2002 September 18 Wednesday
Lileks: Americans don't care what Europeans think anymore

Lileks sends advice to his past self of a year ago about the changes one year will bring:

Does the World Community support this next phase?

What do you think? Of course not. We had their sympathy when we were down on one knee bleeding, but that evaporated with the Afghan campaign. The world likes America with a bloody nose, and hates us when we smash the hand that smacked us. Now only Britain stands with us without reservation: surprise. Europe dithers and fumes - one of the interesting pieces of collateral damage from the WTC attack was the relationship between ordinary Americans and Europe; many here now sense the open animosity the European intelligentsia has towards Americans, and Europe no longer feel like an ally. Remarkable, but true. It’s not that Americans don’t like them; we just don’t care what they think anymore. (Get this: the president will be quoted, second hand, as not “giving a shit what the Europeans think.” It’s come to that.) We realize we’re going to have to go it alone - and in most respects this feels right. No one cares much about the UN anymore, particularly since they elected Libyans to chair the Human Rights division.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 September 18 02:44 PM 


Comments
Bill said at July 11, 2004 5:03 PM:

Dear Europeans,
Through the years, we have stupidly followed all your socialistic ideas, and most of them have failed, or are failing miserably. You are now in population free-fall, due to your rigid adherance to obsolete godless socialist constructs. We on the other hand are at population parity, thanks to all the immigrant people who escape from your socialist utopias to our shores, thus saving our own social institutions. This is a fitting punishment for you being so spoiled and selfish.
Your spiritual heart is dying, as testified to your progressive dislike for Christianity, which gave you what strength and honor you used to be proud of. Instead of pulling yourselves out of your cesspool by your own bootstraps, you engage in America Bashing, which will not help you a bit.
Your aging are now being replaced by people who hate Christianity even more than you. Your self-same aging population is increasingly being cared for by these very people who want to see you dead, more than you want to live. Of course, you are helping the process of your own destruction with euthanasia.
Europe is constantly and arrogantly looking down their nose at America, yet even down to my generation, we are still paying taxes for rebuilding and defending you spoiled and pampered ingrates. Our own socialist weaklings say; "we don't want to be the world's policeman". My response is that we certainly do not want the Europeans, or anyone else doing it. We are a nation of charitible volunteers, and will do the job alone, because you are unwilling, very spoiled and for that matter lack the courage and guts to defend good, and we have the will and ability to do the work you slackers avoid.
Go ahead and continue hating the America, which always helps you. Your economic influence is getting weaker by the year. We will do what we have to do, and probably will have to bail your socialist asses out again. You will need help, because you are a spoiled and pamper disgrace. We will do it, because the true nobility, which you progressively killed in your own land thrives in the American People.

Bill Bronson

TJ said at September 24, 2004 1:43 PM:

I have never read such twaddle as the two posters above.
To address points (since the US news media is the worst in the world and this must obviously be where they have gleaned their info)

Europe does not hate America...it hates Bush...but then so does the rest of the world.
If your friend tries to tell you not to put your hand in the fire, do you then think he is not a friend?

Your goddam tax dollars are not going to anyone in Europe or building anything...they simply maintain your businesses and your military bases here which are not for our sake...but surprise, surprise, yours! Money for rebuilding the Balkans after the Allies (incl. America) destroyed it comes from the European purse.

Britain was not the only country to stand with you. Poland, Italy, Spain and Denmark also did...despite massive public opinion AGAINST going to war in EVERY single European country. (incl. Britain)

Europe is a continent of different countries and cultures...it is not one government like the US. Consequently, you have different ideas about how things should be done...which is why it appears to dither. Europe is not one unit...it is a teamwork and consensus isn't always forthcoming-as you might expect.

What has the dying of Christianity got to do with anything? Don't you think we've had enough of the damage religion has caused? You are correct that we now have to be watchful that Islam does not create problems for us ...just as America does and on this we are all working together.

Europe's economic influence IS INCREASING year by year, not decreasing. It's the American economy that is in freefall. Have you any idea what pressure the US Govt. applies on foreign Governments when it's losing out economically or another country is doing better than the US?

The American people are noble?? Perhaps...individuals most certainly are. Your Government is not.
Most of America is about the dollar. Money. Corporate greed. America only ever acts in its own interests..if it feels a situation might be a danger to its interests around the world, which is why it hobnobs with the most unsavoury people on the planet. Don't call the kettle black.

