It is with a certain uneasiness that I am informed of the current financial crisis on the U.S. financial market, triggered by U.S. consumers and house owners heavily indebted and consuming on credits fueled by cheap mortgages in bygone days, and of which I have been warned several times during recent years, not the least by Alan Greenspan himself – and I admit to be worried, and angry. As a citizen of a state of Old Europe I wonder why I should be held accountable – despite my awe and understanding of the principles of globalization – for the failings of the Americans to keep their books together, after and while subjected to their demand of cheap oil (resulting in catastrophical exterior politics) and their extreme and undeniably unethical waste of our resources of energy and water. Now their heated consumer spending, fueled by the lowest interest rates in history, has landed them rather forseeably in troubled waters, a falling dollar and the possible collapse of the world markets, with heavy repercussions for my Old Europe Economy. In short: I paid for the lush lawns and middle class houses, the high powered cars and the landslide of gigantic refrigerators, with which I am confronted every day in the U.S.-produced sitcoms and movies (them being also part of the phenomenon of the so-called U.S. Cultural Imperialism) and of which I am critical due to their relentless myth-building American Dream of The-winner-takes-it-all. (OK, that was not so short…)
To be honest, I admire certain manifestations of the Pax Americana (as my esteemed colleague, Gore Vidal has called it): I am enthralled by the intellectual life on their universities, I am an ardent reader of such visionaires as Philip Roth, John Updike and Tom Wolfe, I am delighted with the publications of The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and the such – and I am a fan of a variety of Hollywood movies. I am in love with New York, Miami, L.A., and especially Santa Fe, I am thankful of the american invention of Fridges (first installed on U.S. warships, as the eminent architect R. Buckminster Fuller informs me in his writings) – and I have been in love with at least two american citizens in my past, I have to confess, and was greatly influenced and inspired by these experiences. It is for that that I now resemble a complaining and dissappointed child in relation to the U.S. in the sudden revelation that I can not admire, I can not understand, I can not unconditionally love all aspects of the U.S.A. Perhaps I can be ranked amidst the multitude of “old” european intellectuals, who, in their heart of hearts, would aspire to do the same, and yet, despite all their optimistic yearnings towards the U.S., are compelled to frustrate themselves in the deep criticism of “The land of the free”.
I have been in contact with the design-, lifestyle-and fashion worlds of the two continents for well over a decade and have formed, over the years, an opinion that might be surprising: There seems to exist a certain correlation between the admiration and idealisation of the Old World for the New and vice versa. Calvin Klein is inspired by the trends of Paris and Milan and the teams of Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani are very well aware of the street style in New York City. Andy Warhol portrayed german industrialists and Jonathan Meese meets the taste of american collectors. Boeing wants to outdo Airbus and Airbus wants to outdo Boeing.
I have often wondered how life would have been different for me had I been the son of an engineer working for General Motors in Detroit and not the firstborn of an engineer employed by Audi in Ingolstadt, in the midst of Bavaria. Would I have been able to study at all, given the exclusiveness and high price of education over there? Would I have been, during my severe illness, provided for in comparable wealth through the (non-existent) american Health Care, through a well balanced, state-financed social system (also not existent in the States)? Would I have had the same chances of a career as a journalist in a free market, as I had it in Europe? I have severe doubts about it.
And in the same vein I hesitate to support a globalization that threatens all these achievements of socialdemocratic politics (an achievement of well over the span of a century), just because Jimmy the Consumer could not be more careful with his investments. I resent it. And I am quite sure, would I have overspent my budget over here and Jimmy would be held accountable for my debts, he would resent that, too.