IMPORTING THESE EUROPEAN CONCEPTS WILL MAKE FOR A BETTER AMERICA
There have been a few articles on Medium about the experience of Europeans in America. I would like to take a different approach and write of some of European life we would be wise to integrate into American life. Most of these will not be easy, because America, geographically isolated, has a deep sense of the very American “Manifest Destiny”, an old chestnut that has been burnt to a crisp in the fires of history.
Here are some traits/habits/politics/ etc I believe America would benefit from. Before I list them, please allow me to qualify myself. My Bavarian mother spoke German to me before English (I was born in 1946, veritable old-fart territory). I went to school in Europe as a child and have lived there for a total of 2 years if I include my frequent visits (the last of which was in the ’70s) Europe is far from perfect as the German neo-nazis and the rise of illiberalism in Hungary and Poland demonstrate. That does not mean it is devoid of lessons for us:
- THE EUROPEAN LIFESTYLE- The happiest nations on Earth are European. They have a work-life relationship that emphasizes life over work. Fewer hours and more vacations. With the Schengen rule, any European in the EU can travel to another EU state and live there.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, French family in the age of Black and White
I am old enough to remember when a brave Frenchman (Robert Schuman)and a brave German (Konrad Adenauer) formed the European Coal and Steel Union that evolved into the EU. The EU is a modern miracle — no wars in nearly a century after hosting the two most destructive wars in history. This is no small achievement. It is an imperfect union with some hyper-right elements causing dissonance from vaccines to polarized illiberalism. Yet, overall, Europe does not have a Fox-news hyperpolarization.
Finland is the model I would import — Finland probably has the best educational system, up to and including high school, in the world. The teachers get the same respect as other respected professions — doctors, lawyers — and all have a Master’s degree in education. Imagine the transformation in America if every (and I mean every) child got a quality education. Also, the Europeans have apprenticeship education, so that no matter what one’s interest, a place will be prepared for nearly every student. We fail our most basic and important resource daily in America with an ignominious maldistribution of quality education.
4. A SANE SEXUALITY
I would import the Dutch model of sexuality. Europe is undergoing a minor conflict on the role of sex work — however, it is generally available and the sex workers are treated with more dignity than in the Americ and get healthcare. This is not universal in Europe and should be their model.
(This is not to say that European Sex Work is heaven on earth — there are abundant cases of sex trafficking, unregulated immigration of 3rd world sex workers and underage prostitution. The French have a very cavalier attitude towards sex with minors. Please see artworks of Balthus).
When it comes to sex, if you read any article on Medium by the 3Cers (Cancel-Culture-Cultists), you realize America is a sexual mess. Overhyped sex with a deep-rooted fear of sex. The Europeans, like the Asians, accept sex as a healthy part of life. We could too if we were not so busy selling images of sex while complaining bitterly about our quality of sex. Oversold, underperformed.
We should be offering our children a sexual education beginning in First Grade that reflects reality. Our generation Z have all seen porn by age 11. Mechanics, yes, appropriate emotions, no. Now try to imagine comprehensive sex education in a red state; I lived in the bootheel of Missouri for ten years — fine people, no sex education, an epidemic of teenage mothers.
The Dutch in their wisdom offer sex workers to men in retirement homes. How delightful. Try, if you can wrap your mind around it, to imagine an American retirement home that sex workers visit. My mind gets a headache.
6. AN APPRECIATION OF LANGUAGES OTHER THAN THEIR OWN
Try to talk in a foreign language in America. Cannot be done easily, if at all. On the other hand, most Europeans speak more than one language and English is at the top of the list. I speak several European languages and aim for more when I hopefully move to Spain with my Chinese fiancee (unfortunately still in China). Europe is constant learning for an American. This is a good thing.
7. A WONDERFUL BLENDING OF THE OLD AND THE NEW
The photos say it all. There is a delightful juxtaposition of the cherished old culture blended with a high-tech culture that puts America to shame, IMO.
8. A REDESIGNED CAPITALISM
Anybody with half a brain, or even a quarter, realizes in the world of Bezos and Musk, there is a destructive aspect to American capitalism. This was captured well in Thomas Picketty’s book, Capitalism in the 21st Century. The chasm between the 0.00001% and the rest of us is not sustainable. To remedy this, I would import Nordic Socialism. It was developed in the 1930s as a truce/compact between Capital and Labor. The outcome was and is: We get a fair (@ 15%) profit, we all pay very high taxes and we take care of the population. We live in a country where reducing taxes and racism are the only two policies of a major dysfunctional American political party. Imagine an America where we invested in each other and especially our children. Socialism became a dirty word in America in the 1920s with the first Red Scare. The equation goes in America: Socialism = Communism. Nothing is further from the truth. Joe Biden knows this; the GOP fearmongers this.
Those are the concepts I would import from Europe. If you have negative comments, please make them applicable and gentle. If you have your own ideas about America and Europe, please share.
Happy year of the Tiger.
Peter H. Dohan, MD