Sunday, April 15, 2007

The European Paradox

There are those that criticize the U.S. for various faults and deficiencies, many times rightly so. It's not so much the criticism that many Americans find invalid, but it is the source of the criticism that irritates us, at times. Many times it's a clear-cut case of being blind to one's own faults, while demonizing Americans. Much of this kind of criticism results from Europeans, yet, it's becoming more apparent that the Euro stone throwers are living in glass houses.

Take this story for example, it comes from the IHT:

For the second time in two days, the Russian police forcefully dispersed an opposition rally Sunday, beating protesters and arresting their leaders in a chaotic, violent street scene in St. Petersburg.

The two rallies cumulatively drew at most several thousand anti-government protesters and posed little threat to President Vladimir Putin. A loose coalition of opposition figures, including Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, organized the events. Kasparov was among those arrested.

Nonetheless, the weekend rallies were dispersed in a flailing of truncheons, marking one of the largest displays of raw police force used against political opposition figures since Putin assumed the presidency seven years ago.

In the U.S., there are frequent protests, with most of them directed at the current administration. Yet, we rarely read that U.S. police use violence to break them up. It's all covered under free speech, something that other countries have yet to grasp. Russia is but one of those countries. The EU so far has been silent on the methods of dealing with unrest, used by the Putin administration. But let this happen here in the USA, and it would very likely be open season in the halls of Brussels.

Another area that Euros would have us all believe is more prevalent in America than anywhere else, is racism. Take this story (also from the IHT), for instance:

Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a rebellion inside her conservative party after Günther Oettinger, premier of the conservative southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, refused to retract a funeral eulogy in which he praised a disgraced Nazi judge.

Merkel, who until now has managed to maintain some discipline in her Christian Democratic Union party since being elected chancellor in late 2005, will meet senior party leaders Monday in an attempt to prevent the crisis from growing.

The German Jewish community has already asked for the resignation of Oettinger, and the Social Democrats and Greens have also called upon him to retract his praise of Hans Filbinger, a former Nazi judge who issued death sentences during World War II but who concealed the fact for decades.

I'd say we could offer to send Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to help facilitate Oettinger's demise, but we must remember that it's okay for white people to disparage other white people, and it goes double when it's Jews that are the target of hate speech.

But wait. Here's one that they could jump on without any reservations:

A German army instructor ordered a soldier to envision himself in New York City facing hostile blacks while firing his machine gun, a video that aired Saturday on national television showed.

First of all, what the hell would the German Army be doing fantasizing about being in New York City, conducting any kind of an operation? And then secondly, why would their focus be on blacks? Very telling, wouldn't you say?

It leads me to ask, how much of this is far more pronounced than those in Brussels would have the world believe? They talk a good game, but talking is just words. Words mean little to most intelligent people, for they are not easily persuaded by empty rhetoric like that that comes out of irrelevant institutions. It's easy to sit on some kind of moral judgment seat, pointing fingers at a speck in your neighbor's eye, all the while overlooking the mote in your own. It's not so easy to admit it you have the mote to begin with. But moreover, it is action that counts.

So, don't hold you breath on Al and Jesse making this an issue. They will not be able to win this one, anyway. What's more, they do not care.


ms. miami said...

lasunsett- i'm not quite sure what you're saying here... are you arguing that europeans overlook such stories?

just glancing through le monde today, i see stories about both russia and the german minister (haven't looked for the third story).

in my experience, french and german people are as open to self-criticism as they are to critiquing others.

in any case, i don't know any western europeans who consider russia to be completely "european." poland, the czech republic, etc. are usually considered culturally/politically compatible. russia, in contrast, is usually considered a whole other ballgame that won't make it into the e.u. since there aren't enough shared values on democracy.

Anonymous said...

As said, the second story you will find in Le Monde

As for the third one, it seems to be another case of an individual military loony like there are some everywhere unfortunately. The case seems indefensible of course but you shouldn't give too much importance to it. Granted, it shows the prejudice of the instructor but what can you expect from guys whose mental universe is often reduced to the video games they've been playing since they're 5 year old? A military instructor is rarely considered as someone with any kind of diplomatic skill...
Such incident I'm afraid can happen in any army but certainly doesn't reflect any official German policy at any level. Just a single moron thinking the fate of the world depends on him...

