Monday, December 06, 2004

View from an American in Europe

Via a link at Andrew Sullivan's I came across Bruce Bawer. He is an American living in Norway, which is interesting to me since I am a Norwegian living in America. He sees many faults with European's perception of America (and themselves), and I agree with much of it:
Living in Europe, I gradually came to appreciate American virtues I'd always taken for granted, or even disdained -- among them a lack of self-seriousness, a grasp of irony and self-deprecating humor, a friendly informality with strangers, an unashamed curiosity, an openness to new experience, an innate optimism, a willingness to think for oneself and speak one's mind and question the accepted way of doing things.
He makes a lot of accurate observations about Europe as well as pointed critisism of several anti-American writers. I respect his capacity for observation, and I agree with some of his more "general" conclusions such as this one:
that the “paradise” of peace and prosperity Europe now enjoys is made possible, quite simply, by American power.
Unfortunately, many of his arguments are of little value and reflect a very "defensive" attitude:
Indeed, according to a recent study by the Swedish Trade Research Institute, Swedes have a slightly lower standard of living than black Americans—a devastating statistic for Scandinavians, for whom both the unparalleled success of their own welfare economies and the pitiable poverty of blacks in the racist U.S. are articles of faith.
Final note on Mr. Bawer's style: He rambles on with one-sided critisism of Norway/Europe while peppering his article with "facts" and quotes from "famous" authors. This is precisely the style of all those "intellectual" and conformist anti-American Norwegian pundits he so dislikes. Norway would have benefited more from his visit if he had brought some good old American constructivism.

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