Skip

What Europe thinks of America
April 4, 2001 12:43 PM   Subscribe

What Europe thinks of America - the Guardian newspaper has a light-hearted look at the way Europe and America perceive each other. Also amusing is something they wrote for Dubya; 'The World: A Primer'.
posted by adrianhon (61 comments total)

 
In my humble opinion this article speaks the truth. Bush's actions in regard to the Kyoto agreement makes the U.S. look arrogant and selfish.
posted by borgle at 1:03 PM on April 4, 2001


This writer of this article has his finger on the pulse of America. Definitely one of the more engaging pieces from across the pond I've read in awhile. Thanks so much for posting it. I'm going to blog this immediately...
posted by revbrian at 1:14 PM on April 4, 2001


From the Primer, re: China:

"Leadership has shown communisticalist tendencies in the past..."

LMAO!
posted by jpoulos at 1:21 PM on April 4, 2001


Bush Mark II

Haven't heard that one before, it's my new favorite. This article hits the nail on the head in multiple places (in the article, not on the head of the nail). The one that seems to ring most true is the limited world view of Americans, compared to their European cousins. I've done a fair bit of travelling, and when talking with some about it, they say "so what made you decide to do that?" Disgusting.

The Continental Drift section at the end is priceless: Litigation - Popular recreational sport, like baseball, allowing Americans to generate a useful second income from spilling coffee on themselves
posted by OneBallJay at 1:24 PM on April 4, 2001


Does anyone really fear Cuba anymore? I think the popular wisdom is that it's a broken-backed banana republic where everyone lives in beautiful but crumbling colonial buildings and drives rusted-out 50s-era American cars, a la Buena Vista Social Club. I'm not saying that's a particularly accurate view, just the popular one.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:30 PM on April 4, 2001


Bollocks. There's plenty of legitimate criticism to be done of the US without resorting to cheap shots and hackneyed European prejudices about Americans. He makes some good points, but the article is sullied by tripe like "fear of offending the Bill of Rights and Constitution" and the tabloidy nonsense at the end.
posted by brantstrand at 1:30 PM on April 4, 2001


I can't disagree with most of the article, though I hope readers recognize the bits at the end about "the US view" as "the European view of the US view". It's interesting how much you can learn about another culture from its prejudices about your own. On my last trip to the UK, I picked up a book called The Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans, which probably told me at least as much about British viewpoints as it would have told a Brit about the U.S.
posted by harmful at 1:32 PM on April 4, 2001


The most glaring difference I've found between Americans and Europeans is our relative lack of self-loathing, but by God we're catching up, and soon we'll be #1!
posted by gimli at 1:42 PM on April 4, 2001


Being one of those few American's that has been to Europe and knows where Sierra Leone is and what is happening there, I suppose I am naturally inclined to disagree with the article. Anything wrought with as many generalizations and prejudices as this seems to just be out for a troll.
posted by john at 1:54 PM on April 4, 2001


Irony alert of the day: The pop-up that greeted me when I clicked through to the article:

New York for just £178!

Gleefully point out all of our (supposed) shortcomings, but by all means consider us as a low-cost international holiday option!
posted by Dreama at 2:11 PM on April 4, 2001


It is something to point out that most people in Europe have easy access to different countries with a few hour drive. The same thing here might get you to someplace like Utah, Ohio, or Indiana. You can see why we might rather spend the day at the park.
posted by john at 2:25 PM on April 4, 2001


In the World Primer, I enjoyed this:
Colombia
Formerly an extremely convenient source of cocaine for young and irresponsible scions of wealthy American dynasties.


Quality.
posted by 7sharp11 at 2:37 PM on April 4, 2001


As if we needed further proof than Catholicism or the Mob that the Roman Empire is still hipper than all the tech-school, dot-com wanna-bes.

Brittania Rules OK.
posted by milBro at 2:40 PM on April 4, 2001


Is today tension in Global relations day?
posted by john at 3:10 PM on April 4, 2001


> by tripe like "fear of offending the Bill of Rights and
> Constitution" and the tabloidy nonsense at the end.

brantstrand -- There is definately a fear of offending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We Americans think that our government is perfect, our systems are perfect, etc. (Or rather, we attribute the problems not to the laws themselves but to the beaurocrats who administer them.) What we need to realize is that the Constitution was a good foundation for a collection of 13 smallish states.

