I like to read British publications, as well as the Spiegel, and whatever other English language versions of European papers strike my fancy. It’s useful to see what’s going on in other parts of the world and, more than that, to see how the local press views its own events.
One thing I’ve noticed in all these foreign publications in the last week: aside from whining about their own economic plight, they’re all thrilled to think that America’s dominance is at an end. This story from Spiegel strikes precisely the note I’m talking about:
THE END OF ARROGANCE
America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role
By SPIEGEL Staff
The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. Still, this is no time to gloat.
I found that last sentence quite amusing, because the Spiegel Staff is so obvious gloating. After 60 years of being dependent on America — to rescue them from the Naziism they imposed on themselves, to protect them from Communists, and to support their economy by providing all the military they needed — the Germans (and most of the rest of Europe) are just too delighted with America’s current economic woes.
I will only say, Twain-like, that I suspect reports of America’s death are greatly exaggerated. And more to the point, the Europeans had better hope that they’re exaggerated, because we are the last bastion of small “d” democratic freedoms, whether the European’s like to admit it or not. We’re not holding our own as well as we once were, and some Europeans are wising up the hard way, but we’re still the last best hope.
European arrogance towards America doesn’t stop with politics. How about this from the head of Nobel literature committee:
Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.
As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year’s award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it’s no coincidence that most winners are European.
“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world … not the United States,” he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
Well, I guess you’re going to be the center of the literary world if you designate yourself as the center, but tautologies seem to be too sophisticated a thought for Mr. Engdahl.
As for me, I’m a woman of simple tastes, and make a point never to read recent examples of Nobel Prize winning literature, since they seem better suited to a man of Mr. Engdahl’s dubious sophistication: unmoored to common concepts of grammar, narratively challenging, and morally vacuous. But that’s just me.