American Viewed by Europe, Europe Viewed by America

Yesterday’s posting (the one about Poland, not the one about Luxembourg) had something interesting in connection with that opinion article by George Soros, Victims as Perpetrators. You’ll recall that I first became aware of it from its publication rather outside the regular English-language precincts of the Internet, namely in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita. Once discovered there, though, it only took Google to track down the even more obscurely-published original English version. Maybe this phenomenon is brand new for €S; I can’t recall anything similar happening, although I can’t be absolutely sure that it has not (and, sorry, I’m not inclined to search through my archives to find out).

In any case – what do you know? – it’s about to happen again. I was checking out the Czech press (since today, the last Monday in May, is no sort of holiday there – no Memorial Day, no bank holiday, no Pentecost or anything else) and ran across a very interesting opinion piece in Hospodarske noviny entitled (there) Europe in the Eyes of America, by Hans Bergstrom, lecturer in political science at the University of Goteborg (Sweden). Again, don’t bother brushing up on your Czech unless you were looking for an excuse: I pretty easily found what must be the original article in English (unless Bergstrom wrote the original in Swedish) here in (of all places) the Taipei Times. Or if you prefer “Your right to know: A new voice for Pakistan,” check out the same in the Pakistan Daily Times(!).

Whichever of these two you want to consult, you can read Bergstrom’s piece in its English entirety. It’s an interesting addition to the “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus” debate kicked off by Robert Kagan last year as the War in Iraq inexorably approached. “Europeans are constantly reminded of all that is wrong with the US. But perhaps Europeans should reverse the process: what do Americans think is wrong with Europe?” Lots is wrong with Europe, first and foremost what Bergstrom terms the “self-inflicted [economic] stagnation.” EU leaders declared in March, 2000, at their European summit in Lisbon that “Europe would become the world’s most competitive region by 2010,” but all that is happening on that front is that “Lisbon” is making the swift trip to becoming shorthand for the solemn emission of fatuous hot air. Also: “Americans see a total inability by Europe to handle immigration in ways that encourage dynamism and diversity instead of antagonism and higher state spending,” which is especially unfortunate in view of the necessity of having those immigrants, given what is otherwise the steadily decline in European populations. Plus we are reminded that it was American force that solved the Milosevic problem in the Balkans, including an attempted wholesale ethnic-cleansing of the Albanian population from Kosovo, even though that region can with little exaggeration be termed right on Europe’s doorstep. Plus research scientists seem to vastly prefer pursuing research over in the States rather than over here. Plus, Americans are supposedly “self-critical, far more so than most Europeans.” That could be; I’m waiting for the result of November’s presidential election to be sure, though.

This is all from a European, mind you, a Swede. Is he so obscure that his writings can only find a welcome in Islamabad and Taipei – and in translation on the pages of Hospodarske noviny? Whether that’s the case or not, at least the magic of the Internet means that that should not necessarily matter.

. . . and why not go for the daily-double? Another leading Czech daily, Lidové noviny, reports today on that souvenir pistol that President Bush keeps mounted in his study next to the Oval Office, the one that Saddam Hussein was packing when he was captured last December in his spider-hole near Tikrit. But this story comes not from any obscure publication, but rather the Time magazine website. So I’ll leave it for you to get the details there, except for one thing: Lidové noviny, unlike Time, welcomes comments from readers on its articles, whose threads it publishes on the very same webpage, and the very first one at the bottom simply asks “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to buy it from him?”

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