Saturday, December 20, 2008

Uncouth Nation

I'd consider this a fairly good read though hard in parts. The author does a good job of documenting the rise in anti-Americanism in Europe and demonstrates that anti-Americanism has converged from the Left and Right of Europe's elites and intellectuals and become part of mainstream Europe mainly with a lot of help from George W. Bush, the neocons, and the religious right.

I was looking for something else when I saw the subtitle: "Why Europe Dislikes America" but all I got was that America was Mr. Big and hence a natural reaction was to dislike those who are powerful - e.g. Microsoft, Yankees, Manchester United, etc. He touches on how even when America was the New World and Europeans began emigrating, the elites and intellectuals were becoming envious of America and provided the seed for current anti-Americanism. He show convincingly that it is an -ism and not just a dislike of American policies.

The increase in anti-Americanism will likely not ebb with a new Democratic president either. This is because European leaders have seen that anti-Americanism can serve the purpose of unifying Europe to challenge American hegemony.

The most enjoyable chapter was the one on culture and sports, in particular when USA was the host of the World Cup Soccer (pg 96-9).
... giving the tournament to the Americans was tantamount to degrading the game and its tradition.... an anomaly bordering on impudence, cheekiness, and inauthenticity ... the only reason there was no violence ws that the stadiums were frequented by families with mothers and little girls who knew nothing about soccer ... Even Europe's hooligans gained positive press by dint of their authenticity.

When more than 60,000 people crowded into Giants Stadium .... to watch Saudi Arabia play Morocco ... this too, was attributed to the vast ignorance of Americans.... Indeed, European soccer connoisseurs proudly pointed to the fact that similar games in soccer-savvy Italy attracted fewer than 20,000 people in the 1990 World Cup ...

... the American team was first ridiculed as an incompetent group f players who barely deserved to be in the tournament. The huge upset over Portugal was attributed to sheer luck. When Team USA advanced to the second round and then defeated its arch-rival Mexico, the press corps who were vocally rooting for the Mexicans during the game remained stunned in silence ...

... Only when the might Germans narrowly (and luckily) beat the Americans in a quaterfinal did some European commentators gecome interested... But this interest .. quickly turned into genuine alarm ... A concerned English friend of mine so tellingly remarked: "This is terrible. Now you Yanks are getting good at this too. You are in the process of stealing our game ... "

I was also struck by the extent September 11 was in some sense belitted (pg. 110):
Two years after September 11, 2001, Geoffrey Wheatcroft made the effor to take a second look at and comment on what had been written (above all) in the British press. He was struck by three things: the way the crime had been trivialized and relativized, the condemnation of the United States as the real guilty party, and the immense number of British intellectuals, writers, poets, journalists, and composes who weighed in on this subject.

In some ways it is hard not to be anti-American in Europe, e.g. school shootings, serial killings (OMG, I thought these things only happened in America) and especially culturally - McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Nike, lawsuits/lawyers, financial shenanigans, derivatives - are to a large extent American exports. The cultural elements seep subconciously into our psyches and its prevalence causes us to lash back.

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