the way its dominance affects the world like the poppy fields of Afghanistan.
posted by riviera at 8:09 AM on April 15, 2002


oh, and, if i may, i'd like to briefly pump my fist in the air and shout

yoo-ess-ay! yoo-ess-ay! yoo-ess-ay!
posted by mlang at 8:50 AM on April 15, 2002


Even if you're just talking about the EU countries, immigration and integration has been going on for thousands of years, as Grangousier has pointed out. Immigration to richer nations with more opportunity is something that has been happening since the beginning of civilization.

Obviously the difference is that at "the beginning of civilization," and during most eras, it was more or less impossible, and certainly difficult, for the average person anywhere on Earth to travel far from the town of his birth just because he decided to on his own. The examples above were all about conquests and slavery, not individuals seeking a better life.

On the Jewish issue; the Jews didn't have that much to be envious of for the last couple of thousand years, yet persecution was not exactly uncommon. I'm not saying there weren't other reasons, but I don't think envy was one of them until recently.
posted by bingo at 8:55 AM on April 15, 2002


The examples above were all about conquests and slavery, not individuals seeking a better life.

All of them Bingo? What about the Hugenots and Eastern European Jews? What about the scholars that travelled to Rome in the age of the empire and became Romans? What about Australia, which, as well as having all the Brits and Irish has Italians, Greeks and Yugoslavians? New Zealand, South Africa, etc etc etc.
posted by Summer at 9:48 AM on April 15, 2002


OK, I give in. ;) You're quite right, Grangousier and Summer - I did get a bit carried away. I was always shite at history and it's not getting any better...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:02 AM on April 15, 2002


Summer, you're right, the Hugenots are an exception; I should have said "almost all," not "all." It seems to me that Jews were discussed above in the context of a comparison regarding the widespread resentment of the U.S., not immigration, and I don't remember seeing the Roman scholar issue discussed anywhere on the thread.

But ok, there are Jews scattered througout Europe, and some scholars traveled to Rome. The various dispersions of the Jews are originally grounded in slavery and capture. And how many scholars went to live in Rome, compared to the number of slaves brought there by force?

The U.S. of course had plenty of slaves too. But then, the whole non-slave-descended population of this country is either made up of immigrants or their descendants. Show me another country that experienced an influx of diverse immigrants on the scale the U.S. did in the early 20th century. We are the most ethnically diverse country on the planet.
posted by bingo at 1:29 PM on April 15, 2002


If hatred for the US was not based at least in part on the US's actions wouldn't you think nations in Asia would be facing similar anti-consumerism backlash?

Why is this conversation limited to US vs. Europe or Middle East vs. Israel. Where are Asia, Africa and Latin America?
posted by jonnyp at 2:34 PM on April 15, 2002


Show me another country that experienced an influx of diverse immigrants on the scale the U.S. did in the early 20th century. We are the most ethnically diverse country on the planet.

But Miguel was aguing that the US was unique in that Europeans emigrated there and stayed. I was arguing that that isn't true. That's all.
posted by Summer at 2:56 PM on April 15, 2002


Phrases like "a vitality and heroism that their nations once had but no longer do" sound chauvinistic to me. The ongoing business that "country X is a rotten blah-blah-blah," leave me thinking that I'm probably listening to an individual who is either prejudiced or who has ulterior motives which involve getting me to sign on to their program. That general stuff about "I don't like you, I don't like them, listen to me complain! and you'd better not like them either!" feels like more of that endless social blather that I must put up with in order to be polite.

Specific criticisms of foreign policy, government policies, cultural habits, corporate actions and policies, corporate cultural products, etc. are what get my response. (My link on what literary people overseas think of America passed almost without comment.)

BTW intellectuals, punks, militant bicyclists, minority ethinic groups, and people who live in the American Heartland are all Americans too. It's not just one big corporation and TV commercial here.
posted by sheauga at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2002


« Older Interesting   |   Catholic church plays hardball in the courts. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post