Tuesday 25 May 2010

Get Lazy! The game of social life.

Enjoy this classic till I get a couple of articles finished.


  1. That's great! But I think Marie wouldn't understand the English -- her problem, unfortunately, as you've delicately tried to point out to her, is her truly poor command of English. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if she merely plugs French into Yahoo's BabelFish translator and posts the results. That would just about account for the heavily stilted sentence structure -- although not for the misspelled words... So perhaps I'm wrong on that. In fact, perhaps her English would improve if she used an automatic translator like BabelFish!

    Yes, your "one idea" nation is interesting -- I think another way of saying it is that the France is
    1) very provincial (the "echo chamber effect" - they only listen to themselves because they only take themselves seriously and no one else) and
    2) is entirely ruled, and totally influenced by an "elite" -- which exists of course in other European countries, but not quite to the same degree I think that it does in France.

    My understanding is that there is Paris, and then there's the rest of France -- 2 essentially separate countries with "the rest of France" not counting for much at all in terms of "influence."

    That's one of the reasons why in this country (USA), you'll note, we always separate our capitols from our most influential city. So on the Country level, the capitol "should" have been in NYC, but of course we drew a square in the swamp lands in the middle of nowhere (and because it was a Frenchman, he had to tilt the square so that it appears like a diamond and subsequently throw off all the streets and requires circle-interchanges that get you lost within minutes of driving anywhere) -- and believe me, DC was a nowhere town until the Kennedy's brought some culture to it. And even then, it was still a very small city -- when I was growing up as a kid just south of it and going in to see the American Ballet Theater at the Kennedy Center every couple of months -- there were NO buildings along the 95 corridor north of Richmond until you hit the beltway, and even then, there was still plenty of trees until you left VA proper!

    Now, from Fredericksburg North is almost continuous building -- and that's basically the halfway point from Richmond to DC (100 miles total) -- 20 almost 50 miles of building on the 95 corridor leading to DC and growing outwards in all directions -- mostly West and South though since Maryland is "already taken" ;-)

    Anyway, the "geographical spreading of power theory" is why in EVERY state in the US, the capitol is never the biggest or most influential (necessarily) city. A very few exceptions exist I suppose -- my state, Virginia (Richmond -- but really Norfolk / VA Beach beats it in population and influence given the Navy's role). But look at NY again, they put the capitol as far away as they possibly could from "the city!" And on and on for just about every state. It's the mark of smart planning I think. Once I "figured it out" I thought it was brilliant. It helps to cut down on corruption -- certainly in the days before instantaneous communication -- but even now where face-to-face communication is still a necessity for corruption to really take off.

  2. Your assessment of France is spot-on. One of the most infuriating anecdotes that I have is from my time in Valenciennes. I was invited to eat dinner with a recently arrived American friend and three French citizens. During the middle of the dinner, in the apartment of one of the French guys, a political discussion developed involving America. My friend's French was not extremely good (as good as MC's at least) but mine we were both able to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Neither one of us was allowed to finish a sentence without being cut off. This, in my mind, was an extraordinary opportunity for them to discuss life in America with 2 real Americans. We were completely ignored. The two Frenchmen had a 30 minute discussion about America without once asking us our opinion. In fact, when I jumped in, they pretended like I wasn't even speaking; they just continued with each other.

    This was not a one-off occurrence. I had close friends who would ask me questions and then not believe me until I found a French source that agreed. It is a strange kind of nationalism where people only trust the opinions of their official elite. Prominently placed in all of the bookstores were entire sections devoted to the evils of America. Amongst the titles were "Americans are fat, ugly and stupid", "America worries me", and of course, the famous "Who is killing France?" (I'm sure you can guess what the answer is.) The truth is that the French are largely obsessed. The fact that we do not reciprocate makes it even worse. It's like we have a stalker whose name we do not know. It permeates everything they do. Even in German grammar books for French pupils, America was used as the bad example in comparative forms. (Americans produce the most trash, Americans are the fattest, Americans are the poorest.) It really is quite sad when you think about it.

    America is the obsession of a lot of the European elite, and the French dependence on them makes it one of the most anti-American countries in Europe. As for MC, I have had that argument more times than I care to count. You respond with facts, they disregard them and argue from emotion. Her incoherence is due not only to her poor English, but also due to her inability to structure an argument from a logical standpoint. Even though I can reverse translate some of it, like the idioms, a great deal is beyond my reasoning. But frankly, there is little one can say to someone who points out that Jews and Arabs in France are friends on facebook while ignoring the increasing waves of Aliyah driven by anti-semitism. She's a lost cause. I would actually like her to write some in French somewhere else so I could figure out what she is trying to say, at least.

    It is certainly good that we keep our politicians removed from everyone else. I would suggest on the island in Lost but allow them to reach us once a week by telephone call. Paris is indeed France. Much of the rest of the country is farmland that has remained unchanged for quite some time. Regional in France is found only in the realm of cuisine; regional politicians are really just the local face for national policies. It's a really strange place that could never grasp American decentralization. They fact that Canberra and Ottowa are national capitals is completely lost on them. Ottowa isn't even the largest city in the province. This goes a long way towards explaining why we will possibly never understand each other.

  3. Great commentary, here and at PJM.

    My impression, developed in a long internet acquaintance with a prototypical, élitist French guy, is that some sort of holier-than-thou satisfaction is gained through looking down long aquiline noses at we boorish Americans.

    Part of the mindset, naturellement, is that with the advent of BHO, this French élite is immensely relieved that America finally has an enlightened President.

    Such de rigueur positions appear to be intractable for an entire cadre of self-anointed French "intellectuals".

    The rigidity of a body of assumptions is, in itself, curious.

    When I have brought up the subjects of a European resurgence in anti-Semitism & the growing Muslim problems in the banlieues, my friend tells me that these are not problems, not really even happening. "There is no anti-semitism in France"

    Eventually, I came to avoid discussing politics with him or trying to correct his fixed body of assumptions about the United States.

  4. Same with my French friends. I find I can often discuss with Germans, even though we have been living in two different realities for the past few decades. But the French, they can't even discuss basics with their closest neighbors. What surprised me the most was how angry they get when faced with anyone else's achievements, and just how unable they are to control themselves. I remember being verbally assaulted at some parties (yes, plural) for no reason at all. One encounter was extremely brief. A woman asked me why Americans think they are better than France. I was relatively polite, said we have more freedom, less racism, and pointed out without a hint of malice that we were living in the American century. Her next reaction was to complain that so many people use the English words like "walkman" when there is a government ministry that makes French words. I suggested maybe it was natural and she stood up, put her fingers in my face and shouted "I don't give a damn about American world supremacy." This was while we were both guests at a dinner party.

    Thanks for the comments. I too really enjoy both of your comments. It is good to here non-German commentary occasionally!

  5. The "there is no antisemitism in France" is like "there are no homosexuals in Iran" -- no difference at all.