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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Strange views of the ‘European’ mind

Victor Davis Hanson has written a truly bizarre and confused article in National Review in which he attempts to define the widening gulf between the ‘Europeans’ and the United States (he does not really explain which Europeans he has in mind… Greeks? Germans? Portuguese? Finns?).

He suggests that one reason for ‘European’ disdain for the United States, not just amongst some poisoned social elite ruling class but the man in the street, comes from dislike of the middle and lower class orientation of American culture.

[America is] the only one in history in which the hard-working and perennially exhausted lower and middle classes are empowered economically and have fully taken control of the popular culture to create strange institutions from Sunday cookouts and do-it-yourself home improvement to tasteless appurtenances such as Winnebagos, jet skis, and Play Station IIs.

Ah yes, I frequently hear ‘European’ taxi cab drivers, nurses, office workers and house painters bemoan those tasteless Americans whilst listening to Beethoven on the radio and discoursing on Sartre with each other… oh pleeeease. I don’t know who Victor Davis Hanson hung out with on his trip to ‘Europe’ (I guess ‘Europe’ is all just a homogenous mass to a Mexican Canadian Yank like Hanson) but mass culture in western Europe is pretty much overrun with Winnebagos, jet skis, and Play Station IIs… and ghastly low brow Euro pop music, tabloid newspapers, celebrations of half-wittedness like ‘Big Brother’ on television and other such manifestations of lower and middle class ‘cultural empowerment’. The reality of what common people in ‘Europe’ think about the United States is that for the most part they don’t really think about it much at all. The USA does not loom as large in the popular psyche as Hanson thinks.

As for me, describing the United States as ‘the only one in history in which the hard-working and perennially exhausted lower and middle classes are empowered economically’ causes a wry smile. I wish it was more generally true. Unfortunately the USA is just as much in the grip of statist corporatism as Europe, only unlike Europe, the opposition to it is better organised. I wish Hanson’s rose tinted view of the USA was correct because I see much in American enterprise culture to admire but there are two Americas… one of which twice elected President Clinton on a platform not of economic empowerment but of welfare dependency and statism. Unfortunately it is not too hard to find the views Hanson thinks particularly ‘European’ being aired in Los Angeles and Boston.

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