Douwe Osinga's Blog: Stupid White America Bashers

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A popular meme these days seems to be that Americans are stupid. Come to think of it, the meme is older than the latest block buster, at least in Europe. It is amazing how many normally intelligently behaving people subscribe to it. I presume this is because the Americans are rich, powerful and successful, so there isn’t any harm in insulting them in a stupid way, at least not form a political correctness perspective. Ten years ago, it seemed pretty acceptable to say that Japanese were uncreative (never mind them coming up with a zillion little ways to make your car/stereo/what have you work better) or that the Germans were aggressive (never mind that they seem to harbor the most pacific sentiment of all democracies). You don’t hear that so much anymore – both the German and the Japanese aren’t doing as well. But the Americans are.


But ask anybody who claims that Americans are stupid whether he thinks that they are less smart on average than blacks and you create a political correctness dilemma. Some people will just say that the Americans are less smart, but African Americans do on average less well on intelligence tests and yes this doesn’t mean a thing, poorer people in general do less well on these tests, but it drives home the point: making these broad statements is just racist, which is what most people realize when you ask them this and they’ll come back with something that you can’t make the comparison, because the one  would be racist (the other merely being American bashing).


But there really isn’t any difference between saying something about all people belonging to the same race and all people belonging to the same country? Some broad statements might be supportable with statistics, but usually people saying either things aren’t interested in statistics, they’re just trying to point out that this group of people they’re talking about is inferior. If a guy in a pub says to me, Americans are stupid, he doesn’t mean, gee, I read this statistic that Americans have an average IQ of 98, while in Japan it is 106, let’s talk about this for a bit, he just means, I don’t like Americans and resent the fact that they are richer and more powerful than Europe.


Sure, there are interesting differences between Europe and the US and I enjoy discussing them. Everything is bigger here, from cars to orange juice containers and that kind of stuff. And the grasp of European geography of the average American does seem to be a little limited, but so what? How many Chinese provinces and their capitals can you name? And they are usually European-country sized. Americans and people living in the US tend to win the lion share of the Nobel prizes (though may be not the one for peace this year) and I would say that the US is at least more smart people friendly than the EU.


Not even George Bush is stupid. Believe me, I’m no fan of his work, but he is a guy who on a thin mandate set out to do the things he believed to be right and he got most of them. Tax cuts, going it alone on the world stage, more oil exploration and getting rid of Sadam Husein, they’re all things one might not like, especially from a left wingy European point of view, but disagreeing with some one, even disagreeing strongly never is a reason to call the other guy stupid. He did what he set out to do and he might be the price of not being reelected, but calling him a miserable failure would be incorrect. Oops.