November 25, 2004
Responses to "An open letter to Europe"By reader mail
An open letter to Europe, by Herbert E. Meyer, which we published on November 11, has provoked an outpouring of response from Europeans. It has been widely featured on websites in Europe, and has been reprinted in a number of European newspapers. Thus, we have received a large volume of response from Europe.
With the extra time that the Thanksgiving holiday provides, we take the opportunity to publish a few of the responses.
I am an Englishman who has a vast amount of friends who are US Citizens, including one friend I am just about to engage the last part of my working life with.
Your article regarding the above subject "IS CORRECT IN EVERY WAY." We in the UK suffer a Government who strangles anyone who wishes to become successful. The unfortunate irony of this Government in power is that the Leader BLAIR who is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard has had the balls to stand up with the US on the War against Terrorism.
Apart from that he is a total waste of time. We are dying as a race. I am a hard worker and have paid high taxes for the last 30 years and am so fed up with paying for every moron and his dog, 16 year old girlfriend with 3 children who cannot be bothered to get out of bed on a morning to do a days work, I am depressed by it all. The only thing that keeps me going are my American friends who mail me on a regular basis and speak with me to "Help me keep my stiff upper lip ever stiffer"...
I would give an arm and a leg to be an American. In October after 9/11 I took my family on Holiday to Florida on my birthday 10th October, 72 hours after America began bombing Afghanistan. That was my family decision to show our support for America. It was a simple decision we made because of our love for the States and no one man with a towel around his head is going to stop me and my family from holidaying in a country that welcomes us with open arms.
In the back window of my car I have a REMEMBER 9/11 sticker with this proudly bearing the stars and stripes.. Within minutes of 9/11 happening I telephoned 2 friends based in DC to check if they were OK with their families. My work is within law enforcement and we all strive for the same goal....
I am English and I love your Country and everything it stands for. Not everyone in this quagmire of a country hates anything American, far from it.
I enjoyed your article and I thank you for your Honesty. I became aware of your article sent to me by my American friends resident in the UK.
GOD BLESS AMERICA....
In response to 'Open letter to Europe' by Herbert E. Meyer
I, as a partially Americanized European (by blood — my grandmother — and by culture — having lived 25 years in the States), smile at Mr. Meyers fears and phobias.
Jesus' ideals have died a long time ago, smothered by the European — yes — European, insatiable appetite for riches, which appetite has done more harm to this world than any other human vice, and which can be exemplified and personified, among other venerable European institutions, by the Catholic Church.
After 25 years of life in the U.S. from East to West, North and South, among rich and poor from town to country, and village to city, I have come to the conclusion that de facto Judaism has, in whatever dress or disguise, since long replaced Christianity in that country.
Jesus today would cry in shame of those who claim his name.
The pursuit of one's own happiness, as stated in the U.S. Constitution (apart from that a very remarquable document), is NOT a Christian ideal but a free mason's businessman's dream. The Christian ideal is to pursue the happiness of others before the happiness of oneself. But that is a tall order indeed, and not one for a poor immigrant, religious or not religious.
But now that we, Europeans (including the Catholic Church which is the only institution of its kind to have apologised for its past), are trying hard, but not always successfully, to get rid of our nasty traits, (which, I suppose is what you see as 'dying'), and here you are, Americans, developing these nasty traits yourselves in turn to unprecedented heights and in a rather uninteresting and dull way, which is probably not so good for a society who claims to be the builders of a new way of life aiming at attracting the respect, if not the sympathy of the world.
By the way, how on earth can State and Church be separated and religion be at the centre? Does that mean that religion should have a favoured position? Isn't that a contradiction? And if it were to be possible which religion should be at the centre?
You fellows from the CIA might not be very good at gathering 'intelligence', but as 'visionary society builders', you sure are real wonder boys!
Also I haven't noticed more obedience to the Ten Commandments in America than in Mongolia or anywhere else, but, frankly speaking, less. As far as solving problems by killing people, between the U.S. and Al Quaeda, it is hard to know who is the best. They seem to be still competing.
Parents, as far as I have seen, in America have no time to raise their children, they are too busy. The notion of 'family' in the U.S. seems to be nothing else but a new 'trend', just like 'non—smoking' is today, after the U.S. hooked Europe on cigarettes and advertised 'smoking' all over our billboards for decades. How can anybody believe that you are in any way 'sincere', and not simply businessmen selling a new product called 'family'?
The rule of law has been set aside by the U.S. without a blink of an eye when it was convenient, by engaging in an illegal war against an other country! Same thing goes for Israel who doesn't seem to give a hoot about international law.
I am still waiting for the outpouring of art, music, etc. from the U.S.
