Monday, August 26, 2002
I'M BACK IN SCHOOL!!!
Yeah, I know I'm a dork, but I'm not really happy unless I'm learning. Summer is always a challenge for me, since it's harder to learn, and so I have to motivate myself to do a lot of reading. As you may have noticed from reading my posts over the past three months, my brain tends to turn off when I'm not being challenged. I don't think it'd be too much of an exaggeration to say that virtually all my posts over the summer were craptacular. As I was looking over my "Best Of" stuff, I noticed that the early Theological Forays were significantly better than the later ones. However, after Plant Biology at 8AM and then Elementary Latin at 9, my brain has been jump-started (much like my car on Saturday, but that's a different story).
One of the things I started thinking about in the middle of Latin (while of course paying attention to my professor) when he mentioned that English and Romance languages differ in that English doesn't do much declining of verbs. I thought to myself that he's right, and that English solves the problem by simply appropriating or creating words to fill in the gap (English has over twice as many words as any other language, with second place going to German), while Latin tinkers with what's already extant. It then occurred to me that this can also be applied to the Anglospheric (I really would like a better term for that, by the way) and Western European ways of thinking (actually, I think that the Germanic people are still somewhat awkward in their acceptance of Romance thinking, but that could be a whole post in and of itself). Anglos value economy over conservation, though if conservation is efficient, it becomes economical. Europeans are more inward-looking and tend to go more by what they already know. Both of these can be useful for different applications. In recent memory, it has been the British and the Americans who've been kicking donkey and taking names while the French and Italians get embarassed in the World Cup. C'est la vie. When it comes time to do something, Anglos will build up overwhelming power (force, intelligence, skill, etc.) aided by strong economies, while the Europeans will try and appeal to the better nature of their opponents. This is the difference between the aggressive mentality of Anglos and the defensive mentality of the Europeans. There's a reason why Americans are considered go-getters and the French are considered talkers. Again, both have their applications, and I don't just mean using Europeans as slave labor (must...resist...easy...sarcastic...remark...nnnnnnnngggggghhhhhhh). Do the Europeans have anything useful to contribute to the world or American life? Of course they do, but when it's bookended with nasty, rude, and ignorant remarks and actions, we tend to tune out. After hearing a certain amount of "Americans are 5% of the world's population but consume 23% of the resources" and "you had the attacks coming," we naturally get a little pissed off and our response is to tell the world that they can suck it. We don't want to hear about how to wage economic war by poor and/or socialist nations, and we don't want to hear about how to wage military war by countries several generations behind us in tactics and weaponry and who have virtually no independent capability to project their own power. We eventually get to the point where we simply say that if X is such a great idea, then why aren't people doing it of their own free will?
A lot of good philosophical ideas have come from Europe. The problem was and is that, not being democratic by nature, the European mentality is to have these ideas imposed on the masses (commoners, proletariat, plebes) by the elites. If you try that in Anglospheric nations, you're going to provoke outrage and quite possibly open revolt. The Anglo way is persuasion first, with coercion as a last resort. If, like the Europeans, you first try to coerce, you'd better succeed, because persuasion is no longer an option. Take logging, for instance. When large stands of trees are declared off-limits, loggers will either try to get them declared okay for logging or will simply go and cut down trees elsewhere, which in the end only moves the problem without solving it. However, if companies see that planting trees to replace the ones they lose guarantees them a resource in the future and even makes people think more highly of the company, you'd better believe that they'll plant forests, and may even start trying to put forests where none existed before.
I think a lot of the European frustration comes from the fact that they're attitude is somewhat all-or-nothing, and so they inevitably set themselves up for a lot of disappointment. With disappointment comes resentment, and that resentment is directed at countries that are more successful. Most Americans don't eat French food, while quite a few Frenchmen eat McDonalds. Americans don't really hate the French, but we're sick of being disliked for (to us) no apparent reason. That we expect some small gratitude for helping save their country twice in 30 years only heightens this feeling. If tomorrow the French started saying that "Tu sais, the Americans really aren't that bad. They're a little rough around the edges, but they've always been there for us [brief note: if Marseilles was nuked or sprayed, do you really think that America wouldn't be on the phone offering to deliver some cruise missiles by express airmail to the perpetrator, to be followed by troops by shipping and ground transport? What was the French response to 9/11?]. Maybe we should rent Batman and get some Whoppers and see if American culture is really as bad we've all been told," I'd bet that Americans would suddenly start talking about taking cruises on the Riviera, visiting Provence, and going to the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Heck, we'd probably even talking about how sophisticated and suave the French are. Simply put, we're sick of always being the bad guys, and if other people would let up for a second, I think we'd all get along a lot better.
(this post was partially inspired by a post at Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler)