Calling Our President Hitler is an insult to Hitler.

Recently, North Korean state media compared our leader to Adolf Hitler. I have been hearing this comparison a lot recently and it just seems lazy. Now let us be clear, Adolf was one of the worst entities ever to be forcibly dealt with by Western society. We were right to dispose of his Reich and the burden it put on Europe, minorities across the continent and the world. No one in their right mind wants to go back to any life similar to that. However, should we be comparing our present time to the age of the radio? Our president is not Hitler. Our president is barely a hack.

Hitler had it rough, Hitler didn’t have a small million dollar inheritance. Hitler got rejected from art school and decided to follow his interests in politics. Hitler made a plan for himself. Donald has gotten caught up in something he barely understands. Hitler didn’t get any help from Russia either, unless you count their abandoned non-aggression pact help. Adolf  has for almost a century been the go to example for the devil on earth, the world’s greatest evil, and, of course, the perfect historical excuse for a pre-emptive strike on an enemy. The name today though has almost lost its meaning, like the word fascism, the ideology tied to the man. Both sides of the aisle shout out fascist and Nazi without really taking their comparison seriously. The overuse of these power words and historical comparisons has drastically hampered our ability to talk about these issues with any seriousness or urgency. So, to call our president Hitler is an insult to Hitler. It is an insult to our basic understanding of high school history. And much like this entire debacle, calling him that is an insult to our intelligence.

Donnie didn’t create a nationalistic party like Adolf, he hi-jacked a party that had for the better part of 50 years been marinating in Cold War fears and American gung-ho-erry. While Adolf crafted his image when he was put in jail after the Munich Beer Hall coup in 1923, Donald spent his time being a late 20th century mega-crook and TV personality. Are we trying to insinuate that The Art of the Deal is somehow equivalent to Mein Kampf?  Donald may have tried to take ideas from Hitler, like his Muslim registry, but only a true showman or corruptible idiot would publicly admit to planning on making a registration of minorities in the early 21st century before an election.

Perhaps the closest thing the two men have in common is their relationship with the media and the branding of their goals. Donald made his last name synonymous with success, a name which was apparently changed from Drumpf. Hitler made his party synonymous with making Germany great again. Both have used the strategy of insulting and discrediting the media to keep their product effective. Fake news! Only for Hitler this was the Lügenpresse (lying press). Today in Germany this is a taboo word that represents and highlights the worst parts of their history. This is nothing new. It is an old trick used by the forces of narrow mindedness on both sides to distract from certain realities and rile up support. While Hitler used the radio as a terrifying powerful orator, Donald has turned to Twitter to blabber on and commit acts of nonsense.

If you want to make a comparison, let’s say that Donald is the member of your family you hate the most while playing monopoly.  If we keep comparing him to a dictator that will be exactly what people expect and eventually accept as a reality. Donald probably isn’t that important in the end. When Hitler took his own life the Third Reich went with him. Donald is simply riding the wave of new right-wing populism, if he fails, the wave continues and we remain blind to the real issues that are far more pressing than what some jabroni tweeted, like who is actually pulling his strings.

The hardest goal for anti-populists will be to remain focused when so much political and media stimuli are being thrown around. There are many ways to combat fake news claims, including; human editors, fact checking sights, crowd-sourcing, and tech solutions. However, all these solutions come with their own limitations that must also be better understood. Editors are reliable but they can also be slow and corruptible. Crowd sourcing and fact checking can be democratic but it can be biased sometimes too. It seems whether it be a newspaper, radio or twitter, it comes down to our own judgement to stop megalomania and the spreading of misinformation.

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Lesser Evils (Pence)

Lesser Evils

There has been some talk of impeaching Donald in response to all the drivel we have had to endure from him. Heck, they were talking about it before he even won the presidency. More recently, five months in, those calls have been growing more numerous. While it might seem like it would be satisfying to have Donnie be our next impeachment victim, it could possibly turn out to be far worse.

If Donald steps down we will have Mike Pence eagerly awaiting to replace him. The two barely got on during the campaign and were found contradicting one another several times. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the next administration might be more competent at taking away our rights. Mike Pence is known for his discriminating policies against the LGBT community, his ban on abortions, and general dislike of immigrants and refugees. Donald may have used Pence to get better footing in the religious right demographic because we never really think of Donald as religious. Donald’s god is greed. Pence’s god may be something similar but it also comes with all that baggage from trying to press religion on state politics. This is something that since the beginning America has tried to avoid with the separation of church and state.