The US is no longer the country that the Constitution was meant for. It has grown enormously, gained power and importance, and has become a world leader. Yet, we have an unfair, backwards governmental system which won't allow proportional representation of alternate political views, continues to support laws which are the antithesis of global thinking (gun laws, death penality, environment), and allows a brand new (and only pseudo-official) President to roll back laws and policies which will not only harm the country, but harm the entire world.

Changes need to be made to our systems. Other countries aren't terrified of changing themselves. Why are we? We're supposed to be world leaders.
posted by benbrown at 3:13 PM on April 4, 2001


On my last trip to the UK, I picked up a book called The Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans, which probably told me at least as much about British viewpoints as it would have told a Brit about the U.S.

... it's a series & they're all hilarious. The one about the Dutch is quite enlightening and quite true. All Dutch people should read it. I did.

There's probably one about the Brits too.
posted by prolific at 3:16 PM on April 4, 2001


benbrown: yeah that's nice, but what other country would you prefer to live in? Is there any other country that offers more opportunities? It's no coincidence that the best and the brightest produced in other countries come here.

You label the system as "backward government" but the support for this claim is that it the "goverment" doesn't agree with you. You may want gun control, you may want stringent environmental rules, you may want the death penalty abolished. But given limited resources, things need to be prioritized, and unfortunately, the majority of Americans apparently does not value these things as much as you do. There's a reason why minority views either become majority views or continue their minority status. (hint: they are not persuasive to the majority).

That's my rant for the day. Hope you will consider that many people have different beliefs and you should't trivialize these views just because you don't agree with them, which, after reading your comment, I got the impression you like to do. (I'm sure that's not the case in the real world)
posted by Witold at 3:29 PM on April 4, 2001


These are not minority views, Witold. I don't know about statistics, but I'd wager that most industrialized countries have more stringent environmental and gun control laws and have abolished the death penality. This isn't an issue of differing opinions within the States. This is an issue of the States being behind the times on many issues because there is this strange aversion to changing our governmental system.

Do you think a proportional representation system -- one in which, say, the green party, could win 10% of a state's representation in Congress as opposed to ALL or NONE would reduce the opportunities available to citizens? Do you think that not wreaking havoc with the environment when there are environmentally sound alternatives will put you out of a job? I don't think so.

At a time when we should be moving towards a global attitude, it seems that the current trend is to move away from it. The US has a lot to learn from other countries.
posted by benbrown at 4:01 PM on April 4, 2001


What we need to realize is that the Constitution was a good foundation for a collection of 13 smallish states.

What you need to realize is that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If you want to get it changed, there are clear-cut methods for doing so. But you cannot ignore it just because you don't like it, any more .

This is not to say that your opinion about its effectiveness is not completely wrong, because it is. The US is the most successful country on Earth. Our system, and the stability it brings, is a big part of the reason for that. Without it, we'd be, well, Europe.
posted by aaron at 4:01 PM on April 4, 2001



This is an issue of the States being behind the times on many issues because there is this strange aversion to changing our governmental system.

Your idea of a good system of government is "Keeping up with the Joneses?" I don't want a government that's hip; I want one that works. Ours works, far better than anything anyone else has ever come up with.
posted by aaron at 4:03 PM on April 4, 2001



About the environment: I don't think we should care what a majority (and I don't think a majority supports Bush's choice to abandon the Kyoto treaty -- remember, he didn't win a majority of the popular vote) of American's think about saving the Earth. It's not up to American's to decide. It's up to the world. And for us to ignore things like the Kyoto treaty IS backwards, IS ignorant and will be extremely damaging to us.
posted by benbrown at 4:04 PM on April 4, 2001


Aaron -- You think our government is a smoothly operating machine? PAH! Evidence: the 2000 election fiasco.

