Saturday, October 20, 2012

Luck and opportunity...

My wife trades emails with a childhood friend who also lives here in Europe.  When  Jude told her she felt lucky to be here, her friend pointed out that being able to live here actually comes as a result of hard work and dedication to following dreams.

Jude and I are working hard to integrate into French life and culture.  We are taking language lessons.  We shop the local open-air market three days a week.  We enjoy using exercising our limited communication skills to find out what's on the minds of people who were born and raised in Paris.  We visit places of interest and see things with wondering eye.  We can't imagine living our lives any other way.

le musee de Cluny

As Jude says, if you don't by your lottery ticket, you stand no chance of being lucky enough to win.  "Luck" is expressed to those who put themselves in a position to take advantage of it.

I naively thought that if you were fortunate enough to live in Paris, that we must be of similar minds.  Boy, have I ever been wrong!

It is from this perspective that we can begin to see why the French roll their eyes when people begin the Standard American Pontification.  With feet set firm, and jaw clenched just so, the American Judgements On How Things Really Are And Need To Be all too often begin.  This does not work as a broad generalization.  Not every American ex-pat we meet Pontificates in the manner, but those who do certainly stand out.

le musee de Cluny

Why would anyone carry arrogant assumptions about how "right" they are while coming from a place where the food system is broken?  Coming from a money milking health care system provides third-world class services?  Coming from a circus-style political system that diverts any reasonable discussion of what might actually benefit We The People?  Coming from a place where a financial system is so clearly slanted to making more money for the already rich?

We watch as the French become uneasy when people start to Explain Just How Wrong the French Way Of Doing Things is.  Could you imagine how these same Americans might feel if someone back home started to explain how much better things are in, say, Thailand, or Germany, or, heaven forefend, Mexico?  I'm sure they would be asked why they didn't just turn around and go back to where they come from.  You can almost read this response in the eyes of the French when confronted with Americans who have all the answers to all the world's, and most certainly, France's problems.

Museum national d'Histoire naturelle

Such behavior leaves us, frankly, scratching our heads.  The certitude of being "right" has to be covering something.  Right?  Perhaps it covers incredible insecurities about the "rightness" of a failing system that people have no idea how to escape from?  Maybe it's that some ex-pats want a proscribed predefined Disney-esque fantasy of what it's like to live here?

The confused contrasts are sometimes startling.

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