Gail said at October 2, 2004 1:54 PM:

TJ:

Some thoughts about your post--in no particular order:

You have a number of worthy points. It is very difficult to distinguish between "the people" and "the government," since generally what we see of each other is the consequence of our government's policies as portrayed in the media. I don't know that I can agree that the American media is "the worst in the world" (Al-Jazeera doesn't appear to have much of a penchant for truth-telling), but I certainly acknowledge that it is dangerously problematic, with its focus on the most "sexy" story of the day, its sensationalism, its manipulation and splicing of the facts, its failure to cover much of the important news of the world, and its abdication of its responsibility to serve as the mirror in which we can reflect upon our government--the best and the worst. I can't comment on other nations' media much, since I see so little of their product.

American views on Bush differ vastly, and in contrast to your (implied) perception, there are easily as many independent cultures within the United States as within Europe--possibly more, although the differences between us may be less readily apparent, particularly to those outside our borders. Our cultural differences are perhaps more subtle but do not doubt that they run deep. In spite of our having an overarching unifying government, we also have fifty smaller ones, and consensus is not always forthcoming over here either.

I know a lot of people who are "noble," but generally in very small ways, and in spite of their humanness, in spite of their character flaws. Is corporate greed the law of the day here? Absolutely, and it is downright scary. The common man in my country has been sold downriver by our "representatives" who are for sale to the highest bidder. We are truly in danger of losing democracy, and most of the reasonably intelligent people with whom I converse are just as concerned about it as I am. Unfortunately, sadly, I see no moral ascendancy in Europe, either. I had seriously hoped that I might, especially as we weathered the aftershocks of 9/11 and tried to regain our equilibrium. Criticism of some (not all) of our government's policies was expected and fair; the level of vitriol we received from Europe, however, was as confounding as some of the hyper-patriotism we were and still are wading through on my side of the ocean.

I absolutely agree with you that my government has done some truly villainous things in the name of economic prosperity--many things we have learned about, and no doubt many things that have not come to light. And this fuels the hatred of the world. But some of the world's hatred is also a result of paranoia, in which blaming America has become the easiest thing to do, even in situations where the facts belie the accusations. Anti-Americanism has in many ways become an international pasttime, it is the new bloodsport--not just where it is deserved, but often where it is not. Additionally, many of the truly negative behaviors that have accurately characterized the worst of American self-interest are now exhibited by the EU, even while the EU criticizes. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that they are now more EFFECTIVELY exhibited by the EU--Europe has--let us be fair--known corruption longer than the U.S., after all. The EU has better learned to play the game, and it is becoming just as drunk on power as the worst of the powerful in my own country. The hardball that the EU plays is no less ugly than the hardball played by America. Each would like to see itself as the more wounded victim and the more righteous, and the truth is--at least, my perception is--that in this regard, both are genuinely deplorable.

Although I disagree with much of what Bill says, I think he also has some points worth considering, although he and I might view them from distinctly different persuasions. In a primarily secular society, we--and I mean those of us in secular societies across the world, not just in one country or continent--have failed to produce an adequate moral compass by which to guide ourselves. I don't know of any rules that can substitute for an internal moral code. Many terrible things are done in the name of religion, but at least it provides a compass of some sort for the reasonable people of the world who wish to be fair--or at least fear going to hell more than they dislike being fair. (And for the unreasonable ones, they can blithely ignore their religion as they have always done anyway.) I don't know of any political school of thought that is so evolved that it mandates moral behavior, since being--or striving to be--moral involves so much more than adhering to rules. That doesn't mean we can or should turn back the clock and prescribe religion to everybody--that time is over. And as for radical Islamist terrorism, that goes without saying. Nothing moral about that.

It's true that much of American tax money goes towards the perpetuation of American interests, and that American tax money has often--who am I kidding? IS often--used to support unsavory causes. But it's not true that America doesn't provide a huge amount of international aid, and that none of our tax dollars build anything constructive. Sometimes it doesn't matter what decision gets made, it will be disapproved. Those bases that people hate so much that have protected American interests? We got just as much criticism for the idea of closing some of them or paring them down, because it would affect local European economies negatively! Self-interest isn't only an American commodity, TJ. Don't call the kettle black? I think that's a very appropriate way to put it. I suppose the point is, the pot and the kettle are BOTH black, aren't they? RE: the bases, I'm ready for them to go. I'd rather see our servicemen and women guarding our own borders, north and south. I'm not a "socialist weakling," but I'd rather take care of ourselves, here, than face the constant resentment of our soldiers being where the international community doesn't want them--as well as the resentment of the absence of our soldiers when the international community wants their service.