And bringing ourselves up to speed in the areas where we are lagging behind is hardly keeping up with the Joneses. It's called functioning as a part of the global community.
posted by benbrown at 4:06 PM on April 4, 2001


I know there are methods for changing the Constitution. What I'm saying is, we need to use those more often, to learn from the past 200 years and to take cues from other countries that do things in better ways than we do.

We will not maintain our status as the most powerful country on the planet if we don't change and grow.
posted by benbrown at 4:10 PM on April 4, 2001


The US is the most successful country on Earth. Our system, and the stability it brings, is a big part of the reason for that. Without it, we'd be, well, Europe.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Not claiming innate superiority over countries on other planets yet, aaron? I'm shocked.

You really don't get out much, do you?
posted by holgate at 4:16 PM on April 4, 2001



Salman Rushdie's take on the vote fiasco was pretty amusing. Especially the fact it was done "with apologies to Dr. Seuss."
posted by sillygit at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2001


::patting holgate on the head:: I have hopes for you, holgate. You obviously have the intelligence somewhere within you, so I expect you'll be graduating from childish personal insults Real Soon Now.

Evidence: the 2000 election fiasco.

I consider that evidence for my POV, not yours. In most other countries, a 2000-style mess would have resulted in anything from riots in the streets to an outright coup attempt (the real kind, don't make "we wuz robbed" jokes). We got it settled just fine with the legal structure already in place.

And bringing ourselves up to speed in the areas where we are lagging behind is hardly keeping up with the Joneses. It's called functioning as a part of the global community.

Where, exactly, are we lagging behind? Why are the decisions made by, say, the EU somehow inherently more correct than those made in the US? Just because the EU is made up of more countries?

Being part of the global community sometimes means you don't get your way.
posted by aaron at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2001



It's not up to American's to decide. It's up to the world. And for us to ignore things like the Kyoto treaty IS backwards, IS ignorant and will be extremely damaging to us.

Bingo. Especially that first part. And are there other countries i'd rather live in? Absolutely.

The best and brightest aren't always going to flock here, read some science history and watch the flow of the best and brightest from country to country depending on where they could work without landing in prison.

and what good is clinging to every detail of the constitution? Its a bad fucking set of rules if it doesn't allow for change....or if it is merely used as some grand symbol of superiority. Lets make a New one.

holgate, is it alright for me to be embarrassed sometimes to be a god-blessed-american?

[geez. i should never write political posts after a stressfull lunch with an X.]
posted by th3ph17 at 4:45 PM on April 4, 2001


Typical.

[rant]
How many times does this kind of thing have to get blogged? We know they don't like us, and they don't like the President. Most Americans don't either. Most Americans didn't vote for him.

Regarding "fear of offending the Bill of Rights and Constitution" he is missing a crucial point. We are a nation built on a single, binding contract. We have no other ties to fellow Americans apart from that piece of paper. No religious, ethnic, cultural, ties. While the rest of the world's nations are becoming increasingly multi-cultural, we are the ONLY nation in the world founded on this idea.

Of course it is difficult to amend the consitution ,and we are, as a group, loath to do so, it would be foolish to have it otherwise. There is little else binding us together. A democracy is not easy, swift or streamlined. It is difficult, plodding and beaurocratic. The founding father's wanted it that way. So, we are left with two choices, either work within the system to change it, as the system allows for, or revolt, which hasn't happened in a while, and maybe needs to, both have their own advantages, but stop this 'Americans suck' crap.

Example, the right for women to vote. They had to chain themselves to trees, have hunger strikes and work for many generations, but finally change happened. I, for one, am thankful for their work, cause now I can vote. Look at women and their situation in other parts of the world. It took too long for popular opinion in the US to come around, but it is, in my opinion, better than the alternatives.

I've lived and worked abroad, and this articles says nothing that I haven't heard before. We all know are a screwed up country with problems. We also tend to air our dirty laundry for the world to see, and for the world's part, they are very interested in smelly our dirty laundry just to see how dirty it is.
[/rant]

Phew, sometimes its good to vent. Where would we be without Metafilter?
posted by dante at 4:51 PM on April 4, 2001


LOL, well I guess the world should just come to metafilter for all the answers.