All in all, the 2 first stories are that of individuals (the first one apologized) whose demeaning acts can hardly suffice to speak of a "European paradox"...
As a reminder there are over 82 million people living in Germany...

Now you're right on two account LA.

1°) It's always unpleasant to be on the receiving hand of moral lectures by people who'd better look in their backyard first.

2°) The media like to indulge in their own prejudice, hence fostering national prejudice over the borders, antagonizing people.


LASunsett said...


I don't know if "overlook such stories" are the words, I want to say.

Not being fluent in the various languages of the continent, it's hard for someone like me to make that claim. But I know many Euros at work and in my community, that have pointed some fingers over this Imus thing during our conversations over the last week, and many of the comments I see on SF's site would lead a person to believe that America is the most racist and bigoted of nations, in the world.

We have our share, to be sure. But anywhere there is a mix of race and/or culture there will be those that have bigoted attitudes. That would be closer to my claim, here.

LASunsett said...

Hi Flocon,

//Now you're right on two account LA.//

Those two accounts are more or less what I am trying to say here. I certainly realize that not all Germans would feel the way this one bozo does. But there are those that do and there are those that overlook those that do.

LASunsett said...

Also, a bit off-topic, but has anyone (European or not) else heard this explanation
for Imus's firing? Seems a bit of a stretch to me.

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- i see. i would just caution a little perspective. a few europeans in the u.s. and a few bloggers on sf can't possibly reflect 'european' attitudes.

let me just add that while i was living in germany (some years ago now), my impression was that those of middle-age and younger were probably even critical of german problems to a fault.

they suffer from extremeness of attitudes to a degree (must be where we got it) and tend to overcompensate for what they consider to be problems from their past.

example: 'anti-authoritarian' parenting was/is(?) a big trend. considering past ways of parenting (through the 40s) to have been problematic, some german parents are swinging to the opposite extreme, allowing their children to do whatever they want.

of course, this creates a new problem when the tikes go to school and the teachers can't get them to follow a minimum of rules... (i personally saw a four year-old calling his parents a**holes, with no consequence)

Anonymous said...

The German instructor affair has another coverage in Le Monde today.

You will find innumerable articles in the German media about das Bundeswehr Skandal...
Here is eines aus Der Zeit

(I believe you read German LAS)

The newspaper title is "Die Zeit" aber since there's this "aus" in front of it I guess it's followed by the genetive. will correct me...

Now, why would the Euros (as you write) issue any form of statement about an internal affair of one of its members that is a one man's case? I can't imagine "the Euros" making any sort of fuss should such an affair happen in the US Army. If a European country were targeted by a single American military instructor, it's fully understandable that the media of said country would let it be known (although the officials wouldn't react). "But the Euros" or Bruxelles?

So your phrasing "Here's one that they could jump on without any reservations" seems a little bit exagerated.
Not that "the Euros" may not be selective at times but your example doesn't convince me.

But I understand how irritating it may be for any American (in general) to have the feeling of always being the target of the world discontent. Particularly in the moral realm.

Now, do you remember how the State Department issued a statement 3 years ago saying how concerned it was because of the French law to forbid the doning of Muslim veil in public schools? 99,9% of the French dind't even know but those who knew couldn't help thinking: will these people mind their own business?
In the same range, the German autorities found it necessary to put some restraint to the activities of the "Church of Scientology" (about 3 years ago too).
Once again the State department made it be known that it feared for the freedom of faith, cult, religion, whatever in Germany.
I can't think of "the Euros" or any single European country telling the American administration how concerned it could be about American practise relevant to Americans only.

It's a world wide "problem" with America which is seen as to prone to teach lessons to the rest of the world about "morality".
A very recent example: Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank (which is an international body, thus not off limits of international criticism).

Now, be assured Europeans too have their fair share of scandals and shame. But you should keep a distinction between individuals and official policies.


ms. miami said...

