13 June 2010

Boning up on current events in Germany and France

One of the many wonderful things I learned living in Germany for almost a decade is how to be less American and more European. I'm back in the States for almost 8 yrs now and it's getting harder to maintain those sensibilities. I haven't been back there since 2008 and I feel distanced, even alienated because I've let myself become utterly immersed in American culture.

I need to start reading the German and French press again, find out what's up. It interests me. Most of my European friends are politically left or left-center and like many educated Europeans of that ilk, they're highly critical of political and cultural regimes. They also have more informed and sophisticated worldviews. For instance, compare the content of a large-circulating German newspaper with an American one, and you'll see differences in the amount, page-location and biases in reporting on international events. The world they get is different than the one we get.* So one of these sensibilities is a capacity to have a meaningful conversation about their "local" events, and world-events in which the Unites States is decentered or its centrality is critiqued. In other words, top on the list of ugly-American habits is the inability to talk about anything other than the United States and American culture.  Second is to be naive about the effects of American military and corporate power on the global stage. 

Learning to be less culturally self-absorbed can be personally humiliating because for one, your belief system gets a kick in the ass. You're forced to look at yourself like you would in psycho-therapy. The things you were raised to be proud of, are critiqued, laughed at, or just unimportant. But that's just the first step. You don't get to learn about another culture if you're not willing to learn the language. Your lens is always tinted; your brain is always comparing. Your experiences are always filtered. Immersion and language learning go hand in hand. They're full-body experiences hanging out with other Americans in Paris doesn't get you.

Anyway, I'm rereading "Der Vorleser," (the Reader), and I may go to Para's Newstand on 30th and University for some hard-copy press. The paper is part of the cultural experience.

I should call Para's first though, they may no longer carry anything.

* Der Tagesschau - A Look Over the Day,  Daily National News