Apr 12, 2005

i don't get europe

While I was born in the US, I really was raised in England and France. I distinctly remember being overjoyed when my mom told me we would be returning to the US around age 11. Even though I considered myself English I just didn't like England or the rest of Europe for that matter. To me the US was big and free in comparison. Big in the sense that cars and mailboxes were big. And free (not in the political sense but more) in the social sense. Your heritage seemed to make a big difference in England. I was a little lucky because I went to a top private school, but I could see how people treated others based on where they were from and what their upbringing was. I hated that class structure. To see it at age 11 shows you how strong it is formalized into society. It was people clinging to the past. All about keeping the status quo.

This NY Times article (reg required) reflects this attitude and how Europe thinks about itself. It is desperately trying to hold on to it's past glories instead of creating new ones. That's a bit of a generalization but on some level it is true. England used to be the world's bully (as my British mom used to say). It 'owned' most of the world. And now it's just a small island. That creates a certain insecurity. France was arguably the cultural and political center of the world at one time. Now it seems insignificant in both those fields.

Now along comes this guy stating that it doesn't "want [] everything reflected in an American mirror. When it comes to presenting digitized books on the Web, we want to make our choice with our own criteria."

Does this guy not hear the fascist overtones in that statement? I know he thinks of Google as the fascist in this case but Google rightly points out, "as with Google [search], page rankings on Google Print will be defined by public demand and not by political, cultural or monetary variables." In other words it's up to the public to decide what literary works and critiques are brought to the forefront.

It's the same attitude that you see when people say the US jams it's McDonald's culture down the rest of the world. How exactly does the US do that? People in the rest of the world choose to go to McDonald's and choose to buy jeans and so on because that's what they want. Not because it's dictated.

Now don't get me wrong. I still have a love for England and France. When people say the French are assholes they really mean Parisians because outside of Paris most are very nice. Just like outside of New York people are actually kind of nice. No one gets on New York's case about this. But this Google thing infuriates me. Not because I hate Europe but because I actually like Europe. I would like to see Europe relevant again because it has clearly created wonderful things in the past. But it is slowly but surely tying a noose around it's neck with this kind of behavior. Until Europe stops holding up its past as a trophy, it will never change the inevitable forces that it finds itself being pummelled with (i.e., cultural irrelevance).

Can you imagine China whining and saying, 'hey we invented gunpowder and this should be rightly recognized in the perspective of the industrial world'? No. Those are old glories that have their place in history. Instead they adapt and create and figure out what is popular, what sells, what works and get about creating it and moving on.

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