If you think the majority is wrong, you should try to educate them in the error of their ways. It is possible.
You can even get an amendment if you are persuasive enough.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:59 PM on April 4, 2001


Nicely said, Dante. Very nicely said.
posted by silusGROK at 5:04 PM on April 4, 2001


benbrown: I see these as minority views because they are minority views in the US. Does it really matter what other coutries think about our environmental policies? If it does, should we also put in place national healthcare, just because they do? Or nationalize the university system? Or install the draft system? What I'm getting to is that just because eveyone else is doing it, it doesn't mean it makes sense for us to do it. Most of the world's population lives under communism or some trully messed up government (for example: a good chunk of African countries) . Does that mean communism is the way to go b/c other nations have it?

As for proportional representation, it's hard to say what is better. Certainly, the setup has great benefits, but it also has its drawbacks.

Your Green example is interesting. I think you're blaming Green's inability to get elected on "the system" when blame at least partially belongs on their shoulders. Maybe minor parties will come to their senses and start with small local races, instead of always running for congress or president. Then, they have a shot at building their support and go on to bigger and better things. (This applies to most minor parties, not just Greens)

Lastly, benbrown, you say "You think our government is a smoothly operating machine? PAH! Evidence: the 2000 election fiasco." Watch some current political battles fought in European countries and you will be very glad that the 2000 election fiasco is the worst of the problems we have here. Trust me on this one.
posted by Witold at 5:05 PM on April 4, 2001


We know they don't like us, and they don't like the President. Most Americans don't either.

Even now Bush's popularity is above 50 percent. Thus, most Americans DO.
posted by aaron at 5:08 PM on April 4, 2001



Witold: You're comparing apples and oranges. Most of the issues you compared to environmental policy don't have an impact on the entire world. America DOES have a responsibility to not poison the rest of the world while consuming 25% of the worlds resources.
posted by Neb at 5:13 PM on April 4, 2001


I expect you'll be graduating from childish personal insults Real Soon Now.

Since when did infantile "we're the best" assertions deserve intelligent responses? I don't provide college-level answers to my three-year-old niece, and she talks more sense.

(I actually remember a conversation with my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend, where he said something like "You mean the rest of the world doesn't like America? I thought they thought we were pretty neat." That comment, I think, encapsulates the piece in the Guardian.)

Why are the decisions made by, say, the EU somehow inherently more correct than those made in the US? Just because the EU is made up of more countries?

Well, we've already seen that the US can't come to terms with the notions of "consensus" or "majority opinion", so let's just leave that one unspoken.
posted by holgate at 5:16 PM on April 4, 2001


aaron: Even now Bush's popularity is above 50 percent.

Link please? I'd be truely amazed if that was true.
posted by Neb at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2001


Being part of the global community sometimes means you don't get your way.

Unless you're the USA.
posted by holgate at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2001


Good god I'm gonna agree with aaron on this one. (I feel dirty somehow :)

My biggest problem with Europe is the way they look down on us. They like to make fun of us, and our president (Clinton AND Bush) but when the stuff hits the fan they're paralyzed in comittee in the UN until we pull them out of the fire.

Maybe it's just me, but it always seems like America is the teenager doing something "different" and Europe is the school marm telling us to "hush up"...
posted by owillis at 5:29 PM on April 4, 2001


I think it's also important to remember that America is a land of immigrants. This means that the people here have not (as is the case with 90% of the people in most European countries) been living in the same place for decades and decades.

This means that America has special challenges which Europe is only beginning to understand. This isn't an excuse for our gun laws, or death penalty, or environmental laws, but it is a testimony to the strength of the constitution.

Rather than being outdated, it's extraordinary how well it has worked. Considering the inherent instability that comes with being a rootless nation, America is a remarkably stable country. While this poses problems when it comes to innovative legislation, it is also what allows our innovative society and business practices.

What America really needs is a more enlightened culture, with more knowlege of other cultures, world history, and indeed our own history. Again I think it goes back to being both an immature nation and a nation of immigrants that gets redefined every couple of generations. However I do believe that slowly but surely the constitution and most institutions will eventually foster this kind of paradigm shift because more than any other country in the world, this is a government for and by the people.

