Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Europeans

I am quite fascinated by the politics and culture of Europe. Particularly when
contrasted with that of ours here at home. At times I look at Europe with a
sense of common bond and other times I look at Europe the way one looks at a
train wreck. How are people who, on the surface, seem so similar, seem to be
going down such a different path.


I suspect there are many Americans who view Europe in much the same way . Ah,
but there are several problems with what I said. First, that Europe, is one
entity. Second, that Europeans seem similar "on the surface." And
lastly, is the path they are going down (in this post 9/11 world ) a definite
static route.


The biggest point is this notion of "Europe." This much we know.
Europe is a continent that contains many countries. That continent, geographically
speaking, includes the Iceland and the British Isles and extends to the Ural
mountains in Russia. More importantly, we now have a political entity called
the European Union. And we have a currency called the euro. But, what percentage
of Germans considers themselves "Europeans" in a cultural or political
sense? Or French, Austrians, Dutch? I mean, if I mistook a German as an Austrian,
would they correct me and say "no, I'm European"? Or if discussing
the superiorities of one's national intricacies, would a Spaniard use the phrase,
"here in Europe, we do X, Y, & Z." I somehow doubt it. I don't
know this for sure, but I suspect one's nationality is still a very important
thing the people who live on the continent of Europe. Hell, just watch some
of the World Cup and you'd see this. So, as an American, is it proper for me
to make general statements about "Europeans"?


And, do they really seem similar? I mean, you can usually tell a European from
an American in an airport. They seemed to wear thicker clothing, seem to never
wear tennis shoes, and there are other nuances. But, they generally like similar
things in pop culture. They love blue jeans. And, hey, they speak our language
when they have to (which is most of the time, since few Americans speak enough
of a European language to carry on any sort of conversation). That's quite sporting
of them actually. But, again, here I go lumping in Europeans together. I'm pretty
certain I could differentiate between a French, Spanish and German accent. But
beyond that, no way I could tell Swedish accent from a Croatian. And the Brits,
they are easy to spot. In fact the Brits don't strike me as European. Jesus,
there I go again with the stereotypes.


I guess Americans are probably quite guilty of lumping Europeans together.
And I'm sure, depending on the situation, Europeans don't like this. By God,
if anyone is gonna lump Europeans together, it's gonna be them. My point I guess
is that we are probably guilty of lumping Europeans together because we hear
quite a lot from our university professors that "Europe" is a wonderful
place. We here quite often from the press IN EUROPE that European integration
is of supreme importance. We hear from bureaucrats of the EU that Europe IS
one place, and not just in the geographical sense. So, is there anything wrong
with lumping Europeans together since this appears to the stated goal of most
every member of both the American and European elite?


I got to thinking about this when reading a piece
by Victor Davis Hanson
at National
Review Online
. He made the mistake of noting that most "Europeans"
he talked to indeed believe Europe superior to America and that America is a
danger to the world. How accurate is this? Are all Europeans really hostile
to American foreign policy? Or is just the elites, the bureaucrats, the editorial
writers? I have read many things that state the citizens of Europe really like
America and don't think we are all that bad in the things we do across the world.
It's really just the bureaucratic elites in Europe, those with their political
futures tied to the EU that speak in this unified anti-American voice. Or at
least that's one of the common assumptions I've seen. Furthermore, I've read
that Europeans don't think of themselves as one people. They are and for the
foreseeable future, will be Germans, French and what not. Obviously, Hanson's
comment goes counter to this. He says that it IS the citizens who dislike America's
actions, culture, politics, and genuine cowboy attitude.


I honestly, don't know which is closer to the truth. Is it the anti-American
elitist minority vs. the pro-America citizenry? Or are they all anti-American,
because, after all, they are democratic and if the elites dislike us, it's good
bet they get that idea from somewhere. I suspect the truth lies in the middle
because this much I do know: Europe consists of millions of individuals with
their own brains and they are still democracies, so they do have to think for
themselves on a regular basis. I suspect that many of them come to different
conclusions about a great many things. My goal is to always work from the assumption
that Europeans are not all alike.


But that does not mean I won't use the term "European." Unfortunately,
it is a proper description a lot of times. It's most apt I think when describing
those elites whose political fortunes and desires are wrapped up in a united
Europe, visa vi the EU. There is a movement afoot to rid Europeans from the
chains of nationalism. Of course, the goal of the Europhiles is to replace one
form of nationalism with another. So, when I use the term European, I don't
mean to slur or lump people together who don't want to be. My goal is to use
the term to describe people who actually DO want to be lumped together.


Anyway, I have relatives in Europe, and should they ever read my ramblings,
I hope they take this into account.