The view from across the pond

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.

[snip]

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.

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Comments

  1. Oldflyer says

    Ho hum!

    I see the $$ is up dramatically against the Euro. Banks are failing in England. Our unemployment rate has risen to within perhaps 4 points of what Germany and France have been running for awhile. Russia has had a tremendous sum of foreign investment leave the county since their great Georgian adventure. Petro $$ in Russia are shrinking as the price of oil sinks. Still, the Germans among other Europeans are nearly totally dependent on the “Bear” for their energy. Wouldn’t that would give you a really warm and cozy feeling? France isn’t much in the news; I guess that means they aren’t burning cars at the every night.

    I would just say to the Euros. If you will take care of your problems we will take care of ours.

  2. Mike Devx says

    Book says,

    >unmoored to common concepts of grammar, narratively challenging, and morally vacuous.

    Reminds me of Mark Twain’s takedown of James Fenimore Cooper in an essay titled “Cooper’s Prose Style”. He deconstructs a couple of paragraphs from “The Last of the Mohicans”, claims that Cooper has committed 114 of 115 possible literary transgressions, and corrects the prose.

    It’s brilliant and scathing!

  3. Gringo says

    The US wipes out the competition in the Nobel Prizes for the hard sciences and for economics. For soft choices such as the Peace Prize and Literature, there are definite choices made to put down the un-Euro part of the US. Such as the comment made by a Norwegian member of the committee that chose to award the Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter: it was done to put down Dubya and his approach to Saddam Hussein.

    I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about what the Euros say, at least no more than to post this opinion.

    What European literature after 1960 do we read in the US? Post Camus? European music after 1960, apart from the Stones and Beatles- themselves greatly US-influenced? (Not just blues and rock and roll. Many in the Brit bands had played skiffle music in the 1950s, which was basically American Folk music set to a beat.)

  4. Gorgasal says

    I’m German. Anti-Americanism runs rampant in our media, but Spiegel (especially its online version, and most particularly its execrable Marc Pitzke) outdoes the rest when it comes to frothing-at-the-mouth sheer lunacy.

    And I really can’t take the Nobel Prizes in Peace or Literature seriously. Unfortunately, many people around me do.

  5. Danny Lemieux says

    I agree with YM – with the exception of the EU province of the U.K., where literary arts still flourish, EUrope produces very little of note. Part of the reason is that their markets (delineated by language) are so small. However, there is another more important reason:

    To me, one of the really pathetic aspects of French culture, when I visit, is that the still-“popular” artists (in literature and film) are for the most part people that made their names 30-40 years ago. Johnny Hallyday, Catherine Deneuve…really! I believe that, much as the National Endowment for the Arts does here, their socialized societies tend to produce large volumes of subsidized mediocrity that drown-out the good. The really good artists must go to foreign markets (read: U.S.A.) to succeed.

    However, to Gringo’s point…if you really, really want to p*** off Europeans, simply ignore them.

  6. Danny Lemieux says

    Incidentally, the Spiegel article is a hoot. Their anti-American gloating gets in the way of their analysis and only supports my contention that EUros can only perceive Americans through caricature.

    Time and time again, EUrope’s economy proves the dictum that when America’s economy sneezes, EUrope catches a cold. The (as applied) accounting standards for European banks are far worse than they are for U.S. banks and EUrope governing structure lacks the flexibility to deal with crises either quickly or wisely.

    I would not be surprised if the U.S. weathers this current crisis in fine form (having been rescued from making bad decisions by informed and angry voters) only to see the European banks collapse. Here’s a very good and incisive insight from across the pond: http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2008/10/we-get-what-we-deserve.html

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  1. Silly stuff, but I can’t resist fisking……

    America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role, By SPIEGEL Staff (Thanks to Bookworm) 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-cap…

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