The newspaper title is "Die Zeit" aber since there's this "aus" in front of it I guess it's followed by the genetive. will correct me...

mon cher flocon- yes, "aus der Zeit" is correct, but it's actually the dative case ;)

Anonymous said...

Here ist das Video. The offending part starts at 01:04.

Another article in the French Le Figaro.

One can hardly speak of "the Euros" keeping it quiet about this affair.
Now, I haven't looked for Serbian newspapers or Polish ones for that matter...

An interesting offside of this affair: Not to play the victim but you know how the French are ridiculed, mocked, insulted because they "surrendered" twice (never mind the details or inaccuracies) to the Germans.
When reading all the insults and distortions from American French-bashers, one could get the impression that they really harbour quite a certain admiration for the German might, army, will to fight, general ability to efficiency etc.
Well, will they take this display from an army instructor as evidence for their admiration?

Ach ja, natürlich, dativ
(aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu...)

Hello Und viellen danke.


Anonymous said...

Now, about your first topic (the brutal repression of manifestations in Russia).
You seemed to think "the Euros" (Bruxelles?) were being very discreet about that.
Here is the information about the statement the EU. commission issued about the events.
In Le Monde again but you could find it in any other serious French or German newspaper.
It probably will be announced in this evening TV's news.

The same thing happened some weeks ago LA, when you seemed to bemoan the lack of reaction of the EU commission about the British hostage crisis.
The day after you posted your thread, Bruxelles made it clear to the Iranians that the situation wasn't acceptable. Then the White House reacted (after the EU commission).

Well, it only goes to show how efficient your post has been with the European Commission LA...


LASunsett said...


//i see. i would just caution a little perspective. a few europeans in the u.s. and a few bloggers on sf can't possibly reflect 'european' attitudes.//

Most of what I write on, is in perspective, albeit it is my perspective.

Like I said earlier,the language barrier keeps me from perusing the Euro periodicals and other news agencies. I do not live there and I haven't been there in many years. So, the only real view I get of Euros right now is from those that I know personally and those whose I read on the blogs.

//let me just add that while i was living in germany (some years ago now), my impression was that those of middle-age and younger were probably even critical of german problems to a fault.//

I was there for two years, from 78-80. I am sure it was a different world. I was there when the American mini-series "Holocaust" was shown. Wives left husbands, when they learned what they did in the war.

At that time in history, Germany was a divided nation. There were plenty of people (young and old, drunk and sober) that didn't mind making their negative view of the U.S., known to me. Their reasons may have been different, but they shared a common disdain for us.

I thought one German man, who was much older than me and probably was in the War, was going to have a stroke in front of me on a village street somewhere in Bavaria. Nixon kaput, Carter kaput, Kennedy gut, was the basis of his drunken rage. I tried to agree with him, but he wasn't having it. He just wanted to argue because he was mad that I was their.

Certainly not all were that way, many were quite eloquent in sharing their opinions that differed with mine. But others, like the man, were a little on the hostile side.

But believe me, I do understand that I cannot paint the entire continent with such a broad bunch.

The other thing I would point out is, I have a large European readership. It's usually around 25%, but I suspect it's more because of the Euros that show up as being from the US. Many of them do not comment, but they read. And that's okay. Even though they may not leave comments, I can provoke some thought on their part, if they are receptive to it.

LASunsett said...


Sorry it took so long to get back to your wealth of comments.

//Now, be assured Europeans too have their fair share of scandals and shame. But you should keep a distinction between individuals and official policies.//

I do. I am fully aware that the Bundeswehr incident is an isolated one, at least I would hope it is. All I would ask is that when criticizing things that happen in the US, Europeans would be mindful of the same things. That's all.

//Not to play the victim but you know how the French are ridiculed, mocked, insulted because they "surrendered" twice (never mind the details or inaccuracies) to the Germans.//

Actually, where I live the French are not being bashed at every turn. Most people that I know, really don't discuss either world war in terms of the French surrendering. Most know that in WWI, the front was a meat grinder for a long time with neither side giving an inch. Hardly a surrender.

