Monday, December 21, 2015

Windows to the mind...

[I rewrote sections of the following entry.  I felt my word choices and sentence structures failed to articulate what I wanted.  I must've been pretty angry when I wrote the first version]

Someone recently asked if we were going to go see the Christmas lights around the city.  Shortly after the question came up I was up at Paris' only True Opera House (le Garnier, merci, very very French) and couldn't help but be attracted by the bright twinkly lights seen just up the street.  Like many living things, I'm attracted by shiny objects.  Les Galeries Lafayette were well lit in commercial celebration of the season (in a glorious American-style consumer commercialism).

Our Season of Celebration is off to a good start.  Our Gouter and Singalong began the festivities.  We then went to lunch with our apartment owners (very French) in a fabulous art nouveau restaurant (oh so French that it nearly breaks one's heart at the beauty of it all).  Just last night we had our apartment neighbors (Irish) up for a small apero (leaning into the Parisian, we must say).

Later this week we'll be visiting our friends (very French) who's country home we visited earlier this year. This will be followed by spending New Years Eve reveling with yet more friends (three Germans, three French) by seeing a circus (German, apparently) that's situated just behind le parc George Brassens (Parisian).  Dinner and drinks are to be shared shortly thereafter (a very French thing to do on 31 Decembre).

We are only half way through our Fun and Festivities, and a pattern seems to be emerging.

Many of our conversations revolve around the present state of American politics.  More specifically, we are questioned as to our feelings about Americans actually and in the final end voting for The Donald.  We try to quickly turn the conversations around to ask them how they feel about the Republican Clowns Who Would Be King Of America.  To a person we've been told of (French) people's shock at America' anti-intellectualism.

And there it was.  The Correct Way of putting it.  It's true, isn't it?  It all seems to come down to America' anti-intellectualism.

A quick look reveals many areas that might illustrate the point.  Conservative christianity in America celebrates anti-intellectualism in many obvious ways.  Sports (football, basketball, NASCAR, etc) work to evoke emotional "feel good" responses at the cost of "over thinking it all".  Reality TV is anything but reality as many people would know it.  America's response to the crisis of man-made global climate change seems to be based on desire, not fact.  America's response to the gun violence crisis is anything but intellectual.  America's response to the refugee crisis is based, not on what is actually happening, but on what could happen if ____ [fill in the blank with unfounded fear].

All too often it seems to me that America is quick to give an emotional response which "feels right" and "expresses what we the people really feel" and are very slow to think things through based on fact and truth.

It's not surprising, to me, that American politics has become the politics of anti-intellectualism, too.  It's in this climate of emotional reactionism that someone like The Donald (and all the other howling Would-Be Kings of America) can thrive.  It "feels right" that America is under attack by poor Mexicans who cross the southern boarder to take jobs away from hard working legal citizens.  It "feels right" that Social Security will go bankrupt in just a few years if the politicians don't kill it.  It "feels right" that 1200 noble prize winning scientists are wrong about global climate change and that the two or three "scientists" who work for oil companies are correct.  It "feels right" that America is not to be granted health care because to do so would be just too damned socialist for us.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.

Living overseas and talking with people who come from intellectual cultures (such as here in France, or in Germany, Italy, and parts of Spain) demands we have a well thought-out response to their questions.  They seem to know much more about the US than we know about Europe.  In short, they are well informed in ways Americans simply are not.  Someone recently suggested that's because America is the 900 pound gorilla stomping around on the world stage.

Honestly, this is what I've come to appreciate and love about Europe: We value intellectuals, intellectualism, intelligence, and rational frameworks of thought and philosophy.

I feel proud of our ability to get out while the getting out was good.  I feel a kinship with those who ask questions about how America can do what it's doing.  I feel as bewildered as our friends at how Americans behave.

From this perspective I feel Europeans can stand up to American Globalization.  They have a long history of making their voices heard, here. They have a long history of casting out the Would Be Conqueror.  I just hope they see America for what it is before it's too late.

Perhaps The Donald will play an important role in a much needed European awakening to what America really is.  Perhaps.

Christmas Windows ~ Paris 2015
The entire album of Paris Holiday Lights can be seen here


  1. Well put! I especially like this comment: "They seem to know much more about the US than we know about Europe. " I found that to be true as well when I was in Europe/UK back in 1974. I would get into conversations with people from various countries and was stunned by how much they knew about my country, and sometimes even my state, but I could barely come up with superficial comments about their country.

    The other stunning aspect is how many people from other countries know at least a little English, but most Americans know just English (and that's being generous).

    1. Exactly.

      Now, to be generous, Americans don't _need_ to be aware of anyone but themselves since they _are_ the 900 pound gorilla. I doubt many Romans knew nor cared a whit about Goths/Visigoths until it was too late.