So many drugs, booze, sex and rock'n'roll, so many doctors, lawyers, accountants, psychiatrists, hospitals, pharmacies, prisons and lunatic asylums, caused, maybe, by Americans not really being in America where they belong, does not make America a very attractive 'civilisation' for a civilised, cultured and educated person from Europe, or from any other old country for that matter, and not necessarily a 'civilisation' one would want to emulate, though Americans did indeed inherit that kind of 'civilisation' from us Europeans. But the XIXth century was not the 'flowering' of western civilisation, but the beginning of its decay. And that is what you have inherited: A decadent civilisation. Just compare portraits of Queen Victoria to those of Elisabeth the First, and you will understand what I mean. But the amazing thing is that who would have thought that such a decadent and wicked civilisation would continue growing to such heights of pompousness and madness in America? We Europeans, at least the educated ones, had hoped that you, Americans (once Europeans), arriving in a New World virginal of all corruption, would have gotten rid of European rot instead of developing it to such monstrous proportions, and learned from the local native population a far more reasonable and less harmful way of life.
Throwing two atomic bombs, one after the other, on two different cities of your enemies is NOT particularly Christian. The Christian Church shunned science for centuries by fear that these kinds of horrors might happen. The teachings of Christianity say it quite clearly: 'Do not do upon others what you do not want done to yourself!' This atomic episode is an appallingly shameful precedent that disqualifies the ones responsible from it ever attaining any kind of superiority other than...military. Which I think has been the case.
Traditional Christian civilisation has mostly accepted warfare as a necessary evil but at the condition it be limited to a combat between armed soldiers fighting for a just cause. Unfortunately the early European Chiefs, all Christians, set a very bad example by violating those wise principles by hiring soldiers, soldiers who began thus fighting for INTERSESTS, no longer causes. Traditional Christian warfare however, promoted fairness in combat, and, whenever possible, a vague equality of strength between combatants. All that part of Christian civilisation has completely disappeared since the nineteenth Century, leaving the door open to the worst barbarism the world had ever known.
Stealing other people's land and then killing nearly all the native population of that land, or putting them into camps, is NOT Christian AT ALL, but the result of selfish, greedy, corrupt immigrants, some operating piously with the complicity of Christian Institutions of which Jesus would have been totally ashamed of, and whose members would have probably crucified him a second time.
Money as supreme value is NOT Christian, but JUDAIC. Jesus acclaimed poverty! Read the Gospels!
Pornography as a major entertainment industry available to all, children and grown—ups alike, in nearly every home, is NOT a phenomenon born out of Christian civilisation, but one of the main and most insidious tools for its slow and sure destruction. Exploring the Internet, which I do often, it looks like half of the female population of the U.S. is engaged in pornography in one way or another. Meeting a young woman executive, flower girl or waitress, in the streets of any, big or small city in the U.S., one can't help but wonder if she might not be engaged, in her spare time, in the discreet enterprise of making extra bucks exhibiting her private parts, and finding no trouble whatsoever finding, in that field, an employment much more profitable than her legitimate one! Is that what you mean by purposeful, creative, imaginative free enterprise with minimum government interference and which is fuelling your economy?
The main thing Americans seem to have learned from the Bible is the 'Proverbs' or how to become rich. That is not Christian, but once more, Judaic.
George Bush, who is directly responsible for at least 50.000 deaths most of them innocent and defenceless women and children, is indeed a rather bizarre 'Christian'. He is also, lets not forget, the principal beneficiary of the World Trade Centre crime, and has used and abused its effect on the public in the most shameful way.
The main trait America has inherited from European Civilisation is, indeed, its worst: the continuous, unrelenting abuse of power by the strong against the weak, but that is NOT Christian civilisation, but going back to pre—Christian civilisation... Antiquity! A Hollywood dream for many rich Americans and Europeans, or maybe just for the more mediocre of them.
Europe, you say, cannot defend itself? I hope we never get to find out if this is true or not.
Europeans, indeed, are no longer conditioned by fear. They know what it means and where it leads to too well.
But, bare in mind, however, that if the Americans military seem to be hardly able to control a bunch of poor 'Indians' in Iraq who can barely carry a rifle, how are they to fare against highly sophisticated Europeans geared back to war?
My question is, what is America's 'vision' of the future? WHAT IS IT? Is it, on the outside, a dream world portrayed in ads on the TV screen, and, in the inside, in reality, a Gaza strip on a worldwide scale? Is that 'vision' one of a ruined planet, where what is left of it is transformed into a luxurious Luna park for a 'happy few' and a miserable, shantytown for the rest? That 'vision' of a 'better' world is obviously going to encounter problems with many reasonable people (if there are any left), who have never felt unhappy enough to want to flee their country to go somewhere else, never felt the need and greed to flee from poverty to dreams of riches, content, as they were to live in the country where they were born, even though for some, it was, indeed, extremely tough, but defended it throughout the centuries teeth and nails, sometimes, yes, and I am very grateful for it, with your help. But, remember this, Mr. Myers, those who have remained are progressing in a steady, tranquil and unspectacular way, and it is THEY, who are, at the end, the example to follow for the rest of the world, and indeed they are, not you Americans who never seem to be where you belong, and don't even know where that might be.
