Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Transatlantic Differences

Remember the debates about (North) American and European mentalities when G.W. Bush was in office (unelected - I'm still convinced or is this just my wishful thinking?) and many commentators seemed to believe that the U.S. and Europe drifted apart because of Cheney and Rumsfeld etc.? I happened to believe then and I happen to believe now that North American and European mainstream attitudes are signifîcantly different whether Obama or Cheney is in power. A recent article by Mary Dejevsky in The Independent highlights an interesting aspect of these differences. Here's an excerpt:

"The point is that, when on "normal", the needle of the US barometer is not only quite a way to the political right of where it would be in Europe, but showing a very different atmospheric level, too. For there is a mean and merciless streak in mainstream US attitudes, which tolerates much more in the way of inequality, deprivation and suffering than is acceptable here, while incorporating a large and often sanctimonious quotient of blame.

This transatlantic difference goes far beyond the healthcare debate. Consider the give-no-quarter statements out of the US on the release of the Lockerbie bomber – or the continued application of the death penalty, or the fact that excessive violence is far more common a cause for censorship of US films in Europe than sex. Or even, in documents emerging from the CIA, a different tolerance threshold where torture and terrorism are concerned.

Some put the divergence down to the ideological rigidity that led Puritans and others to flee to America in the first place; others to the ruthless struggle for survival that marked the early settlement years and the conquest of the West. Still others see it as the price the US pays for its material success. What it means, though, is that if and when Obama gets some form of health reform through, it will reflect America's fears quite as much as its promise. And it is unlikely to be a national service that looks anything like ours."

For the full text, go here

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