Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bosnia and My Disillusion with Europe

Ah, Europa, Europa . . . I'm reminded of you today from my reading about "a gruesome video of the shooting deaths of . . . [six Bosnian] Muslims from Srebrenica by Serb forces in July 1995."

I first went to Europe in 1986 as something of a Europhile, lived there for about seven of the nine years from 1986 to 1995, and left disillusioned.

Don't misunderstand me. I like European life, I have friends there, and I think that Europe is important.

I simply lost a lot of respect for the place, especially with the European left.


The key reason was Bosnia.

For years, the European left had talked endlessly about fascism -- analyzing, labeling, and condemning it. Leftists seemed to see fascism everywhere.

Until it really showed up in the ethnic cleansing and genocidal killing in Bosnia. Suddenly . . . silence.

Most of my friends at that time in Europe were on the left politically, but none of them wanted to talk about Bosnia.

I remember asking one young German woman why the left was so quiet. She said:

"Yugoslavia is far away."

Her words reminded me of Chamberlain's words about "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing."

With irony, I supplied her a geography lesson:

"It's on the other side of Austria."

Finally, in another discussion, a somewhat older woman on the left leveled with me:

"If we called for intervention, then NATO would have to do it, and we're against NATO."

I got it: anti-Americanism trumped anti-fascism.

Apparently, it still does.


At 10:39 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

Europhiles are delusional, I think. My cousin, an attorney in FL, is married to a woman who can't wait to move to France on her retirement...I sugggested that it's not a place in which one would want to be elderly and ill, citing the story of the heat wave that fatal August.

She was appalled. Mostly at me, for raining on her parade. What struck me later was that we hadn't gotten into politics at all (my cousin is a Catholic social democrat -- we all got that social justice education back in the old days -- but her motivation was probably driven partly by her elitism...

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My own Europhilia was occasioned by a greater acquaintance with European history and culture than with that of America. I took a lot of courses in European history as an undergraduate but took no interest in the history of America.

I wasn't embarassed or ashamed to be American. I just lacked interest.

Since living abroad and encountering small-mindedness everywhere, I've become more appreciative of America's positive traits.

Flexibility is a major difference in day-to-day life. Americans are more flexible in their thinking and behavior than Europeans. I learned this from deep and long experience.

That, and general friendliness, make the face-to-face interactions in America easier than in Europe.

(In case anyone was wondering, I also like living in Korea.)

At 8:35 AM, Blogger june cho said...

Like you, I used to appreciate Europe’s culture (compared with America’s lack of culture). When I visited there as a tourist for a month in 1994, I was impressed. But in the end I had to learn that her wealth or culture was found by sacrificing people from Africa and some Southeastern Asian countries. Her notorious colonialism was a major turn-off for me. And lack of flexibility (in terms of thinking) could be another. For example, German theologians never tried to study theology other than their own tradition.

However, since living in America, I have a second thought. I stop watching American news. The current American news is all about Michael Jackson, stupid Runaway Bride, and celebrity stuff. And I saw the video clip (you mentioned) on “BBC America” yesterday (not from American news). The program had an interview with a woman, whose son was shown on the video (he was one of the victims).

At least, Europeans are trying to know about the world; they watch the world news. But in America, nobody seems to care what’s going on in the world. I bet that not many people here even heard about Bosnia. Although Berkeley (you are from?) is quite a different place. People care about peace and the world. But places like LA (my current residence) are quite the same as the rest of America. They don't care about the world affairs (although I still like living in LA).

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

June, I find that most people in most places that I've been are not very aware of the rest of the world.

But online, there seem to be a lot of Americans with interest in politics, culture, ideas, and enough other things to hold their own with the Europeans that I met.

I would acknowledge one thing about the German Europeans, however. They do have a culture of discussion. I liked that -- the possibility of talking with Germans for hours about some issue. They would keep at it.

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... are too kind.


At 5:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Too kind, am I? Well, let me make a Europhobic joke:

A Spaniard who liked to impress Americans with his English skills was sitting in front of a local museum. An American approached and asked him:

"Is this the museum?"

The Spaniard reflected a moment on how to say "Si, si! Entre, entre!" then replied:

"If, if! Between, between!"

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. Was referring to - what I consider - the softballs Ms. Cho floated your way. Luckily, my aged brush now makes much finer lines. The painting may take longer to complete than one done with the broad strokes of a Ms. Cho…but the details I have make it worth the wait.


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

G., I'm looking forward to your artistry.


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