Wow. Just: Wow.
Wordled that one as well. But that doesn’t really capture the speech.
Wow. Just: Wow.
Wordled that one as well. But that doesn’t really capture the speech.
Actually, the real surprise would be if anybody from the Republican Party would support something called science these days.
As a Germanic language, Danish offers the possibility of making compound words. Take kvindehåndboldlandsholdet, just to illustrate the point. In some cases, though, political or administrative considerations lead to the formation of strange compounds like flygtningeindvandrere – technically: “refugee immigrants” – where two distinct groups (refugees and immigrants) are conflated into one (non-Danes). To prove that you master political language, you also have to pronounce the word in a particular way: Not ‘flygtninge-indvandrere (with stress on the very first syllable), but flygtninge’indvandrere (with a stress on “ind-“).
Another quasi-compound is bøsselesbiske which means “gay lesbian” – pronounced bøsse’lesbiske, not ‘bøsselesbiske. Here the motive behind the creation is that homoseksuel is considered politically inappropriate.
But move across Øresund and things get really complicated. The Swedish words for gay and lesbian, respectively, are bög and flata but you never hear about bögflator or bögflata politics. The politically correct term is …
… er, right. It used to be HBT (and you should remember that the Ts are not transsexualla but transpersoner), but it may be HBTQ these days. Or something.
Andrew Gelman noted that the proliferation of letters in the US version of the acronym has taken one further step. It’s no longer LGBTQ but LGBTQI – and even LGBTQIA has been spotted. So wait for HBTQI to appear in Swedish anytime soon.
But why the proliferation of letters? Gelman wonders if Q (for queer) wouldn’t fit the bill perfectly and from a rationalistic social science perspective it is a reasonable assumption. After all, queer politics are about breaking down cultural and political hierarchies and distinctions.
But there is more to it (cue Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildawsky): Queer politics are also about creating new identities and distinguishing yourself from the dreaded heterosexual squares – we are not in the individualistic but in the collectivistic, or high group, range of politics here. The problem with queer is partly historical (the term hasn’t succeeded in supplanting gay, lesbian and so on), party dimensional (queer could just as well be taken as expression of an individualist or low group lifestyle, but ideologically the queers are in the collectivist or high group range).
In terms of language, the queers are faced with a problem: They want to appear inclusive but as they rely on a strong group identity, they are in fact exclusive. Gay politics? What about the women? Gays and lesbians? Yeah – think about us bisexuals! Etc, etc.
My guess is that the proliferation of letters only stops when the queers either run out of sexual subcultures or the politics move in an individualistic or low group direction. In a way it is interesting that the alphabet soup is widespread in the US, otherwise seen as a strongly individualistic culture, and Sweden, but has failed to make much of an impact in Denmark.
And by the way: Mess with language at your own risk. ðŸ˜›
On a slightly more serious note, I would like to point out, that if you want to perform some real comparisons between the US and European countries, you might want to check out the World Values Survey or the work of my former colleague Torbjörn Bergman.
By the way, judging from this figure on the WVS site, it looks as if Northern Ireland followed by Austria (!) are the European countries that are closest to the US.
Let us for the sake of argument assume that you are a Republican – perhaps even a Republican eyeing public office. Now, a recurrent theme in Republican propaganda has been that the GOP was the party of ordinary people from the Heartland while the Democrat (sic!) Party catered for the wine-drinking, latté-sipping elites of the East and West Coasts.
Unfortunately, political scientists have debunked Republican claims of representing Joe Sixpack. True, rich states in the US are more likely than poorer states to elect Democratic candidates, but rich voters are much more likely to be Republican in any state. The difference in support for different parties is explained by differences in political polarisation.
But suppose you could find a country which fit your ideal of political dimensions? A country where the internationalist, bleeding-heart, latte-sipping elite supported the left wing while the right wing enjoyed the support of ordinary, hard-working Joe the Plumbers? And where the left seems condemned to eternal minority status.
Enter Denmark. Yes, Denmark used to be Social Democratic stronghold, but during the 1990s support for the Social Democrats among blue-collar workers eroded and since 2001 the Liberal Party and in particular the Danish People’s Party have managed to turn the traditional fault-lines in Danish politics upside-down. The left is right and the right is left. In short: Today’s Denmark is as close you will get to living the Republican dream in Europe.