The anti-women’s choice movement, be it over their jobs or reproductive rights, has gained positions in places of power. There is some truth to the saying that ‘this is a Christian nation’. Let’s say instead though, that our country has a Christian nation, as well as a Jewish nation, and Muslim, and every other denomination you could possibly think of. However, it is a certain segment of Christians that seem more apt to bring their religion into public and state law, while passing their blatant discrimination off as religious freedom. This hurts not only women but also other disenfranchised minorities in the country.

Recently, Civia Tamarkin and Luchina Fisher released their documentary Birthright: A War Story. It revolves around the increasing restrictions on abortions in America. Even the current administration is trying to get rid of access to contraceptives as well as other important civil liberties. With Pence in the office the road toward Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale only gets shorter.

The Distracted

 

After the political dust settled and Donald was put in the Oval Office, Mark Zuckerberg came out to downplay the idea that Facebook had any hand in the spreading of misinformation which may have caused people to vote a certain way during the election. Mark called it crazy (Romm, Wagner, 2017). Then in the end of April the Facebook security team released a pdf report admitting that political debate online suffered due to “information operations”.

So, even though we have this amazing new tool to research and check facts, a lot of people are using it to do the exact opposite with cruel intention. What makes this scenario even more difficult is that over the years a certain portion of the GOP’s supporters have not only been fed misinformation, they actively explain away blatant signs of collusion and corruption (Dale, 2017.) If Ronald was the 20th century’s bizarre form of media demagoguery, then Donald is the 21st century’s.  Their expectations of what they have been led to believe becomes a one-way track to what they perceive as the truth. In this bizarre case of the political nocebo effect, they have been told the media are the enemy and so in every case will expect them to be liars.

A good portion of the public has created their own self-fulfilling narrative and reality. Matt Taibbi talks heavily on this subject in his 2008 book “The Great Derangement”. He explains how it isn’t just politicians that have lost touch with Americans, it is also the other way around. Many Americans have lost faith in authority and they have become addicted to being told exactly what they want to hear. He also points out that not much has changed from Nixon in 1972, to Ronald, to Donald today (Potter, 2017).

Neuroscientist Bobby Azarian has pointed out that even though the truth may be out there and Donald’s supporters may have even heard it from a respectable source they will ignore it. Some though, are unaware they are misinformed at all. He explains the Dunning-Kruger effect as this ignorance of ignorance, a hyper-sensitivity to threat, being reminded of one’s own mortality (terror management theory), and high attentional engagement (Azarian, 2016). With high attentional engagement, we see people tuning out to Hillary’s snore fest and we see people loving the sensationalism of Donald’s charisma. But obviously, the entire country doesn’t fit this mold.

Let us not forget about our non-voters and anti-trump Americans. For many of them politics is so nonsensical there is no point in trying to fix it or change it. However, for many more still, it is not that they think that fixing the system would be a waste of time, it is that they don’t have the time to fix it. One doesn’t have to look far to see the economic disparity we have in the greatest nation on earth. The gap between the rich and the poor has only increased. The American public doesn’t have the time of day or the human energy needed to continue to protest day in and day out for a better system, especially when they have to put bread on the table. It has gotten to the point where most are content just to survive. “Please at least leave us alone in our living rooms, let me have my toaster and my TV and just leave me alone.”

First, they pander to you, then they offer you the American Dream, then you work until you die, then they win.

Check out Vox’s video on Fact-checking:

 

 

The Distractors

 

It was both Republicans and Democrats that fueled the fear-mongering and distractions during the Cold War. This policy was a huge step away from American isolationism before the World Wars. Suddenly the public was perfectly content with waging proxy wars through Muslim fanatics and in countries all around the world that had no interest in ever actually invading us. These surges in fear play a familiar tune. Their dreadful pessimistic language spreads like wild and when it reaches ideas like border walls and deportations, they burn like an underground coal fire. Sensationalism.