The main problem now seems to be that stability has bred complacency.
posted by chaz at 6:07 PM on April 4, 2001


owillis: it always seems like America is the teenager doing something "different" and Europe is the school marm telling us to "hush up"...

Oh, that's such utter bollocks. I don't detect any schoolmarm in Dutch social policy, in the Scandinavian welfare system, in German education and environmental preservation, and (shock!) even in some of Britain's social investment over the past few years. If anything, I see a radicalism, a vibrancy, a willingness to make changes.

The big difference between these countries and the US, at least in terms of political rhetoric: they don't have this short-sighted belief that they're the greatest nation on the planet: a belief that blinds them to the glaring iniquities and injustices.

I suppose that during the Clinton era, we could regard such crap as minority bombast: after all, the man had to apologise for his own failures often enough. But with Bush in charge, as the piece suggests, it congeals like an embolism. And we're not laughing any more.

chaz: America is a land of immigrants

So are Australia and NZ: countries with relatively small populations, but a shitload of potential, and little of the frankly Victorian mental attitude that directs American politics. You're right: it's a matter of complacency.
posted by holgate at 6:13 PM on April 4, 2001


holgate: But I do see the schoolmarm coming out with things like executions. The majority of Americans have said "Yes, we'd like to kill the bad people", then Europe says "But that's bad, you can't do that". Then we hold a vote, and the majority of us go "Nope. We wanna kill 'em".

And the way I look at things, everyone should feel like their home country is the greatest one on earth (warts and all).

Of course, I'm just one of those silly Americans.
posted by owillis at 6:25 PM on April 4, 2001


Neb: This was in today's "Hotline" from National Journal. This is the latest poll taken regarding Bush:

taken in late March by Gallup -- found 53 percent of respondents approved of the job Bush was doing -- down from 63 percent in early March and 58 percent in mid-March. When those who approved were asked why, the top answers were because Bush was "doing a good job" and because he was a "man of integrity." The top reasons people gave for not approving of Bush were that they "disagreed with his tax plan" and that they "didn't like his policies in general."
posted by Witold at 6:36 PM on April 4, 2001


holgate: I don't detect any schoolmarm in [...] the Scandinavian welfare system

Well, you obviously don't live here. Me, however, I'm Norwegian. And my mother used to work for the very welfare state in question. Thus, I know the system fairly well. And I know it as a rigid one -- outdated and beurocratic in every possible way. Sure, you might say, almost in every election over here, welfare reform is issue #1. But there is a reason for that. It is because changes are hardly ever implemented. And that is because of the very schoolmarm you claim you haven't detected. Now you know.
posted by frednorman at 6:44 PM on April 4, 2001


I'm getting really tired of these words "we" and "us".

I don't know whether it's the fact that they technically apply to me or the fact that I disagree with nearly everything said under their guise that bothers me more.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:49 PM on April 4, 2001


53% approval! Woo!

"A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday shows President George W. Bush (News|) with a 55 percent job approval rating, the lowest rating given to a newly elected president since Dwight Eisenhower, Reuters reported" (more here)
posted by
benbrown at 6:50 PM on April 4, 2001


1,050 participants? The nation has spoken. Um, no. :)
posted by gleemax at 7:14 PM on April 4, 2001


Assuming a random sampling, "yes", or at very least "very probably". A 95% chance that 52-58% of the nation as a whole approve. (gratuitous stat theory link)
posted by youhas at 7:39 PM on April 4, 2001


I don't really care what the majority thinks about anything no matter where that majority hails from.

Mars,

At least take refuge in the fact the every use of "we" and "us" are opinions and troll bait in a fruitless attempt to classify diverse groups of people. Get 5 of my friends together and we can barely agree on where to eat dinner and have no chance on deciding on a movie. So it's safe to say that most of this thread is a waste of space.
posted by john at 8:09 PM on April 4, 2001


owillis: Good god I'm gonna agree with aaron on this one. (I feel dirty somehow :)

I don't quite see how...

Come on guys let's not get all sulky now. America is the greatest country on Earth, okay?

