Friday, August 3, 2012

800 Words: The Posts I'd Have Written Part 2

6. The World's Most Christian Country - The center of Catholic History is France, not Italy. Italian history must contend with classical history as well as Christian history - just as Turkey must contend with Ottoman history as well as Byzantine (in reverse order). The most Christian countries are Russia and France, and no country was more exclusively formed by Catholicism than France - its entire nationhood, its entire history, is bound to the Church - either in practice or in reaction. The Catholic Church began as a heresy in Italy, but it arrived in France with all the power of a conquerer, and the greatest, most well-known monuments are to be found on French, not Italian soil.

7. France: Land of the Past - France is perhaps the only country in Europe in which an American would feel more strongly out of place than he did at the end of World War II.  French culture swam far unimaginably far against the globalizing current to preserve itself exactly as it was. The French are the only Europeans who speak English with an accent as strong as they did fifty years ago, and all their cultural traditions seem to run parallel to the American current. The reasons for this are, strangely, as conservative a sentiment as they are liberal, and the end result is that by isolating themselves, France allows a glorious past to subsume the present. There are very few cultural/scientific breakthroughs in the last forty years of which the world has taken notice - in my lifetime, France has always remained unalterably France - with no sense that it changes from decade to decade, meanwhile, the evolution time insists upon boils just beneath the surface.

8. What does France do Best? - England has drama, America has movies, Russia has novels, Italians have art, Germany has music, Spain has dancing, perhaps Japan has animation...what artform does France do incontrovertibly best? The answer is that the greatest artform of France is...France itself. To an extent far past any other country, France has mastered the plastic arts that create the food on our plate, the clothes we wear, the scape of our cities. Other countries have particular genres of art which theyve mastered to make life more bearable, France, to a greater extent than any other country, has mastered life itself.

9. L'obsession anti-americaine - There are many, many things worth criticizing about America. But it's very different to hear it from people who are not Americans themselves. There is always a gaggle of ironies about when Europeans accuse Americans of running down the achievements of other cultures while boosting the virtues of their own. The very concept of the European Union and the social welfare state would not exist with neither the United States's example, nor its repeated generosity. People with a view from the cheap seats are always bitter, and those without power can afford to criticize those who do without fear of reprisal, because their opinions dont matter.

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