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December 04, 2002

NICK DENTON IS unhappy that I've been running items on Europe's problems. He doesn't say that the items I'm running are wrong, or that Europe doesn't have problems. He's just unhappy. Well, to be clear, my attitude isn't schadenfreude, exactly. It's more like someone who realizes that an alcoholic has to hit bottom before he gets help. I've been worried about where Europe has been headed for quite a while, and so far it seems to be following the script with worrisome accuracy. But far too many commentators in Europe, and in America, seem in denial about this. Thus, I think it's worthwhile to point it out.

Sadly, Nick follows up with this post featuring snotty remarks about the ignorance of people living in "suburban Tennessee," who obviously know nothing about Europe. Well, I lived in Germany for a while as a kid when my dad taught at Heidelberg, and when I was in law practice I had European clients like Ericsson and Siemens, and I have family in Paris who I visit occasionally, so I'm not exactly one of the Dukes of Hazzard mentioned in the post, though I claim no special expertise on European affairs. But, you know, you don't need to be on the train to appreciate a train wreck when it's happening. And it's happening.

Was it an example of nasty anti-Europeanism when NPR ran a story this afternoon that was essentially identical to my Gerhard Schroeder post from last night?

I think the truth just hurts. I'm sorry about that. I'd rather see Europe doing well, though I don't believe it's possible for Europe to do well while pursuing the current vision of "Europe." As for the sneers at me personally, well, I can take it, though I don't like that sort of stuff from someone I like and respect, and I don't think it does much to support Nick's argument. Nick and I agreed to disagree about Europe a while ago (I thought). But I don't talk about Nick that way, and I won't.

UPDATE: Brazilian poet Nelson Ascher emails from Paris:

I come from a country where the intellectuals at least are strongly anti-American and philo-European. Besides, my family left the continent only after WW2 and the language we spoke at home wasn't Portuguese, but Hungarian. I actually came to Europe, among other reasons, because of the landscape, or rather, the cityscapes, and because something around 9000 people are murdered every year in my 18 million people town or, in comparative numbers, 10 times as much as those killed by the Palestinians in Israel.

And curiously, I have been getting independently, and even before 911, to the same conclusions about Europe as you and many other bloggers. Besides, my conclusions are mainly based not on statistical data and economic or political analysis, but on the day to day observation of the way Europeans live, act and react.

Nothing (having spent my childhood and early youth under a military dictatorship) amazed me as much as the very convenient lack of interference by the population in the most important political decisions, a situation that is even more worrying when instead of individual countries we concentrate on the EU. I was already here during the recent elections and cannot remember any serious discussion on TV or in the press about France's foreign policy, for instance. The press and the rest of the media, by the way, don't much question the official line on most subjects. There are no French Chomskys, Swedish Howard Zinns, Italian Edward Saids or German Susan Sontags criticizing their own countries or continent: they only criticize the US (or the straw men of their own populist right wing). This is a very Soviet-like kind of free-speech.

Fortunately for you, the US is not as well acquainted with what we, in Brazil, call the civil servant mentality as we are. Even so, I don't think there's any need of describing it, is there? Enough to say that for me, in terms of work ethic and dynamism in general, Western Europeans are beginning, in a best case scenario, to look like Latin Americans and, in a worst case one, like the inhabitants of the Soviet empire.

Yeah, that's how it seems to me, too. Meanwhile, Charles Murtaugh tried to dismiss Lileks' worries about Euro-terrorism, but couldn't manage to.