Incumbents on both sides of the aisle have cemented their respective parties and positions in an institution meant to be open and representing of us. Then they turn the blind eye and start to work on vanity projects while scratching the backs of those that donated to their campaign. They allow amendments to bend to keep the distraction game going and loop around into every hole worth its capital. The public just keeps voting for them. We live in an age of transparent corruption; which is not exactly the type of transparency that encourages participation. What system is it then that we are a part of, when almost half of the country doesn’t turn out to vote and our representatives have perverted the basic concept of their job description?

The gap between our representatives and their constituency leads to weird politics. Plato’s philosopher kings are nowhere to be found, what we have is a collection of wanna-be do-gooders, vanity clients and self-professed messiahs. All of them are spending more time trying to get reelected instead of making good policy for a successful 21st century transition. They point to bathrooms and borders as if they were an election issue. We have real issues to work on that involve helping all of us and not attacking a minority of American citizens for no reason. We stopped having real conversations too long ago. Bigotry disguised itself too easily as the defender of freedom.

If America itself doesn’t itself become an unfortunate footnote in history, then surely the past 60 years will be. The major news networks have cemented for themselves an audience and abandoned any idea of journalistic responsibility. The FCC may soon do the same for the internet and sell us all out for a forcibly mutated version of justice. Unfortunately, most of the voting population has landed itself in some self-fulfilling egotistically illogical loop. So, they elected a two-bit crook and an absolute bellend.

The jump from radio, to television, and then quickly onto the worldwide web could not be properly regulated in a political atmosphere of dread, anxiety, and empty election promises. We are now exercising a 200-year-old constitution in the 21st century all on 10,000-year-old processors, unanticipated problems are bound to come up. Both a representative congress and an informative media were tools and processes our ancestors implemented to avoid tyranny and misinformation. However, these problems don’t simply go away. There is truth to the saying; there ain’t no rest for the wicked. Democracy is a tyrant incubator and if one is to defend the ideals of transparency, equality, and justice, one must be willing to fight for it at all times. There are no time outs and as technology progresses the rules keep getting more complex. It is in this complex of gerrymandering, lobbying, Super PACs, and concealed contributions that we lose sight of ourselves, our community and our democracy.

At the end of the day it may be their game. They set the board, draw up the lines and make the rules. It took George Watson a decade to get the 27th Amendment ratified. Before that, congress would raise their own pay and give themselves special tax breaks. The amount of work that had to be done just to add a smidge of financial oversight to our representatives is quite silly. Watson stated that he further supports amendments to establish “term limits and fiscal discipline.” However, he says, “because the partisan gridlock is so strong in today’s politics at both the state and national levels, it may very well be a long, long time before the Constitution sees its 28th Amendment (Heltman, 2012).

Americans now have the opportunity to decide, yet again, is this how it is going to be? Is this what we want in our government? Could the alternative really be worse? How long can we abide by perceived necessary evils and corruption? Hopefully not too much longer. You can blame the distractors, you can blame the distracted and you can blame the system. It is a shared responsibility. Unfortunately, we can point fingers all day but it will accomplish nothing. Talk is cheap and we still hold the power to vote them in and out. We hold the power of the internet to search, and question, and come to our own conclusions. The problem here is that a good portion of people are not inclined to seek out perspective, certainty or justice or any of those ‘elitist’ ideals longer than two syllables. They just want to be in the right and they are perfectly content to explain away anything that doesn’t match up with what they have been told is normal. And perhaps they are right to stick their collective heads in the sand, perhaps this is normal and the only way to get by in America today, but it doesn’t have to be. The powers that be love a good status quo but it is the public’s decision to give it to them. Even the most vicious of circles can be broken.

 

 

 

 

The Distraction Game

The Distraction Game

New technology and arrogance continue to be a dangerous mix. Particularly when it comes to new communication technology and the spreading and sharing of information. In the 20th century the metaphorical double-edged sword was taken up and blindly swung around. The radio was utilized by not only the Nazi regime but the United States and Great Britain as well. While it was a great tool for citizens to gain information, it was also a superb tool for governments to abuse information and create a specific narrative. The great powers of World War II all used this technology to further their missions. Moving into the Cold War, America was spreading the good capitalist word in Eastern Europe with Radio Free Europe.  The youth of many western nations began tuning into off-shore radios, similar to the one depicted in the movie Pirate Radio, to listen not just to new music but to the new ideas that were purposefully being kept from them. Even leaders of the western free world at the time were trying to down play and stop such ideas from spreading. Even with the radio, the spreading, sharing, and management of information and entertainment was complicated. Denmark had the first radio station from international waters in 1958. However, before anyone even had a chance to distinguish the bullshit radio waves and talk shows from the plausible ones, the 50s came and brought with it the next wave in communicating technology; the television.