There is no great mystery to the cause of terrorism. There is only one cause: It is invading other people's land. Stop doing that (you and the Israelis, Iraqis, Russians and C�) and you will no longer have that problem!
Maybe the next 'vision' for Americans, in order not to be left ignored and forgotten in the middle of two oceans, will be to take on the whole of mankind and teach them 'democracy'?
A psychiatrist might conclude, that, at the bottom, that is what America, a deeply failed society (in the spiritual sense), wants? ...Suicide. Now I am sure you are wondering what I mean by 'spiritual'? (A TV preacher, for example, who needs millions of dollars to give authority to his preach, is not 'spiritual', in my understanding of the word, but an 'illusionist' misguiding and deceiving millions of poor innocent people by teaching them to fear what and Who is not to be feared). 'Spiritual' in my vocabulary, is not something hard to understand or difficult to define: it is the ability of living on and of the land without harming it, as still do millions of innocent people on this earth. People who live that way are more 'spiritual' than those who don't. Thus, being 'spiritual' is, actually, in this sense, a stupid thing to be for a normal American (and European for that matter), who enjoys above all making a profit, thus making him 'materialistic', and Western Civilisation the most materialistic of all, and thus the most destructive and harmful to our planet.
Maybe it is to collective suicide that Bush, a deeply failed human being himself in all senses, (who has lived by trickery, opportunism and favouritism, and will never have anything close to the human quality and intelligence of his father), is leading America to. And you are following this fellow? This fellow who has the mentality of a twelve year old who wants to make an impression on the world because he has an inferiority complex in regards to his father? This fellow surrounded by some somewhat clouded, if not dubious characters, like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, (smooth operators if ever there were any), who direct the future of the world from the comfort of their leather rocking chairs in their warm offices, filling their pockets, without having ever 'tasted' the grief caused by their 'thinking' or the consequence of their acts? Their extremely superficial vision of history is purely hysterical and delirious. They'd be better on a stage playing 'The King and I.'
No wonder Europeans are puzzled by the re—election of George Bush. It is mind—boggling! Or else it is history that has, once again, taken a very bad turn, but this time, it is you who are in the drivers seat.
Indeed history will remember George W. Bush's name!
Patrick de Selys Longchamps
Herbert E. Meyer writes:
"It is your abandonment of these beliefs that has created the gap between Europe and the United States. You have ceased to be a Judeo—Christian culture, and have become instead a secular culture. And a secular culture quickly goes from being "un—religious" to anti—religious."
Australia is one of the most secular nations on Earth, but it hasn't fallen victim to the European malaise. The problem, I think, is not the abandonment of specific religious beliefs so much as their replacement by other ideologies, and specifically Socialism.
Herbert Meyer's 'Open letter to Europe' seems less of an outreach to lost allies than just another opportunity for America's narcissistic navel—gazing. Rather than the 'food for thought' promised in its title, it dishes up more in the way of warmed over slop for an already overfed ego, one that continues to make yet less room for even the faintest tremors of thought. If the letter is in fact a genuine attempt to make Europeans — or anyone, for that matter — think favourably of America, then its author proves himself even more worthy of the labels 'stupid' and 'ignorant' than his country's dunce of a president.
Like Mr. Meyer, I'll feign to apologize for being 'so blunt' here, but this goes somewhat to the core of answering his main problem. Meyer is offended at what he perceives as haughty, elitist Europeans constantly sneering at their dim, unsophisticated cousins across the Atlantic. They deign to give us all these prizes and awards and stuff, he says, and they know how rich and powerful we are, so...like, why do they look down on us?
At first glance, the question seems odd. Surely if they're willing to award you more prizes than they do themselves (something unthinkable in self—applauding America), if they recognize your monstrous wealth and awesome military capacity, then they can't really be said to look down on you? Yet in all fairness Meyer has a point. He manages to locate one major concrete example of such disdain: Europe's response to the re—election of Mr. Bush. And it seems he's right. The reaction from certain outlets in Europe might well be described as 'sneering' and perhaps even 'frothing at the mouth.' Glancing through the newsstand that sombre November 3rd, I found myself agreeing for the first time with the Daily Mirror, whose headline Meyer singles out for censure: 'How can 59 million Americans be so dumb?' Similar titles are still cropping up ('Four Moron Years,' declares the latest Private Eye).