And I think you're right, the American government hobnobs with some pretty unsavory characters. So does Europe. So does Asia. That doesn't make it right, it just makes it widespread. Many, many Americans are hugely disenchanted with the UN--and not because it didn't support Bush (that only made sense to those of us who don't support Bush, and even for those who did, the right to speak one's mind is critical). But the corruption of the UN is hard to stomach, particularly when there is so much corruption everywhere else too. The organization that is supposed to be a vanguard of democracy functions instead like a popularity contest, or like a guild, and is interfering with issues of national sovereignty in unacceptable ways. Not much to respect there. Just more corrupt political game-playing. Many of us want not only to pull out of the UN, but we want the UN off our soil--sort of like other people want our bases off their soil. The "international community"--and I include the U.S.--has become a gang of bullies. One gang pitting itself against another gang. Lots of us are sick of it all. We want to take our toys, get off the playground, and go home. This is no joke. This is a growing movement. People who used to talk about getting out of the UN used to be considered weird; now they're just sensible or at least mainstream.

The bottom line from at least one of many American perspectives is, we will be hated regardless of what choices we make, so we might as well make the choices that sit best with our consciences and seem the most reasonable. What sits best with the conscience of the average American may not necessarily be what best benefits a congressman calling the shots in Washington.

Are there friends across the ocean for us? Maybe. But I think, really not. Most of us are fairly certain that we are alone. And I think it's a fair assessment to say that most of the world probably does want us to fail--the message we get is that it is our "just desserts," our punishment for past transgressions. Well, okay. Religious connotations aside, we all live with karma. And the self-righteousness that Americans and Europeans expound will negatively affect our interactions for--in all likelihood--generations to come. It's a shame. There's plenty of enmity to last for a long time.

These days I'm very much an isolationist. That word is an epithet to most. I don't wish others in the world ill, but as an American I'm ready for all of us--and that includes me--to take care of ourselves. That means trying to be more just in the world, not sticking our noses where they don't belong, but also not necessarily rushing to the aid of others who would like our assistance. Given the current climate, maybe there won't be much of a demand for the latter for a long time. That's okay with me. I'm tired of the demands to police the world, to not police the world, to trade here, not to trade there, to give more, to give more in a prescribed way, etc. The constant, legitimate criticisms come with constant, illegitimate criticisms, demands and blame that make my head spin. Maybe we don't do so well with the rest of the world. But I know that with all our flaws, Americans tend to do very well when dealing with each other. I'd like to focus on fixing what's wrong within my own borders. And I'd like to start with the government that has abandoned us, with the problem of lack of real representation, i.e. that undue corporate interest you were talking about. In the meantime, I wish the rest of the world well in taking care of itself.

CJ said at October 12, 2004 6:23 AM:

Hello,

First, thank you to Gail, your message is the only one which actually took a comprehensive view of both arguments; you actually "walked in their shoes," so to speak.

I agree with many of your (Gail’s) points, especially that American actions receive negative criticism "not just where it is deserved, but often where it is not." There are many despicable things America has done since its founding, just as there are many despicable things that European countries have done in the time span of each country's respective development. However, *most* Americans are critical of Europe's more disgraceful decisions, but often openly commend their achievements. I have never heard an American criticize the British for the Opium wars, something much more egregiously self-serving than anything Americans have ever done. (I'm not trying to bash the British, but honestly to describe the Opium wars in any other way would be ignorant and naive.) I have never heard an American criticize the Germans for the Holocaust. (Opinions here may vary here, but from the people I've talked to (note: "I've talked to"), most Americans view the Holocaust as a disastrous myopia, like the Chinese Revolution.) America, also, deserves criticism for many actions, such as Hiroshima and bad judgment about bombing the Balkans, but to criticize every single action ever taken by America shows hypocrisy and ignorance on the part of the Europeans and other foreigners whose countries have also engaged in actions which were not noble. Over and over again, fair, critical judgment of America outside of America is rare almost to the point of extinction, and that most of America-bashers' criticism is a reflex that feeds their own obsessions.

As for everybody's points about the media, I believe America does a much better job than most counties, and I'm not just talking about Al-Jazeera. Every news source in every country, France, U.S., Norway, Malaysia, Chile, Uganda, whatever, will always be influenced by many variables, such as the government, either through dictating to the media what to say or by only telling the media selective facts, by what the media thinks the people want to hear, and even the opinions of the people who observe and write the articles. To claim one single country's news source always tells everything that needs to be known, and especially that the source does so objectively, is naďve to the point of idiocy. However, I believe that because such a wide range of news sources are offered in America from a wide range of opinions and all owned by different people, the media as a whole (meaning not just one single source) provides the people with more perspectives than many people from other countries receive.