In the West, networks took off running. Each of them trying to get the most viewers for their advertisers so they could stay profitable and afloat. Video killed the radio star and didn’t stop there. Television went on to slowly bludgeon the truth to death in the name of profit. The actual information stopped being important. “An entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube!”, says Howard Beale from the 1976 movie The Network. After this generation stepped up in the world we saw, what was in the 50s, the unthinkable. The fear of atomic war landed us with the cutest rosy-cheeked President we have ever had. Reaganomics took ahold of the nation and we grew further and further away from the ideas of the New Deal. Greed is, of course, good. And insane amounts of concentrated capital are a water basin of wealth just waiting to be distributed to the work-willing masses, or so that old story goes. This story coupled with the fear of the Cold War was distracting people from certain realities. Since 1980, homes, rent, healthcare, education, insurance, and don’t forget petrol, all increased in pricing while wages stagnated and have remained the same. Economics became cruel, workers became disposable and social programs were now looked at in the same disdain as a swastika. While people were watching Dallas, Cheers, and the NFL, the future of America was being outsourced and indexed. The country that held up a banner of freedom for the world was slowly but surely leaving most of their own minorities in the dirt and no one at the networks blinked an eye.

The networks of the 1970s played on their viewers fears, Vietnam was on the television, nuclear war an ever-present danger and before they knew it Ronald McReagan was being sworn into office. An American TV and Movie personality. At the time of the election he was accused of delaying the release of American hostages in Iran with the help of Ayatollah Khomeini to make sure Carter lost. These scandalous events happening right before Presidential elections are not uncommon in the second half of the century. So much so that they have come to be known as October surprises. Clinton and Donald were both hit by these. Perhaps what is more unsettling though is the surprises that don’t make the list. Regardless, it seems that the ambition to use new technologies like the radio in the World Wars, the television during the Cold War, and the internet during the War on Terror, is always used to mislead and misrepresent rather than what it could be used for; creating an informed public debate. It was through these terrifying and desperate times that people lost the energy and power to think for themselves. The motivation was always there, but something was distracting them.

Today, the internet and personal computers are the greatest distraction machine ever conceived. It may have the ability to better connect and understand the world, but a tool is only as good as its master. During the past election, Hillary unfortunately offered no real amount of change for most Americans and her understanding of our newest technology bit her on the ass. On the other hand, Donald and his twitter account, well he offered us the greatest reality TV show of all time. This cringe worthy train-wreck entertainment is an insult to 20th century activist movements. However, insulting it is, it doesn’t make it any less effective for manipulating a generation of people who grew up on the tube and then shuffled over to YouTube. For every step taken forward in advancing a decent, fair, and just America, our new president will take us leaps and bounds backwards. Or perhaps his ineptitude will just bring us to a screeching halt, if we are lucky.

With every new wave in technological advancement brings both new hope and new concerns. The information age has already proven to be the ultimate Panem et Circenses. This is the idea of superficial appeasement for luring the general public into service that dates all the way back to the Roman empire. With public access to the world’s well of information how is it that people are being distracted so easily? How can we take a stand against the age-old excuse of ‘fake news’? And perhaps most importantly, what are we specifically being distracted from?

Perhaps, we may never know what it is that we are being distracted from. Maybe it is the downgrading of regulations on banks even after, yet another, economic down turn. This would entrench private interests in our political and economic system even further. Then again it could be a resurgence of the failed drug war that they are going after, as Sessions recently moved to lengthen sentences. It isn’t insane that the Russia scandal itself might be a distraction from taking away millions of Americans healthcare. With Planned Parenthood and the EPA being targeted; women are losing their right to choose and we are all losing our right to clean air and not being slowly poisoned without consent. Still, while all this is happening and our president is tweeting out either hateful rhetoric or complete gibberish, he is simultaneously destroying the future of America’s environment by opting out of the Paris Climate Agreements.

