Tuesday, June 20, 2006

American Way of Life à la European.

President Bush is to meet EU leaders in Austria tomorrow. (This is because Austria holds the rotating EU presidency). Bush is the first American president to visit in 27 years but he is also the least popular one (ABC News).

Almost nowhere in Europe is disdain for Bush greater than in Austria, where a recent poll by the Vienna-based News magazine found that 72% of respondents said the U.S. president was not likable and a danger to world peace. (LATimes)

So the police were on alert for possible violent anti-Bush demonstrations.

More interestingly is this analysis in today’s Los Angeles Times on how the Europeans don’t like US politics but do like American entertainment. This is nothing new of course. What is more telling is that a rising number of Austrians say they dislike the "American way of life". (whatever that may mean in their eyes).

Those who viewed American life negatively rose from 48% in 2000 to 61% in 2005, according to the Sora Institute polling group in Austria.

"To some extent, this is influenced by politics, but there are some new things too: Austrians and Europeans see that Americans have to work very hard for their wealth…. You've got to have two jobs, or work lots of overtime," he said. "So Austrians don't want to become like Americans anymore."

But at the same time, American popular culture, with its candor and deep optimism, still resonates. In some measure that is part of a long tradition of enthusiasm for Americana, particularly jazz, rock music and blue jeans. But it is also about a certain deep populism that Europe, which has a tradition of elites, especially admires.

In other words, let’s take the candor and optimism (i.e. the idealism) but leave the hard work, even if that means less wealth so that we can enjoy life’s pleasures way more. I think this encapsulates quite well how most Europeans view an ideal society.


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