Monday, July 02, 2007

I dislike how Britain is leading the world in creating the surveillance state.
I hate Germany's recent legislation regarding hacking tools, and Germany still hasn't lost the stereotype of being violent Nazis.
I dislike Russia for slowly turning back into a brutal dictatorship.
Everyone tells me the French are a bunch of cheese- and snail-eating surrender-monkeys.
I don't like that Israel and Palestine have spent my entire life (so far) being assholes to each other.

In the past, this would mean thinking of Germans as oppressive and violent, Brits as Big Brother types, the French as cheese-eating surrender-monkeys, Russians as brutal dictators, Israelis is big bullies, and Palestinians as little bullies.

But thanks largely to the Internet, I talk to friends in Germany, the UK, Russia, Israel, Palestine, and France1--many on a daily basis. Instead of seeing the nation in terms of usually-outdated stereotypes and what their government is doing, I see them in terms of the people who live there. People whom I know and--by and large--whom I like.

It would be great if everyone was learning math and science and whatever else while online, but even if all they do is go on MySpace and talk to people around the world in chatspeak, they've just received a very important societal/political lesson, and one that will hopefully have a long-term positive effect on foreign relations worldwide. It's the same principle behind foreign exchange programs.

(Sadly, right now most people are under the delusion that online is not 'real life', but merely some huge game where the goal is to be an asshole.)

1 Not really. I can't think of any any friends I have in France, but I'm sure I talk to people there. I just don't talk to any particular people there a whole lot to my knowledge.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm undecided as to whether a surveillance state is per se bad. What is worrisome in the case of Britain is that the government withholds the information gathered.

Why do you say that Germany has a stereotype of being violent Nazis? I believe it: A professor from Germany once told me that she was called a Nazi for scolding her child in public in the USA. However, I have little reason to think that the stereotype is commonly held.

Is Russia being particularly brutal these days, or is it presently just gearing up on the dictatorship in preparation for the brutality?

The mention of Russia makes me think about China, which has something of a brutal quasi-democracy. Do you know many people from China? Maybe they've already thought what you're thinking and established some sort of Great Firewall of China. Or something.

The stereotype of the French might be the most baseless, except that they do eat cheese and snails (but who doesn't eat cheese?). Anyway, there are far better reasons to hate or to pity the French.

Your post makes me realise how fortunate (or maybe not) I am to have grown up in the USA: First, I would never assume that a government truly represents those governed--I find the idea absurd.

Second, I am hypersensitive to stereotypes. This hypersensitivity is inculcated into one's conciousness from childhood and pervades American society--or at least the society that I know. While I have been living in Germany, I have been asked many times about my opinions on different groups of people, particularly on different nationalities. Whenever the topic comes up in discussion, I have to explain that I have a deeply ingrained reluctance to generalise about such large groups of people and have no own simple opinions.

One time, I was asked something about characteristics of people in the US. I said something to the effect of the above about our hypersensitivity, and an Israeli commented, that is one such characteristic.

But I know that there actually are plenty of bigots in the USA. Oh, well.