Thursday, May 26, 2005

We're Europe; We're Smarter than You

Belgravia Dispatch pulls some good quotes from a pair of "New Yorker" articles about a conference in Munich attended by, among others, Wolfgang Ischinger, German Ambassador to the United States, and Sen. John McCain. Americans still smarting over George Galloway's smackdown of the U.S. Senate may be pleased to know McCain (according to the New Yorker writer) opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Europeans.

He crushed them. But it was a battle of people who were not equals--a U.S. senator and Presidential candidate, full of self-confidence, and a bureaucrat, extremely restricted, with instructions about what he can say. It was not a fair match.

McCain came off like a pit bull in a Hummel factory. But I can hardly blame him, after he had to sit through a steady drizzle of Euro-snobbery like this from Ischinger:

As older societies, we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve, and we tend to be skeptical of Americans who seem to think that if you believe hard enough, and you muster enough resources, you can change the world .... So don't preach to us. And don't think transformative change will work according to mechanistic rules. This is very complicated. Changing the way people think often has to do with religious and cultural issues--we tend to think of them as long-term, and Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!

Bleagh. Just in time, though not related, Neo-Neocon recounts a story to remind me that Europeans didn't always mask moral cowardice with phony claims of cultural maturity.

When General George Napier was governor of Sind province in India in the 1840s, he vigorously enforced the ban on suttee, the practice of throwing a Hindu widow on to the funeral pyre of her husband. A delegation of Brahmins came to him to explain that he must not prohibit the practice at the funeral of a particular maharaja, as it was an important cultural custom.

“If it is your custom to burn a widow alive, please go on,” Napier responded.

“We have a custom in our country that whoever burns a person alive shall be hanged. While you prepare the funeral pyre, my carpenters will be making the gallows to hang all of you. Let us all act according to our customs” The Brahmins thought better of it, and the widow lived.

I'm going to have to take the long-verdue step of adding NNC to the blogroll.