Venusian Americans and Martian Europeans
That a competent generation of English footballers was âgoldenâ. That a Linkin Park or Green Day CD album should cost over $ 20. That, with wise government, the vicissitudes of the business cycle were as eradicable as rubella.
There was so much pride in the early years of the millennium that it seems rude to pick a case of it for retroactive review. It’s just that, while the others climbed into the pyre of vanities that followed, this one burned itself on the edges before tumbling down more or less whole. It is perpetuated in books such as The strange death of Europe by Douglas Murray. It is there, in the vision of the Anglo-American right of Emmanuel Macron, this scourge of free trade, radical Islam and the cultural left, like a sort of decadent globalist.
I’m talking about the idea that âAmericans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venusâ. Writer Robert Kagan was referring to their respective propensities to resort to armed force abroad. To that extent, as the war in Iraq has shown, he was largely right. But its framing device has taken on a broader meaning. Europe was: unmoored; tasteless; lost in a post-Christian haze of relativism and self-doubt. The United States was: proudly western; more robust in the defense of its values; modern, not postmodern. Something called “moral clarity” was often attributed to the New World but not the Old World. It is difficult to explain to those under 30 how ingrained these perceptions were.
It’s hard because they’ve gone through their total reversal. Where would you expect to find a freer spirit of rational research now, a German or American campus? Where would you like to support the individualism of the Enlightenment to stand up to the march of group rights, France or the United States? Which country is most likely to tell its radicalized youth that in fact, no, we’re not going to upset our entire understanding of national history, but thank you: Italy or the United States? If you have the opportunity to cross the Atlantic frequently, which side do you find yourself most often treading on eggshells? In short, what place is attached to the point of chauvinism in its culture, and which is the most subject to a certain setback?
Push that argument too far and it will age as badly as the one from 20 years ago that it is supposed to make. Europe is no exception to wokism (there are those who would stop the use in French of this defined gender article, for example). Part of the source philosophy is French. The United States could be just 10 years further on the bumpy road to a common awakened destiny.
But even that would have baffled public intellectuals around 2003. For them, Europe was at the forefront of decadence and nihilism. America was, if not the keeper of the Western flame, then much slower to lose self-confidence. Why were they so wrong?
The biggest mistake has been to define the cultural threat as Muslim immigration and not as domestic rot. It was never bad to wonder how arrivals from the Maghreb or the Middle East could tip the scales of life, say, German or Swedish. More difficult to predict was that seventh-generation Americans, passing through pre-republic universities, would overthrow classic liberal standards in newsrooms, publishing houses, corporate C-suites. and other meteorological workplaces. âYou do it yourself,â sang Radiohead, âand that’s what really hurts. “
How brutally the United States and Europe challenged their stereotypes of the turn of the millennium. If there is any lesson here, it is for the one country that could possibly choose which of the two to turn to. Brexit, which increasingly demands to be defined on the Benny Hill theme, has always attracted the kind of person who cares about the cultural left. It’s a respectable thing to be concerned about. The mystery is how the hell it fits with pious Atlanticism. If enlightenment is such a threat, then turning away from an often unreconstructed Europe seems perverse. Embracing the United States where much of the Western heritage is “problematized” is even stranger. The economic argument for buyer’s remorse over Brexit is sufficiently well documented. The cultural could turn out to be even more obsessive.
Email Janan at [email protected]
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