Sowiesoso (1987), by
Cluster. Wish u were there.
I'm Romanian, so that makes me a byzantine European, that is, inclined to chit chat at the street corner. Here's my 2 cents:
I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, PA, United States, between 1999 and 2002. In less than six months I had a strong feeling I don't belong to this culture. This feeling is standardly wrapped and softened in concepts like "cultural shock", implying that any culture is fine, but I disagree with this implication: any culture has something to fix in order to preserve humanism (the human as a naturally social creature).
My clear picture about US, in 2002, was that the low-density of people, the car and the big-capital freedom, biased everything: once you put a car under everybody's ass, small businesses from the city die in favor of big-businesses outside the city, because it's cumbersome to store a high-density of cars in the city, people migrate outside it, in driving distance from the new big stores or groceries, that means they spend a lot more time in their cars, which means they spend more time isolated and brainwashed by the radio stations financed by about 10 big media companies. I was surprised then to find out a more uniform opinion about everything than in Ceausescu's Romania (Ceausescu was a petty dictator in my country, before 1989). This uniformity was tested when the war with Afghanistan started, then with Iraq. Living far away from each other didn't help at getting feedback, like neighboring people in a bus/train can get, it also didn't help with the food quality, the only practical solution being to buy sacks of food on the week-end, to eat it over the next week. That implies plenty of preservatives, which implies plenty of allergies and new diseases, which is good for the health business or making-profit-from-disease business. This also erased the sidewalks so one can't walk from one corner of the city to another. This is the suburban concept: collect coupons for the week-end, go buy whatever the TV tells you it's fancy, sit and watch your boring dream surrounding you with cars rolling and overweight people running on the alley in front of your lawn. It was clear to me that these people where living for a few others, the rich ones, who had no problem moving their money overseas when the natives had too high (read normal) expectations from their work. The money got exported, and the debt remained with the optimist suburbanite, who still thinks that evil people envy him. But the oil resource is thinning and the North-American way of life has to change. Indeed, good signs appeared, in Pittsburgh, at least: in 2008 organic food and bike stores became more visible, although the groceries did not come back: Oakland, a place with two university campuses and a big hospital, has yet no real grocery. Somebody from Pittsburgh Post-gazette asked me if I have any opinion on the current political issues, given the context of presidential elections, I declined as a recently landed here, but I still have an opinion, as an European: I would vote for president the one that promises to replace most of the highways with trains, subways and an efficient Berlin-like or Vienna-like public transportation; the one who would fund research in electrical vehicles, electrical energy storage and production; the one who currently stays connected to the Internet at least 4 hours a day and spends less than a half-hour per day in a car.
Anyway, not all is that bad as it sounds from the previous paragraph: a recession is starting, meaning that rich people from everywhere are upset, meaning that people living on credit are forced to rethink their dreams, meaning that wars are less probable, unless religious. Beside peanut butter, the next-best thing in US is the popular no-bullshitting attitude, and this is no cheap thing when I think of Europe.
I lived 3 years in Berlin and 1 year in Vienna, the rest (37) in Romania. The Germanic part of Europe seemed much more attentive and eager to discuss about what's to be fixed. I felt them as healthy societies albeit the weather must affect their overall well-being. Peanut butter is not so good in Europe, unless imported from US, but public transportation, groceries and cafes allow people to socialize, to mature as humans. The high-density of people in Europe pushes many of them to fight to create a necessity and occupy a job to resolve it, meaning there are layers upon layers of people in unnecessary positions. This helps one mature, in general, through the brushing-with-each-other phenomenon, but also drives one to cynicism: non-manufacturing people start manufacturing interferences, smoke and mirrors. High-density population generates plenty of bullshit in Europe. In the background, Europe tries to copy all the free-capital based mistaken optimism, and it will fail similarly, with a variation: it did not assume that oil is forever; otherwise, the same wrong assumption that a higher number of people means a larger market and that this is supposed to solve all the problems. Because of the bullshitters in Europe, I couldn't get a research grant related to public digital libraries for four tries (one a year) in a row, and that in the context of the "knowledge-based society". Knowledge-based society my foot. The bullshitters need ignorants to work for them, not documented and inventive neighbors. European bullshitters think Europe can exist as an entity and work for them because it is or becomes a unified market. My hope is that a common language can save the European Union from committing the same basic mistakes as the US.
So I agreed to leave to US again (with no right to work), meanwhile getting old and tempted to become cynical about some of my fellow Europeans.
I think, the most fundamental problem of the US-Europe world is the copyright, or "intellectual property", an unjustified extension from potatoes to ideas or, rather, fake ideas. If the copyright is supposed to last a life and then some, then we should also pay rent to the potato grower: for each potato which we ate, we should pay a rent to him, pay it as a "service", for life and 70 years of his inheritors; each time we walk on a bridge or look at it, we should pay a fee to the engineer that built it.
The existence of copyright is the signal that the density of bullshitters reached a critical level, it also degrades the intellectuals into plain door-to-door sellers of fake things.