Friday, September 21, 2007

French American Taboo

So now that we can read the NYTimes op-ed free of charge, let's have a look at this one on what Cohen calls "the French Revolution of 2007". He listed 10 taboos that are being destroyed by Sarkozy.
The article is somewhat simplistic but has some interesting points: it is true that the mood in France is changing rapidly but is this the result of Sarkozy's own doing or is he simply reaping the fruit of the changes that have occurred in this nation in the last 10 years? A bit of both, I'd say.
One example in mind is the pensions: according to all opinion polls, the reforms seem to be popular and are unlikely to bring thousands of protesters to the streets as they did in 1995, even if the unions are already calling (with little enthusiasm) for a strike in October.
The most interesting taboo though is probably this one:
THE AMERICAN TABOO Enthusiasm for the United States was unacceptable for a French political leader because it was always interpreted as an embrace of “Wild West” capitalism, “Anglo-Saxon” hegemony and vulgarity. De rigueur attitudes held sway: patronizing contempt in Paris met macho derision in Washington. Communication suffered. Sarko’s New Hampshire vacation, enthused American dreaming, iPod-accompanied jogging and in-your-face style cleared the air.
My idea has long been that, contrary to Germany, anti-Americanism has been more prevalent among the elite in France than with the "commoners". Besides, anti-Americanism is a vague notion: while people may be set against the Bush administration, a majority of them have a favorable view of the American people.
Early this week, PBS had a series on Anti-Americanism, called "The Anti-Americans,” a one-hour documentary. I haven't seen it, but according to the NYTimes, the answer to the question "Do Europeans love America or hate it?", is “Both.” We have, the show declares, “a hate-love relationship.
One thing I noticed is how most Americans can't stand that the rest of the world may not like them, or probably worse, be ignored them. Americans want to be loved.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote it best:
"The Americans, in their intercourse with strangers, appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise... They unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes."
And that was in 1835.


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