Friday, January 30, 2015
Why American ex-pats are just as America-centric as any other American
The HuffPost publlished an article by Ann Jones that pretended to show a European view of America - specifically, that as seen from the outside, America is off course and way out of step with the rest of the world. As an ex-pat, I know that Europeans think that (and have thought that since the 18th century, by the way. It's not as new as you think), but I also know that Americans are more than a little naive about blindly accepting European views of America. Here my take:
American ex-pats in Europe have a long tradition of seeing only what they want to see.
Americans are the most self-critical people in the world, and Europeans are also critical – of America, not of themselves. (What’s the last Hollywood movie you saw about slavery? Probably the Oscar-winner of last year. What’s the last European movie you saw about slavery? What, there is no such thing? Did you know that the Portuguese invented trans-Atlantic slavery and enslaved 10 times more Africans than Americans/British did? The reason you didn’t know this is because the Portuguese, and Europeans in general, seldom make movies critical of their own history. At the same time, most Portuguese have seen Hollywood movies about slavery in America).
When Americans come to Europe, they encounter a lot of people who confirm their critical views and doubts about their own country. Those views and doubts are often valid, but that doesn’t make Europe better. The author of the article says that “America is out of step with the rest of the world” (meaning Western Europe) – but she doesn’t explain why America should we be in step with Europe.
In America we opposed and defeated the Tea Party’s fiscal politics of austerity. Thanks to Germany, much of Europe is suffering from that same Tea Party austerity policy (though they would never call it “Tea Party politics”). America has shown that (leftist) Keynesian fiscal policy works, yet Europe insists on holding onto Tea Party austerity – why is Europe the standard?
The article praises (rightly in most cases) European social medicine and it’s true that America can learn a lot from it. Unfortunately, social medicine in most Scandinavian countries is now undergoing a makeover because it has become too expensive, and the same will happen soon in all of Europe. Furthermore, social medicine appears to be the enemy of innovation – most new medical technology and medical research (actually, research in most scientific fields in general) come from American hospitals and American universities. I agree that America has to revamp it system – even after Obamacare – but why is Europe the standard?
America has to shut some of the holes in its gun laws, true. But are Norway’s gun laws really the standard? The biggest mass shooting in the history of the world took place recently in Norway – with a semi-automatic rifle that was purchased completely legally in Norway. Why are Norway’s gun laws the standard?
There was an ex-pat in German in the 70’s name of John Ney who looked around, heard rock n roll in every radio and saw Jeans on every kid and wrote a book called “The European Surrender” about the “Americanization” of Europe. It was a very influential book and fueled a lot of anti-Americanism (even though Germans think that Americans are generally dumb, as soon as an American says something negative about his Heimat, he is considered a genius).
Ney was in Germany, but what he did not see when he looked around was: Though there are (currently) 1650 hamburger Restaurants in Germany (McDonald’s and Burger King together), there are 3500 Chinese restaurants, 12000 Turkish döner shops and 23000 Pizzerias. Yet, he never mentioned “the Italianization” of Germany. What he also never saw: For every American company in Germany there are two German companies in America; for every dollar extracted from the German people for American goods and sent back to America, the Germans extract 2 to 3 dollars from America and bring them back to Germany. There is one American car company in Germany– Ford. How many German car companies have factories in America? All of except for one, Audi. Yet, Nye never talked about “the Germanization” of America. (And speaking or rock n roll: the Beatles, the Stones, Judas Priest and the Spice Girls are not American.)
I think of Nye and his charming America-centric view of Europe whenever I read articles like this by America-centric ex-pats who claim to love their new Heimats but are actually blind to what is really happening there.
It seems not only disingenuous to me, but also a little bit condescending, when an American’s only use for a foreign culture is to argue about American politics. The one thing Europeans criticize about us Americans that I think is true is this: We see only our country and are blind to others. That includes ex-pats who come to Europe and agree with European criticism of American without considering for a moment that when Europeans may have ulterior motives when ragging on other countries in order to better praise their own.