If this is the America we deserve, we will soon find out. If there is to be any chance for the next generation to have any semblance of a good life three things should happen:

A continued focus on real issues

Investigate Donald’s campaign for ties to Russia

Don’t give them an inch; write, call, protest

Other than that, well, just sit back and enjoy the show. Get the laughs in now. There might not be too many left to go around.

 

 

Net Neutral 2

Net Neutrality

Back in 2016 the FCC made the decision to keep the internet equal, open and free. As soon as the decision was made several Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like AT&T, came out and stated they would not give up this fight so easily. Luckily enough for them, they don’t really have to. President Donald has placed Ajit Pai as Federal Communications Commission chairman. Ajit has stated that he is fully against Net Neutrality and just happens to be a former lawyer for Verizon.

ISPs, like Verizon and Comcast, have been scrambling the propaganda machine to further misconstrue their actual intentions with changing the ruling. They call it “different legal footing”, they say it will benefit the poor, but in the end, it can really only be described as one thing; cable company fuckery. John Oliver has managed to find the best way to describe what is going on in this extremely boring and beyond important fiasco. There is really no other way to explain this phenomenon to the average citizen. There are enough examples of cable companies or ISPs taking advantage of consumers and markets to merit real concern. However, perhaps more showing of their misdirection are the 128,000-identical fake anti-net neutrality emails that have been sent to FCC. Some people’s names and identities may have even been stolen to speak out against Net Neutrality. Many pro-net neutrality emails also had fake names and addresses, but were at least not blatantly identical.

Even though cable companies and late show hosts are attempting to garner our support the urgency that this issue deserves is still not there. This right now is a battle for the future of not only the nation but the world. We are talking about the internet; a world spanning system of connectivity with blazing complexity. The people have so far lost out and now corporations make the real decisions for us. A handful of companies against millions of citizens and they still don’t stand a chance.

The real question, for the individual, may be; is accumulated capital the only merit we are looking for to decide who governs the internet? If so, then let the ISPs do whatever they want. Let them charge their premiums for faster internet. We still have books, right?

The question I have for myself; if Ajit and Donald get their way, is this to be the last real battle? Is this the Gettysburg of Net Neutrality or the Fort Sumter? The beginning of our long fight, or the beginning of the end? Either way, we have a few options against Donald and Ajit, including emails to the FCC, voting for a better Congressman in 2018, insulting and belittling rhetoric (that he is clearly immune to), and voting with your feet, just to name a few. Although some companies are anti-Net Neutrality many are actually for it. Amazon, Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla and Vimeo are holding a day of protest on July 12th. We can show them some love and support for their action. In the meantime

An Early Morning Viennese Debate

As a child, especially around Christmas, I was obsessed with trains. They may have been going in circles but they always went places. It was in May of 2015 that I found myself on a train heading east. After several Aufwiedersehens I was ready to go with all I ever needed in my rucksack. As it pulled out of the station I caught glimpses through the window of my adopted home at the foot of the Alps. It was heart wrenching and difficult to leave it, but then again so was getting there in the first place.

My destination was one of the great cities of the Danube river system. A political, cultural and economic hub of not just the Austrian peoples, but of Europe as well. How many treaties and conventions had this city been a part of in its history? And how many cannons hit her walls? How many invaders fell short, never reaching her streets? How many more died defending her? Wien (Vienna), has endured centuries and has a lot to show for it. Forget skeletons in the closet, try basement dungeons filled to the brim with bones. However, for all its history and pomp I didn’t give it much thought. It was just the first leg in a toilsome journey from one mountainous realm to the edge of the breaking sea. Through this trip I met both good people and degenerate life sucking psychopaths. By the end of day one I would be shown my own inescapable ignorance yet again. It is that quality of (the way I) travel; to show one’s self (and not-self) what you thought you knew is only a perspective and that what you could never dream of may be more real than you thought. That is what makes it worth all the pain. Or at least that is what I tell myself to keep from breaking down into a hobbled mess on a train station floor.

