Saturday, 13 October 2007

Nobelling, Pt. II


I had some correspondence with a friend regarding what I think about Al Gore's Nobel Prize, which I think expands on what I wrote yesterday (odd how you sometimes have to work through a thought process "out loud" in order to properly articulate it), and even though I wrote what I did to her last night after coming home from the pub off the back of a few pints, I think sums my position up pretty well:

"It's the Swedish Academy wagging their collective finger [I wrote] and saying, 'If you only you'd asked us to elect your president, silly Americans! The the planet wouldn't be in this mess!'

I hate that patronising impulse that we Europeans have. All this hand-wringing about why Americans are so stupid - but we never stop to look at ourselves and ask what's stupid about us.

...

The electoral process might have been fucked up, but that's a matter for the US to deal with internally. Who are the Swedish Academy to make sly hints about it?

As far as Al Gore being president is concerned, it's impossible to say without a crystal ball, but from what I've heard of him he's a compulsive liar, self-promoter and hypocrite, which probably makes him the same as all politicians...with nothing to recommend him above the rest.

I remember seeing a clip of him giving a speech in back in 1999, where he said, pretty much word-for-word, that "Sure we might make mistakes, but we're still the greatest nation the world has ever seen - we always have been, we always will be!" while pounding his fist on the lecturn and glaring wildly at the audience. That sort of thing makes me think, well, George Bush might have had his blow-ups with the Germans and the French, and might have treated the UN in an arrogant way...but at least he never came out with anything as blindly idiotic and jingoistic as that.

Anyway, I'm sick and tired of people - in the UK, the US, Japan, wherever - whingeing about the political choices that are made in other countries, or whingeing about the way people vote. Sometimes other countries elect leaders you don't like, and sometimes electorates don't vote the way you'd like, but you just have to deal with it. That's democracy, and if you don't like it, then try to change the system. Don't waste your time ranting about Bush, making jokes about how stupid he is, and feeling smug - which is what most Brits and Europeans spend their time doing when the issue of US politics comes up."


I think my US readers would be surprised at how the cheapest humour at George Bush's expense can pass for satire in Europe, ever since the election of 2000. And the worst thing is, most Europeans secretly love the fact that Bush won that election, because to them it proved all the assumptions they make about middle-America - that it's full of illiterate hill-billies - true. It confirmed all their blind prejudices about the US, and the impluse for them is to go ahead and give themselves a nice pat on the back for not being American themselves. And I find that impluse, frankly, revolting.

It's the same impulse that sees the European left almost revelling in bad news from Iraq because they see it is another nail in Bush's coffin, which sees them love the fact that a militant, fascist regime is now in charge of Gaza because it does down Israel and Israel is the darling of the US, and which sees them stick up for buffons like Chavez purely because his rhetoric is directed at US foreign policy.

It's a sad state of affairs that so many so-called intelligent, broad-minded and well-educated people can be so biased and blinkered in their thinking, but that's intellectual life these days in the political left in Europe.

2 comments:

mattiecore said...

"Sure we might make mistakes, but we're still the greatest nation the world has ever seen - we always have been, we always will be!"

This is the kind of rhetoric that a lot of people in America really buy into. It's frightening that some people honestly believe this...

"Sometimes other countries elect leaders you don't like, and sometimes electorates don't vote the way you'd like, but you just have to deal with it."

And it gets especially difficult when your state doesn't put the third party candidate on the ballot, so you end up choosing between two candidates you don't even like. In the US, there's always a huge propagandist push to try and get people out and voting when elections come around (US voter turn-out is pretty dismal...), and despite all the explanations of why voting is so important, even if your candidate loses, I sometimes think it best to just not vote.

"And the worst thing is, most Europeans secretly love the fact that Bush won that election, because to them it proved all the assumptions they make about middle-America - that it's full of illiterate hill-billies - true."

Well, there's definitely a certain amount of truth to that, though I wouldn't say hill-billy or middle-America. The American public, in general, is not very savvy when it comes to politics. Most of them are not knowledgeable about a spectrum of issues; each person will usually have one or two issues that are very important to them, and will align with whichever candidate they agree with in that regard. And that's usually it: they follow that candidate through to election day. All other issue stances are given quick value-judgements (abortion = bad, gay marriage = bad, less taxes = good), but they don't really play into candidate choice as long as the candidate holds relatively similar views. It's a pretty sad state of things.

noisms said...

The American public, in general, is not very savvy when it comes to politics. Most of them are not knowledgeable about a spectrum of issues; each person will usually have one or two issues that are very important to them, and will align with whichever candidate they agree with in that regard.

But the thing is, Europe is like that too. Every democracy is, because the majority of people in a society can only be bothered to motivate themselves about a couple of issues that they feel strongly about.

In the US, it's abortion, gay marriage and taxes; in Britain it's the war, taxes and immigration; in France it's social security, immigration and unemployment. There isn't much difference in attitude - the issues people care about are slightly different, but the effect is the same: political naivety.

I would say that 90% of the voters in Britain vote for the parties their parents voted for, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn the same about every other long-term democracy in the world. So we British have no right to criticise Americans for being politically naive - but that doesn't stop us doing so.

And it pisses me off.