Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
With anti-American sentiment at unprecedented levels around the world, Americans worried about their country’s low standing are pushing a grassroots campaign to change foreign perceptions of the United States “one handshake at a time.”
The idea is to turn millions of Americans into “citizen diplomats” who use personal meetings with foreigners to counter the ugly image of the United States shown in a series of international public opinion polls.
“Whether you are student sitting next to a foreign scholar at your university, an athlete playing abroad, an elected official welcoming counterparts, a rock star or a business representative overseas, you are a citizen diplomat and can make a life-changing difference” [said Sherry Lee Mueller, one of the movement’s leaders.]
Not even the most optimistic delegates to the Washington meeting, billed as the first of its kind, thought citizen diplomacy could soon reverse a trend that has accelerated sharply under President George W. Bush, many of whose foreign policy decisions have been criticized as unilateralist and arrogant.
Distaste for America runs so deep that, for example, at the recent World Cup in Germany the American team was the only one asked not to display its national flag on the team bus. In South Korea, traditionally a U.S. ally, two-thirds of people under 30 said in a recent poll that if there were war between North Korea and the United States, they would side with North Korea.
Phil goes on with the musing, “I imagine that most of this Citizen Outreach has more to do with apologizing for America and swearing that they didn’t vote for Bush rather than articulating defenses for it, despite the fact that there are defenses a-plenty.” Mmmm, hmmm. I’m not a betting man, Phil, but I think I’d rather put my chips on your side than on the other. It would have been nice for the Reuters article to clear this up for us. I would think a “citizen diplomat” would want the citizenry-at-large to know what exactly he’s saying on our behalf.
You know what impresses me, though. I have been relentlessly instructed that I am supposed to believe America suffers from both ignorance and apathy about other countries. A large number amongst us have never been outside of the country in our lives, and I am further relentlessly instructed to believe that if any of us have, Canada and Mexico do not count. Okeedokee, with that criteria, I imagine I’m one of the “offenders” or “problems” or whatever it is you choose to call us.
This is the observation I wish to make: Americans don’t appear to be in a good position to extend a diplomatic visit, quite so much as to receive one. If I am typical, then we are relatively cloistered, and have been put in the position of forming many of our opinions about other countries over the last five years.
This does seem to be the case.
It is exceedingly rare that I am part of a consensus. I shall celebrate by continuing to speak for “us.” After all, if my own naivete and inexperience says something about my countrymen, my opinions must say something too, right? Nothing wrong with speaking on behalf of everybody else in your country, anyway. That’s exactly what the “citizen diplomats” are doing, so all I’m going to do is take my turn. Except in this case, my comments are out in the open. So let’s go.
The information that has been presented to us thus far, since the invasion of Iraq in the Spring of 2003, on the subject of how other countries see us, exceeds my wildest expectations of what we would ever wish to know. It has not escaped our notice that with current technology, it is physically impossible to run door-to-door over the surface of the earth, querying each and every single household; and yet logically, this is precisely what you would need to do in order to knowledgeably and sincerely say things like “We were seen by the world as rescuers; now we are seen as invaders and occupiers and conquerors,” or my personal favorite, “half the world considers the United States the leading terrorist in the world.”
Nor have we Americans remained oblivious to the fact that our own opinions about other countries are, shall we say, rather obscure. We can’t remember the last time one of those worldwide pollsters knocked on our door and stuck a microphone in our own faces. Energy spent in gathering our sentiments, and delivering them overseas, has been rather dwindling; the energy spent gathering sentiments from over there, and delivering them here — why, that’s in a whole different category altogether. That particular campaign may bear much of the responsibility for global warming all by itself.
Not that we Americans long for said pollsters to finally show up, and make this monolog into a little more of a dialog. That would be more fair than the what we see today, in which some nameless, faceless consortium of unaccountable individuals has determined European opinion of America must reverberate unceasingly, while American opinion about Europe remains uninspected. Yes, that would even the playing field. Problem: Just because there are good reasons for the enterprise, doesn’t mean the enterprise would be easy. The worldwide impression of Americans, that Americans like to go about their daily lives, and rankle at being disrupted by things outside of their narrow spheres of concern…well, it turns out that’s quite correct. Door-to-door solicitors, and phone-by-phone telemarketers, have amusing conversations with me — always shorter than they would like, always culminating in the outcome they didn’t want.
Speaking for other Americans, I say we Americans are impressed with how much we’ve learned about other countries since late 2001. It is more precise, I think, to say we are impressed with how little we knew about those other countries before that time. We Americans are bothered by the news that other countries think poorly of us, rest assured of that. But what bothers us, is not so much these unflattering opinions, but the organizations, the syndications, the consortiums, and yes the mega-corporations, who have invested so much of their resources in telling us about those opinions. We had little clue prior to five years ago, that such a Mafia existed. And although we have a marginal concern about the acrimony towards us overseas — all smoke must have fire — it is but a mooncast shadow compared to the concern we have about this twenty-first century Mafia dedicated to tearing down our image, as that image is perceived both here, and beyond.
Yes, Mafia. That is precisely what it is. Just as the Corleone family constructed its own alternate system of justice, for those who could not or would not use the “real” one, this one constructs its own alternative system of “truth.”
We are impressed by the difference between the Europeans we read about in newspaper articles, and the Europeans we meet for ourselves in chatrooms. The previously-noted Mafia possesses a breathless urgency in notifying us about European officials who announce America “must” do this and that and some other silly thing, as well as European commoners who are simply mad at us. The Mafia, makes Europe look petty and petulant, which means a lot because the Mafia doesn’t appear to be trying to do this. But the Europeans we meet for ourselves, are relatively “cool.” A lot of Britons, we’ve noticed, are actually in favor of American action in Iraq. The ones who are not, explain their positions to us, patiently, thoughtfully — almost philosophically. And very clearly. In ways we notice anti-war Americans, certainly never would and probably never could.
But most of all, we notice this.
“Handshake Diplomacy,” from there to here rather than from here to there, would be most welcome. And, I think, highly productive. We admit our ignorance. We are eager to learn more. We are reluctant to form iron-clad decisions about what Europe is like, based on what we have learned from 2001 to 2006 — although, pointedly, this is encyclopedic knowledge compared to what we learned prior to 2001.
And, at the same time, what we know to date about Europe, is a tad bit less than flattering. This is meaningful to us, even if it is meaningful to nobody else. We are happier that we declared independence from Great Brittain, today, than we were about the same subject in 2001. We have learned over the last five years that the American passion for thinking-for-onesself, and deciding for onesself what is to be done about matters personal to onesself, seems to be a distinctly American value. For this, we are not so much proud, as sad. We had been laboring under the premise that this was endemic to all of the human race.
We would like to see evidence that our first idea, was the correct one. Much interest has been demonstrated by the Mafia, in presenting to us an artificial construct of what the rest of the world thinks. And, therefore, although the Mafia didn’t intend this, an artificial construct of what the rest of the world is like.
And yet, we Americans have very little information. What little information we do have, we know is bad.
So let’s see some handshake diplomacy come back the other way. One of the few things I’ve learned about other countries, in which I’m willing to put some confidence, is that there appears to be a lot of enthusiasm in pointing out what Americans do not know. I expect, therefore, my request to be greeted agreeably. Come on over. Educate us. Show us what you’re really like. Tell us what you think we should know, that we’ve demonstrated we probably do not yet know.
Just don’t tell us what to think about things. That’s a subtle distinction even here; and based on what I’ve learned since 2001, it seems to be an even more subtle distinction over there.
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