Alternately, are Bloomberg and Spanish journalists conspiring to bring down Berlusconi? Or, is poolside nudity more fun with machine-gunners casually lurking around?
Obviously, the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes.
Ok, maybe just a lukewarm yes.
Ok, fine. Perhaps just a maybe.
Auf jedenfall, The Germans
Exhibit A is a series of articles in Germany’s Der Spiegel bearing the umbrella title “Warum wir den Amerikanern ähnlicher sind, als wir glauben” (“Why We Are More Similar to Americans than We Believe”). Culling data and points of comparison from research conducted by Peter Baldwin, a professor of European history at UCLA, for his forthcoming book, The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike, the series compares Americans to Europeans from many different angles and draws a number of rather striking parallels and divergences.
And ach mein Gott, sometimes the data even favor the US! Could it be? Zum Beispiel:
"From an ecological perspective, America always comes across as very wasteful…. But the numbers say something different. The oil consumption per capita is in fact quite high. Yet when this is considered with respect to production (that is, in relation to goods produced or miles covered), then America falls within European limits and is actually in better standing than Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Iceland. CO2 emissions increased from 1990 to 2002, but they fell with respect to GDP in a way more distinct than in all 27 EU countries."
Unglaublich! But what about all those big fat cars? Aren’t we totally übermotorisiert? [Note: I refuse to translate that gem of a word.]
"Even the myth of the übermotorisiert nation can be refuted: per capita, Americas own fewer cars than Austrians, French, Swiss, Germans, Luxembourgers and Italians. And Americans are only a bit more dependent on their cars. But when one considers the kilometers driven with respect to landmass, then they even fall behind Finland, Sweden and Greece."
Nein! Nein! And what’s that? Neither do we produce that much garbage? Less per capita, actually, than Norwegians, and about the same as the Irish and the Danish? Crazy! Well, what about all that fake food we constantly spray with poison?
"Conventional farmers in the US waste less fertilizer than their European colleagues. And since their crops are genetically optimized, their use of pesticides is lower. Italians spray seven times more pesticides on their fields – and Belgians even more."
Phew! At least the food is still fake! Disappointing, however, is the notion that those adorable and delicious little cabbages called Brussels sprouts are just miniature toxin bombs. [That’s unsettling, too, given that the birthday dinner I recently prepared for myself featured – as the pathetically lone, butter-bathed entrée with a side of pretzels – the cheapass frozen version of those little fuckers. Yet since the German word for ‘poison’ is Gift, I suppose that all makes sense. So since I sincerely heart Brussels sprouts, I’ll keep giving myself buttery presents.]
Other points of comparison in the series pertain to religiosity, patriotism, various notions of cultural fortitude, self-critique and faith in government. In these concerns and many others, not only might we be quite different from what our European friends think, we might indeed be quite different from what we ourselves think. The flipside of all this, of course, is that Europeans don’t fit their typically less denigrating clichés either.
At the same time, numbers and statistics are easy to fudge to make convenient, alarming or desired claims, and asserting that Americans are ‘better than’ or ‘the same as’ or ‘not much worse than’ Europeans with regard to certain cultural and meta-cultural concerns is not necessarily something that should heighten anyone’s sense of aplomb.
In other words, the data should be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe even a whole teaspoon of salt in case our nation’s widespread high blood pressure is a fallacy as well.
Bloomberg and The Spanish contro Berlusconi
Italian politigoat Silvio Berlusconi continues to blow his wad dappertutto. Spain’s El País recently ran these photos (NSFW!) of the ever-scandalous prime minister daddy-macking poolside with naked women in topiary ecstasy, leisurely poised yet heavily armed guards, naked women hanging out with sculptures of naked youths and, most curiously, one man who appears to be astonished by either a blue and white striped towel or the neat trim of his own pubic hair. Although Berlusconi called the photos “innocent,” he also called them a “scandalous aggression” and denounced the Spanish daily.
In unrelated news, New York Times contributor Rachel Donadio has been accused, more or less, by an Italian magistrate of conspiring with Mayor Bloomberg to depose Italy’s oh-so chivalrous – he is called il Cavaliere, after all – leader. Or maybe that news is not unrelated. Maybe El País and Bloomberg are in cahoots. Bellissimo! How often does one get to use the word ‘cahoots’?
Now back to those opening questions: Maybe? Yes? Jawohl?