In WWII, some of the French did choose to surrender, but many did not. The "resistance" was an instrumental part of the war. Had there not been a softening up of things behind the lines, the invading forces would have suffered even more casualties than they did. Most people I know, know and understand that cowards do not risk their lives and that's what the resistance forces did. This French bashing phenomenon that SF describes in his blog, is not nearly as pervasive as it may sound to those that have never been here.

//Well, it only goes to show how efficient your post has been with the European Commission LA...//

Yeah flushed you out of lurker status, didn't it? ;)

Greg said...

This isn't a shock at all LAS. In case you haven't noticed, the Europeans don't like us. Actually, they despise and fear us.

A recent German poll showed them identifying the US as the biggest threat in the world. And holocaust denying neo-Nazis running Iran are the good guys, per the poll.

And I just read a series of stories about what's being taught in French textbooks. I know it will shock you to learn that terrorism and 9/11 are taught as responses to American aggression. No mention of Islamic supremancy is made in explaining terrorism. They teach that America "needs urgently to be contained" (direct quote).

And in Europe we go easy on Putin, because he was a member of the "peace camp" (you know, Saddam's protectors), and anything he does pales in comparison to that which the violent Americans are up to. Putin gets a pass.


Just remember, you Yankee: the Europeans are better educated and more enlightened than you or I could ever hope to be, so act exactly like them, OR ELSE! Or else you'll get killed by terrorists, or yourself, or some German soldier. You can't say you weren't warned.

ms. miami said...

Europeans don't like us. Actually, they despise and fear us.

greg- how do you stand being married to someone who despises and fears you...?

lasunsett- i understand what you're saying and have been the object of rants from time to time in europe as well.

however, i get the impression that you're simply upset with europeans judging us than arguing that they don't judge themselves sufficiently.

i'll just add that americans are equally guilty of the vice of judging others, both officially and in person here and there.

i remember taking a french visitor years ago to a pharmacy following a sudden illness. once the pharmacist found out he was french, we both received a lecture on the evils of "socialism" before we could get the prescription.

Greg said...

miss: //how do you stand being married to someone who despises and fears you...?//

Obviously she's in the minority. And is in the process of becoming an American citizen. But there's not arguing the numbers. Several polls confirm what the Euros think of us, and it ain't pretty.

ms. miami said...

greg- i'm not sure what polls you are referring to, but would have to imagine that roughly the same number of americans "dislike" europeans as europeans "dislike" americans. so, we're even...

(of course, there is a big difference between polls asking about views on government policies versus views on the everyday people)

Greg said...

Well, Miss, the polls in question are about several subjects, including our "culture" (or lack thereof), our foreign policy (which the vast majority of Europeans reject as abhorrent when compared to the prefereable stances of Chavez and Ahmadinejad), and other things. You can't fall back on the "only criticizing policy" crap line I've heard a million times. Or, rather, you can, but you are deluding yourself. There isn't a thing about us the majority of Europeans like. Prove me wrong.

ms. miami said...

greg- they must like something. they come in droves as tourists...

Greg said...

They also eat Big Macs and watch "24" and Hollywood movies in their Levis. If you are suggesting anti-Americanism is completely irrational, I agree wholeheartedly.

Greg said...

LAS, you forgot to mention the Italians. It seems the further south you go in Europe, the more they dislike the USA. In Italy, Taliban commanders go free; CIA agents and US GI's are tried in absentia. Makes perfect sense!

Rocket said...

How quaint.

We now have 2 contributors on this blog "qui pète plus haut que leur cul"

If you don't know what this means LA, I will explain by return e-mail

And now they want to astonish us with their mastery of German as proof of cultural superiority. Certainly no surprise for Flocon

LASunsett said...


//you forgot to mention the Italians. It seems the further south you go in Europe, the more they dislike the USA.//

This is not surprising when you consider that Italy had a viable Communist party for years. Italy's party may not have been modeled completely after the Soviet version, but the anti-American sentiment has been every bit as strong.

Rocket said...

Here's an interesting perpective on the french election(s)

kinda 'cause toujours' (keep talking) effect