One of the first things I noticed about Europeans was how much they love to talk about politics. Politics began many conversations we had with various Europeans we met, both locals and travelers. Politics are a mostly taboo topic of conversation in America, unless you are talking to someone you agree with, and feeling out whether you agree with people can take some time. The resulting discussion is usually an exercise in pointlessness, because people can only speak in generalities, in the great tradition of American bumper sticker wisdom.
Europeans displayed a much greater breadth and depth of thought. The most intelligent ones discussed specific financial policies, international relations, lesser known US public officials, and history. Anyone you talked too could at least gives you the details, arguments for and arguments against on a specific issue that was dear to them. For example, There is much buzz about Scottish independence at the moment, and the average Caledonian (that’s a fancy name for a Scotsman) could give you a lengthy discussion on why they leaned one way or the other.
It is quite disheartening that even educated Americans are so ignorant of everything except pop culture. A friend recently told me about a nurse who didn’t know what or where the continent of Africa was.
So how liberal are Europeans?
American liberals invoke Europe as the city on the hill at every opportunity, whether speaking from the deliciously pretentious pages of the New York Times editorials or from the mouth of a self righteous student “activist.” They extol the wonders of Europe’s socialized medicine, welfare, inexpensive college tuition fees, and excellent public transportation.
As it turns out, the average, the politically minded European is completely different from the American liberal. So much different that I consider the European much closer to being an American conservative than to being an American liberal. I’m comparing unlike things here; Europeans have plenty of disdain for American religousity, for instance. But the European socialist as an American Liberal is an interesting comparison that contradicts the insufferable smugness of the know-it-all, self styled hippies; indeed, a summons for them to climb down from their ivory towers, to dismount their high horses and see things differently for a moment.
Why do I identify Europeans as more conservative? It is true they love their socialism. It is also true that they keep a deep sense of personal responsibility towards keeping that socialism functioning. They understand that good things can only come with sacrifice from themselves. Compared this to the American conservative who understands sacrifice for the greater good. He (or she) serves in the military at a much higher rate than liberals because he is motivated by higher ideals like service and patriotism. Or consider that the blood supply in this country would disappear without “greedy” conservatives. Or consider how much more generous the conservative is when donating money. Don’t believe me? Here it is right from the horse’s
Europeans are also fairly nationalistic, and only reluctantly accepting of immigrants. They are skeptical of the European Union, needless to say.
Contrast all of this to the American liberal and their brand of socialism. They love sacrifice, but don’t fancy it for themselves. I’ve actually noticed that the most self sacrificing liberal kids were rebelling against their conservative families; self sacrifice is a virtue that can only be imported into American liberalism. American socialism is all about personal enrichment, trying to steal from others without bearing any burdens yourself.
I doubt European style socialism will ever work in the states because the liberals who advocate it can’t understand it; only the a conservative can look past the outcomes and see what really makes it tick.