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A voice from Germany

Reader comment on item: Europeans: From Venus?

Submitted by Michael Kleiner (Germany), Jul 19, 2002 at 12:47

Writing as a European (indeed a German), I find your article on European attitudes very much to the point. The self-righteousness of large strata of European elites toward the U.S. (much less prevalent among the general population) is shameful and a disgrace.

I would argue that the collective European mentality is still very much rooted in 19th/early 20th cent. conceptions of the world, when Europe dominated in virtually every sphere of life. Looking back to our glorious recent past - which of course in our conscious minds we condemn for its imperialism etc. -, we retain from it an unconscious sense of entitlement: we should dominate the world, that would be the natural order of things. (In structural terms this is eerily reminiscent of the Arab/Muslim mentality, isn't it, even if its expressions are much less raw.)

Many over here just can't stomach that the upstart U.S. has taken Europe's place as the single most important player in world politics. The result is envy turned into resentment, even hatred. It finds its preferred expressions in much cheap moralizing (often as uninformed as disgusting) and cultural arrogance, based on a solid foundation of ignorance.

Another indication of the enduring "colonial" mentality is the European guilt complex and concomitant readiness to accept lower moral standards in its dealings with (many) non-western nations. In the imperial age the European superiority complex expressed itself straighforwardly, in military subjugation of the colonies and the assumption of a presumed civilizing mission. Today that same superiority complex finds expression in inverted forms, but is nonetheless there. We incessantly lament the ostensibly irredeemable harm we have done to the colonies; and against that backdrop choose not to hold accountable the non-west in the same manner same as the west (with special emphasis, of course, on the U.S. and Israel). But all this apparent benevolence only masks arrogance. We keep construing the non-west as minors for whom allowances must be made. And our insistence on the colonial guilt just serves to reaffirm the enduring importance of our past "parental" action. "Better guilty than irrelevant" seems to be the pathetic motto.
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