A colleague who had been reading the travelogue I was writing while on vacation remarked "Boy, you really seem to dislike America." It's actually not the case: I'm reasonably happy living in the US, and I even acquired dual French-American citizenship not so long ago. I also realize that it's precisely that utter fuckedupness of the US that's fostered so much great art over the years—no wonder the chaotic genius that is pigfuck was born in the Midwest, for instance.
What does drive me crazy, however, is how Americans always think they have it better than anyone else and other countries should emulate their model. I won't even get into pesky details like, you know, torture, Iraq, the lack of universal healthcare or the absolute inequality of the social structure here; but travelling abroad, particularly to Europe, you realize that America has really fallen behind in terms of quality of life.
Now this is a topic that hasn't surfaced in the campaign so far, but it touches on something really essential: Do we live comfortable lives with good public transportation, low pollution levels, a widespread adhesion to basic tenets of civility and the social contract? Are we happy? I don't believe the American-style rat race, in which people feel they have to always work more to keep up with the Joneses (ie, buy ever bigger houses, ever bigger cars—that is, before the advent of $5/gallon gas) actually fulfills said people. And one look at the crumbling New York City subway, in which water pours down onto the rails whenever it rains and the stations are filthy and decaying, should be enough to sober up the biggest booster. "Capital of the world?" Hah! Does Mayor Bloomberg really ride the train??
So yes, I do admire the Scandinavian Social-Democrat model. And there's no mystery as to how it's achieved (or at least one of the ways it's achieved): high taxes. Personally, I have no objection to paying more of them if they go to public transportation, better healthcare for everybody, better public infrastructure (ie, more rail and ferries, less roads).
Oh, and while we're on the subject of northern European countries: I've posted on matters pertaining to Scandinavia's approach to music on the SundayArts blog.
3 days ago