Anyone who says otherwise should face the electric chair.
posted by lagado at 8:12 PM on April 4, 2001


At least take refuge in the fact the every use of "we" and "us" are opinions and troll bait in a fruitless attempt to classify diverse groups of people.

Just because you and your friends can't agree on a restaurant doesn't mean that groups of people can never be classified. I frankly don't understand how the use of a pronoun qualifies as "troll bait." I'm an American, and if I'm going to talk about Americans in general, I'm going to say "we" and "us." What is my choice? To always say "Americans"? Clunky. "Them"? Uh-uh.

To use "we" does not deny our tremendous diversity. It merely says that we have at least one characteristic in common.

There are certainly times when it's embarrassing to be an American and when I strongly disagree with the actions of the majority. If I then try to say that I'm not part of "us," then I'm trying to escape responsibility for the actions of my country. I can't do that. If I disagree with the majority action, I have a responsibility to do what I can to change that action, and no amount of erroneous pronoun usage is going to change that.
posted by anapestic at 8:22 PM on April 4, 2001


sheesh I hope that worked.
posted by anapestic at 8:24 PM on April 4, 2001


I don't believe a sample of 1,050 adults, randomly selected, is adequate to represent the nation's population of 200 million. Especially considering the polls were conducted by phone. I don't even have a phone!
posted by gleemax at 8:28 PM on April 4, 2001


I'm just saying that when talking about "Americans in general" you are entering the area of speculation and therefore you are just asking for people to argue.

The common characteristic does not extend beyond being an American. Everything else is a quess.
posted by john at 9:30 PM on April 4, 2001


Admittedly digressing from the topic at hand:

Personally, I don't think that all or even most people across the globe think badly of Americans. I lived in London for 6 months and traveled extensively both before and after that in Europe and Central & South America.

I met maybe one or two people who professed a dislike for Americans compared to dozens who had a favorable opinion of us (especially the Kiwis we went drinking with all the time in London). Additionally, most of the international students I have come into contact with want to stay here.

My personal belief is that most of the protests against America come from folks with an agenda to advance, be it political, environmental, whatever. The "common man" seems to like us pretty well in my experience.
posted by CRS at 9:46 PM on April 4, 2001


lagado: "Come on guys let's not get all sulky now. America is the greatest country on Earth, okay?... Anyone who says otherwise should face the electric chair."

Let's not forget Bush Mark I's assertion that atheists had no place being US citizens. Fry those pagan commie bastards! Hooray for diversity!

CRS: "My personal belief is that most of the protests against America come from folks with an agenda to advance, be it political, environmental, whatever. The "common man" seems to like us pretty well in my experience."

And of course we all know people who have agendas to advance are just PLAIN WRONG.
posted by lia at 10:00 PM on April 4, 2001


Oh, come on everybody, the US can't be that bad, can it? After all, it's seriously thinking about maybe some day getting around to ending the execution of retarded people. And if you want equal opportunity, well, there's now clear evidence that in America any doofus can become a millionaire and any millionaire can become president.
posted by pracowity at 11:19 PM on April 4, 2001


gleemax: For a sufficiently large population, the margin of error is directly dependent on the sample size alone, your "belief" notwithstanding. Try it yourself.
posted by youhas at 12:37 AM on April 5, 2001


As an American who has both lived and work in European and Asian countries, I can only say those that doubt the originally linked article's reflection of the truth are simply too parochial to know any better - or to care. In my experience, they will indignantly argue this point, but for the most part not having set foot outside the Soveriegn States of NAFTA, they've no basis for comparison. It's going to be an interesting century as Americans are dragged, kicking and streaming, into the global economy and community, a place where they will have to learn to be one of many, rather than first and foremost.
posted by m.polo at 5:04 AM on April 5, 2001


I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free! ;-)
posted by FAB4GIRL at 12:44 PM on April 5, 2001


and how exactly are europeans not free?
posted by dutchbint at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2001


They're hands are tied by the shackles that prevent them from listening to jingoistic musical propaganda crap.
posted by crunchland at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2001


I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free! ;-)

Goddamn! It's good to see someone who loves their country.
posted by lagado at 7:58 PM on April 5, 2001


« Older   |   The Chinese pilot ejected, but it presumed dead. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post