It is already fairly late when the train finally rolled in to the Westbahnhof (train station). The sun has set and the city is ablaze with fading and upgraded neon advertisements. It was exceptionally quiet night for a such a large city, but it was Monday after all. While walking to my destination in the Citadel of Dreams I thought over my still half-hazard plan. I was about 55% sure of a place to stay that night in the city before my bus in the morning. Better odds than 50/50 right? The trip would take me through the southern Slavic states, after years of interacting and drinking with ex-Yugos I would finally see the heart of the Balkans. But that is another story entirely.

Walking through the grey and broken streets, past cafes and store fronts, I recalled an article I read about the Imperial city. It was 1913 and Wien was a center of desire. A strange mix of numerous cultures all living and working around and with each other. Less than half the population was native born and a quarter were from Bohemia. It was around this time that Tito, Ferdinand, Hitler, Stalin and Freud all lived in the city. The mix of dreamers and cultures from other lands would meet in coffee-houses to discuss and share ideas. I am here simply to tell you that Wien has not lost this characteristic.

I arrived at the bar where my soon to be ex-boss is finishing up another one of his famous Pub-quizzes. We get a pint together as I wait for a reply from my potential host. She was a girl from Texas that I had met a week earlier at a Cannabis protest in the city (forget name dropping, try protest  dropping). My ex-boss actually didn’t even like being called a boss though. The first time I uttered the word in his presence he asked me immediately to stop using it. I had been doing pub-quizzes for him in Salzburg and managed to at least find a replacement for myself before I left to keep the quiz nights going. He told me he didn’t like the idea of bosses, that we would be something closer to partners. It was a new idea to me coming from the States. I couldn’t believe how much respect the man was giving to an American foreigner. I went with it but I couldn’t get that American idea out of my head; this man is my boss. My happy hilarious Hungarian boss.

He had the name of a great conqueror but preached a tolerant and tame Marxism. We spoke of Austrian politics, tourism and other things the central Europeans like to discuss. Then I realize this Texas girl is not going to reply to me, I am on my own. After explaining this to my Not-boss he reminds me of our first drunken night together at that very bar. It was an Australian bar down a weird alleyway closer to the Westbahnhof. The establishment was fairly roomy, and despite surroundings of cold stone and dim lights it did not feel like a damp cave. His friend the bartender had at the time drunkenly decided I was alright, for an Ami that is. This was when he offered me a place to stay should I ever need one. It was time to call in that drunken favor that he might not even remember. But he sets me up for a place to sleep with this bartender and his girlfriend. Interesting. Now the barman was a native Austrian, but his girl was Australian lass. Another transplant from the New World back to the Old.

It was that Monday in May that I bade farewell to one of the best employers (better?) I have ever had. We drank probably a few too many last rounds then I set off with two pretty complete strangers to try and get some sleep. As we walk to their apartment I find out that not only is Max a bartender he is also a musician as well. He shows me some of his tracks on his computer and I am honestly impressed with his sound. His girl, Sheila (Australian girl), was a tour guide leader in Wien and in Hungary as well. Basically my dream job. The two of them keep making Cuba Libres and we continue to drink and talk about the state of things in the world, in Europe, in the city even. I was interested to hear more about the city from someone who actually lived there. And this couple clearly knew what was up. Awesome apartment, books lining the walls, records and smoker friendly. Everything was going splendidly.

Then this Sheila says one of the few things I cannot stand to hear about our shared previously colonized New World; it has no culture. Now, I have already expressed my frustration with European stereotypes of Americans. I am usually fine with it because I shatter the idea of the fat, not well-read, ignorant, rich American just by standing in front of people. A true contradiction. However, when they say there is no culture I get on the defensive. I hadn’t left my country because it didn’t have enough culture. I left it discover other cultures and learn what I might from them.

So into my normal tirade I went. About how George Washington sat among a slew of other cultural revolutionaries of his time. About how dumping tea in the harbor and our acts of dissidence were the colonist’s nice way of saying to the King that we no longer shared a common life, a common goal, or even a common time-zone. I pleaded that a change in culture had to come before any chance at revolution anyway. Sheila stood her ground though. She pointed out that she meant the whole New World as a whole had no culture, I was still thinking too narrowly. They didn’t have the history that peoples here in Europe did. I was genuinely appalled and was drunk enough to continue to push back.