But at the end of the day, what does one expect? George W. Bush has revealed himself as a verbally challenged fanatic who brags about not reading the newspaper, who thought Africa was a nation and declared 'abstinence' the most suitable method of combating AIDS in said nation, whose notion of leadership involves prancing around in a GI Joe costume and yelling 'bring it on,' whose simplistic zealous crusade has wrought mass death and destruction and helped the spread of terrorism like never before, all in all making the world a more dangerous place for just about everybody. But in the face of all this, the largest group of voters in America chose to re—elect him for 'moral' reasons. These revolve around issues like gay marriage and abortion, but not the question of whether thousands of innocents abroad really needed to be slaughtered by the U.S. military.
Well then, in citing the re—election of George Bush to make his very case, it seems Meyer himself has hit the nail on the head. The answer is pretty clear: if America doesn't want to be seen as a nation of morons, it should stop acting like one. Not surprisingly, Meyer misses his own point. Perhaps merely for some absurd fancy, he immediately goes on to indulge us with a nauseating catalogue of American beliefs, as if the world hasn't heard enough of them in the past two months. Still more absurd is his attempt to attribute the recent surge of faith—based hysteria to European culture. Such beliefs apparently 'powered Western Europe...forward into the modern world,' and gave rise to its most illustrious works of art and science. Now, regardless of Mr. Meyer's intentions, any European reader who has managed to put up with his letter so far will undoubtedly find it hard to suppress a sneer at this point, or at least a giggle. For while the dogmatic anti—secularism Meyer espouses may have been well accepted in the Middle Ages, the modern Enlightenment tradition of reason and discovery was driven by a struggle precisely against such blind faith in religious authority. This not only applies to rationalists in Europe at the time; Meyer doesn't have to look far to see that thinkers of the age were called free thinkers because they chose not to be bound by the dead beliefs of a select few:
History furnishes no example of a priest—ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
The above quote, most relevant to recent events in America, comes not from Trotsky or Howard Dean, but from Thomas Jefferson. The truth of the matter is that the frightened zealots who re—elected Bush on their regressive, primitive grounds share more with the Islamists they so deeply hate than with the rational ideals of the Enlightenment.
In the long term, we learn from history that as a nation progresses, religious fervour diminishes. People become more open to reason and discussion, thinking for themselves rather than blindly swallowing whatever the local preacher tells them. They accept new ideas and new vocabularies more suited to describing current realities, while beliefs doggedly resistant to change are relegated to their proper place: the past. That's why it's called history. To take another quote from Jefferson:
Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.
Those who still submit to ancient dogmas before clear reasoning, to blind doctrine before science, comprise an aberrant, obstructive feature — not a normative one — in the course of western civilization. And Meyer is unlikely to impress anyone with his call for Europeans to join those in the insular, ignorant swaths of red state America by embracing such backward bigotry.
Even less impressive is his moralistic rant about the lack of stringent adherence to supposed family values overseas. The need for preachy evangelicals to breathe down everyone else's necks about how they live is repugnant enough by itself, without the added hypocrisy involved in this case. Here Meyer scolds Europeans for their 'higher than ever' abortion rates. While countries in Eastern Europe do indeed display a high, though declining, number of abortions each year, rates in the 'Old Europe' that Meyer presumes to wag his finger at are not only declining but significantly lower than those in the United States. As for unstable households, the United States has the third highest divorce rate of any country in the world (right after the Maldives and Belarus) and the highest teen pregnancy rate in the western world by far (more than double that of most European countries). So we seem here to find just another instance of officious, self—righteous Americans meddling with other people's affairs before thinking to smell their own home—cooked offal. (By the way, regarding those models cited as great achievers of western civilization, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were both homosexuals, Bach married his cousin, and Newton was a lifelong bachelor. Perhaps the author would like to reconsider and pick some figures more amenable to his rigid instructions for the 'moral' life?)
If America wants to win back any of the world's respect, it needs to earn it. So far, a country that tries to bomb others into its own image, that employs and encourages the most base forms of torture, that runs secretive prison camps where detainees are held indefinitely without trial and have false confessions forced out of them, all in all shows such low contempt for international law and humanity that it can hardly claim to represent western civilization — even if it does retain the simplistic 'moral values' of a toddler at Sunday school.
First, let me congratulate you on a marvelous magazine. You would be justified to add to your masthead.."And Great Writing As Well".
The Open Letter to Europe is great not just because it is a reminder—of—history, but because it holds out a friendly hand. Why would we not offer assistance to a friend, ney a family member, who has stumbled and fallen?
Great writing. Great Thinking. Great publication.
I own and admire Mr. Meyer's film (TSOWC) so it is with much humility that I offer the following to the list of things that Europe needs to know:
Americans know that our rights come from God the Creator. The Founders put this into our first documents so that we all would be assured that these rights, which do not emanate from man, cannot be taken away by man. No human force, not the UN, not the EU, not Hitler, not Stalin, not the Confederacy, not King George...no humans can take our rights from us. And we know it. The power of this knowledge animates and drives us to the detriment of those who do not understand it.