Saturday, July 2

If you don't clearly define yourself, others will do it for you

"Pundita, I'm getting sick of the Brussels gang. I think they promoted anti-Americanism as a way to change the subject about their behavior during the European colonizing eras. Now they're starting in on democracy as a way to fight Bush. You wrote some time back about the US having program to help spread Western values among Muslims. Forget Operation Muslim Outreach; what we really need is Operation Europe Outreach.
Caesar in San Francisco"

Dear Caesar:
If you think you're sick of Brussels, you should talk with young Europeans -- the kind who rejected the EU Constitution. Pundita gets an earful every spring and summer, when we bounce around Washington, DC talking with tourists. This could be coincidental but since Bush's very strong, uncompromsing speeches about democracy after his reelection, I noted a change in the talk this spring, before the EU vote. They were no longer sounding resigned.

Previously I'd heard a lot of complaints about corrupt bureaucracy and a small minority making the decisions but this always finished with some version of, "What can you do?" They accepted the idea that government is inherently corrupt.

That shows how far their societies had drifted from the concept of democracy. They were looking at government as a ruling class -- an emperor's court -- and so believed themselves a long way from Rome. But that's ridiculous; in a democracy the government is the people. So, if you think the government is corrupt then get together and change it. Don't sit around in a wine bar or cafe rolling your eyes and shrugging.

I don't know how much the Brussels Sprouts crowd has done to promote anti-Americanism -- but I'll give you that it would be a clever way to deflect criticism from Brussels. If indeed it's a strategy, I suspect from conversations I had this spring, and from the Non and Neen votes, that it's not working well these days.

The weirdest thing about the European Union -- or at least the attempt to create a United States of Europe -- is that it's so much against the grain of the French. The French have always prized highly independent thought and discursive thinking. Remember this is the land that gave us a big batch of Enlightenment philosophers.

So for years Pundita has been wondering how the French are holding up with the push to merge themselves in a Great Motherland. Not terribly well it, seems, from the Non vote and the heat behind it.

In short, the French might be coming to their senses. If so, they can start applying their famous discursive thought to the issues. For example, there is a difference between cooperation and trying to become a blob to please everyone and offend no one. There is also a difference between multilaterialism and trying to merge with a group.

But many Americans are confused about these same points. So before we talk about Operation Europe Outreach, how about if we start with Operation America Outreach?

Instilling Western values in other lands is a really big job. You have to know Latin and ancient Greek, for starters. Then you have to begin with Thales and work up through the Western philosophy food chain.

So why don't we start with something simple? Why don't we try instilling more knowledge of American history and America's view on democracy in our own people? Because if we do not have a clear idea of who we are, peoples in other lands will supply the idea for us.

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