I assured her that I had no idea concerning Australia, but those United Fucking States had culture. We have all the cultures of the world. We took in the sick, the poor, the hungry! We treated them like crap but hell, we took them in. We have pizza! We have gyros! Not to mention a thousand styles of new beers, even Europeans will sometimes make an American Pale Ale. We do not only have culture; we have sub-cultures that are at odds with each other. A tired and corrupt police culture pitted against our most vulnerable citizens. For example, citizens from a culture of poverty, citizens from a culture of color and repression, citizens without proper legal documents. But this wasn’t good enough for her either. European culture was just richer. What the hell is that supposed to mean?! That is what I drunkenly yelled at some point probably.

At this point, Max has become bored with the conversation. An argument about a New World that he probably hasn’t given the time of day to think about isn’t that very exciting. And he was helping her prove her point. No one cares or even thinks to wonder if the New World has culture or not. They just run around wearing their flat-rimmed Yankees hats having never played baseball in their lives.

Forgetting I needed to sleep for an insane trip through the Balkans I continued to blather. I suggested that she must at least admit that there is some semblance of culture in the New World. As much of what Europe considers very traditional is actually from the Americas. Every cigarette smoked and potato eaten was an admittance that it is common for cultures to share and adapt to things over time. You can’t tell me that curry is British. She conceded that, yes, a culture very well may exist there, but that when she said; No culture, she meant; a young culture, a juvenile culture.  And as much as it still sounded condescending to a Maine culture back home that I knew existed, I knew she was right. The only culture I ever knew growing up was a culture passed down by white folks, and tI am pretty damn sure they were not the original inhabitants.

So sure, we have culture, but even I will admit we are culturally imperialistic and still share part of the colonist’s ethos. We are capable of slowly degrading other cultures. Burger King in Baghdad, baby. I always thought the Europark in Salzburg was such a sad American thing to have in such an old cultured nation. Ironically enough, it was an Austrian architect from Wien that drew up plans for the first American style mall. His idea of a town center with all the things you would usually get downtown now reached the suburbs. However, his idea for an open spaced area with fresh foods coming in was shut down and then shut in. The mall was closed in and every spare inch of space turned into an advert for something. The architect later saw these despot hell holes springing up in his native Austria and could only feel ashamed. And perhaps it was always the youths of other countries who thought that juvenile, young, new products were the best.

From 1850 to 1913 more than 20 million people moved from the Old World to the New World settlements. Perhaps one of the largest migrations of humankind. Packing lightly, one of the few things I think they could bring with them was their culture. But as they mixed and mingled that culture became something entirely different and new. And so new cultures were born. And it may be young but it does not lack substance. A colonial culture still has roots, though they may be short and replanted. And when I think about it in terms of the whole of human history, we have been changing and adapting as best we can to this unforgiving rock of a planet for tens of thousands of years. We brought wheat from the Middle East and coffee from North Africa to the corners of the world. Many of us still use a similar alphabet. All languages, religions, music and politics were shared and traded. Who is to say one culture is richer than the other? I suppose that is anyone’s personal opinion.

I will admit that our culture is juvenile and exists. And I will only half admit that European culture is richer or better. Since we separated and left Africa, if you believe that story, we collected new and interesting methods of all sorts of things. And in the past two centuries we have seen those ideas shared across the entire planet. I realize I was getting worked up over a silly definition. I realize it was pretty juvenile. But it helped me realize that even things that seem so sure and concrete may not be that way to everyone else after all.

I didn’t get any sleep that night arguing with those two. I went straight to the bus after our debate as it was about 7 am. I slept right down to the Hungarian border. Before I left though they both gave me their emails in an amazing book; Zealot. An in depth look into who the man Christ really was. I enjoyed the book very much so.

Perhaps America is an Irish twin of sorts to Europe. With Europe asserting some dominance by being a bit older. But how do these divisions in our global village shape our conversations and direct our actions? Even if they are only perceived divisions? We can and still do work together. From the individual to the collective we are on a crazy journey of experience accumulation, mixing and repetitions. What is the best way to evaluate these changes and developments? Hopefully, if anything, humans keep asking questions and breaking down barriers. Because while some Sapiens may erect walls, we always find that we were better off without them in the end, working, discussing, living together. Regardless of age or origin.

I’ll take a drunken debate over a deadly street fight any day.