What happened was that the Liberals and the Danish People’s Party during the late 1990s managed to undermine the Social Democrats on the Libertarian-Authoritarian dimension while carefully moving ever closer to the centre on the traditional socio-economic dimension. The Social Democrats still don’t know what hit them. But they know that they have been bombed back to the early 20th century in terms of electoral support.
True, the Conservatives are left as a high-income earner component in the governing coalition, but they have found it hard to promote their tax policies and are more often than not on the receiving end of DF taunts (and so, the Danish dream is not without nightmarish elements for true Republicans, but hey: You can’t always get everything you want).
So maybe Sarah Palin and her advisers ought to consider a visit to Denmark in the near future. Pia Kjærsgaard (and her Norwegian colleague Siv Jensen) might be able to share one or the other secret about how a politician can come out of left field to become a deciding force in national politics.
And then there were the pawn shops. A surprising sight today at least for a Dane, but in this country you have them.
Is there some kind of logic behind this? As my colleague explained, I should remember that self-dependency is in fact essential up here. People simply don’t like to depend of their relatives or friends, or on charities for that matter. Pawning, on the other hand, is accepted if you are in dire straits.
And this is the first dimension where Sweden – yes Sweden, the country of sex, suicides and Socialism – would count as the most American country in Europe: Despite the big welfare state, Swedes are a bunch of individualists compared to most other European people. As it is, one of the aims of the welfare state is to promote self-sufficiency, and maybe self-sufficiency is even more important that redistribution?
But there is more: Sweden is a thoroughly Modern country. I can think of no other country which has embraced Modernity to the degree Sweden has. In a way, it is the Futurist dream (or nightmare) come true. OK: Without the glorification of violence. Whereas the aim of the Continental welfare states is to solidify social stratification, the Swedish welfare state is built on the dream of mobility. And it may be argued that the Swedes looked west and not south when they designed the modern welfare state.
And the Swedish state really is different from all other European states. Just like in the US, Swedish public administration is built on the principles of transparency and public service. Just move across Øresund, and the attitude among Danish politicians and bureaucrats is that you, the people, have no right to information or meddle in our affairs. In Sweden, not so: Mail lists are open, for starters.
The Swedish attitude to religion is curious. On the one hand, Swedes are among the least religious people in the world (mention G*d in a political speech at your own risk), on the other hand evangelical and even charismatic movements have always appealed to the Swedes. There is a strong tradition of non-conformist Christianity in Sweden and would an artist like Carola really stand a chance of being mainstream in any other European country? Maybe if she kept her religious convictions under wraps.
If Swedes often sound critical of the US, the reason is not that they feel alien to the American way of life. They are convinced that the Americans are Swedes at heart and if only the US would heed the Swedish lessons, it would indeed be that city upon the hill.
Enjoy your celebrations.
As we approach the US Independence Day, I thought it could be fun considering which country in Europe that would count as the most “American” – and by the way Denmark seems to be the only country which holds an official popular July 4th celebration (as in: a celebration where the local US Embassy is not the organiser).
US-European relations are notoriously tricky. On the one hand, Americans tend to see Europeans as more cultured and sophisticated while on the other hand deploring their (our) lack of initiative. Europeans see Americans as shallow and materialistic and consequently do everything that is in our power to emulate the US lifestyle with a couple of years’ delay.
OK: Our cars and houses are still smaller, but you get the picture.
But to round up some suspects and criteria: What does it take to be “an American country”?
First, we could be looking for a country which in some way or the other has influenced US culture and social and political institutions in a significant way. Britain (legal system) and France (rationalism, republicanism) would be obvious suspects, but perhaps the Netherlands also merit some attention.
Second, we could look for countries where American social, economic and political influence has been especially profound. The Federal Republic of Germany with its emphasis on federalism and the role played by the Bundesverfassungsgericht would be an obvious candidate here.
Third, we could look for countries which institutional similarities even if there is no evidence of direct US influence. Switzerland with its profoundly federal style of government and limited public sector would be a parallel on this side of the Atlantic. But then again, the Swiss are probably too organised and exclusive for the American taste.
But, just to tease you, I will promise two more posts on the subject with some surprising candidates. Stay tooned.
Did Al Gore invent the internet? No. Did he say so? In a very narrow interpretation: Yes. Was that what he meant? No.
Richard Wiggins (in 2000 …!) on Al Gore’s role in the development of the internet.
Comment: And then you wonder why politicians often sound as though they have had their statements edited 217 times and only appear in carefully staged contexts. Because they rightly fear the “gotcha” effect.
HT: Eszter Hargittai.