Also, to TJ, you say that, “Europe is a continent of different countries and cultures[.] It is not one government like the US... Europe is not one unit[.] It is a teamwork and consensus isn't always forthcoming-as you might expect.” You seem to be implying that America is not “a continent of different… cultures”; to that I only have to say this: America is one country, yes, but several different cultures. There’s the rural northeast, the urban northeast, the Bread Basket, Chicago, Washington and Oregan, southern California, northwest California, San Francisco area, urban southwest, Texas (a land unto itself), Louisiana, Florida (definitely a land unto itself), the Appalachian mountain area, and finally, last but not least, the deep South. Even these are only the larger categories; they can be divided as well. Each has a culture that differs from the others, and each culture has different political views. Therefore, the government officials (which, may I remind you, are regulated amounts of people from each of these cultures) also is a “teamwork and consensus” which “isn’t always forthcoming” (“as you might expect”). Even though the richer of these government officials do corrupt the others, that happens in Europe as well; to say otherwise (I know this is getting repetitive) is ignorant and naďve.

I suppose what I’m saying is that America-bashing is ignorant, naďve, and hypocritical, because every country has its faults, some of which are exactly the same as America’s, but wrapped in a different paper. Before anyone can truly judge any aspect of another country or culture, and especially the country or culture as a whole, the judge should live in the other country long enough to transition through culture shock and be able to thoroughly contrast and compare the other culture to the original (a process of about 1 to 3 years, depending on the person). It is only these people who are qualified to give a truly comprehensive comparison, and provide us with real insight into said comparisons.

Indrid Cold said at February 12, 2005 5:40 PM:

Know what gripes the hell out of me? More often then not the principal complaint I see levied at Americans by overseas chatroom critics is that we're fat and can't speak English. Living in the Heartland I can attest to the truth or rather the partial truth of both charges. Yes, some of us living out here in the great nowhere are very fat indeed, and many of us are not fluent in our borrowed language. What, I must ask however, have either to do with politics?

jim said at April 2, 2005 3:33 PM:

i have spent more time thinking about europe reading this page than i have in the last five years. other than
a retirement home with pretty buildings, what good is the place ?

Kristina said at May 14, 2006 10:30 AM:

After reading all you wrote I can clearly see that you Americans are different too. Not all your people are ignorant and arrogant, where the big numbers are. I also noticed that you don’t’ get perfectly along in between yourself; a lot of you don’t understand other Americans and don’t particularly like them. That just proves there are lots of problems in between people in the country. So you have to think more about that and not what Europeans think about you. They will be perfectly O.K. if you will not worry about them. They know how to take care of themselves without advices. Let others be free than you can be free…

karina said at April 20, 2008 4:45 PM:

Who is spoiled and selfish? What are you all talking about,see that is the problem, you (Americans) all think that you are better than everybody else, that is why, not just Europeans,but the rest of the world don't like Americans. Your education system is very poor, you only learn about your own country and you don't care about any other country. It is funny how a fifteen years owd child can not find Greece on the globe. I have lived here in America, just because of better job opportunities, I can not lie, you can get much more money then you get in Europe, but I can say that I am sorry for most American people that say "America is the best, I am proud to be an American!" But how can you say that America is the best when most people havent even seen the rest of the world. I feel sorry, because to me, Americans do not know what real life is. Not everything is about having more money. To me, Americans are slaves to the country. You buy a new house, a new car,but you only drive that car to work, and you only get in that house to sleep,that is not life to me, or any European. I've lived here for so many years now,and I have noticed that Americans fight mostly about money, it's always about who has more...Europeans have survived so many years, but people are very friendly. We love to dance, party..communicate with other people and share our happyness. Onother thing I've notices and I still don't fully understand, is why American women do not care how they look most of the time, and so many houses i've been to.. it looks like that house have never been cleaned before, they go and order pizza for dinner,they're too lazy to cook, and that is why alot of American men,love European women, they cook,they do their best in family, and take much more responcibilities.That is also why, there are so many devorces here. You have to understand, I don't hate America, I just don't like and understand they way people live here, you have to understand that your country is not perfect, Europe is not perfect neither, but we try to get better and we don't show off as you (Americans) do.

Tammy said at July 19, 2013 7:34 AM:

As an American who has lived all over the world, I can, as an average American, say that I care less about the dog poop found in Central Park, than I care about what Europeans think of us. Come on you fellow Americans, focus on child hunger in our country, rather than Aids in Africa, other world disasters, etc. Really, is the British, Canadian, FRENCH, GERMAN opinion of us important? No, European opinion is not important in todays world. Let us get on with our American lives and on to what's important! Come on you guys, really?


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