Monday, March 31, 2003

Popular Culture & Peace

Instapundit has linked to a great post on Quare.

The entry discusses the concept of "World Peace through shared popular culture" a tagline of a US distributor of Japanese cartoons. I really like this idea - it fits well with the old axiom that 'no two nations with McDonalds restaurants have ever gone to war'.

This reminds me of why I believe that they EU will not succeed as a cohesive political unit for a long time to come - beyond the blindingly clear fact that France and Germany seem to believe that the EU was created purely to give them control over the continent without having to fire a shot. I believe a real problem for the EU is a lack of a common European popular culture.

I took some classes at the London School of Economics in the mid 90s. I really enjoyed my class on the development of the European Union. As the only American in the class I often disagreed with my fellow students (who were all European). One discussion in particular springs to mind - I was trying to explain that in the US we have a society rife with members who move from coast to coast depending on the financial opportunities. I believe that what best enables that is the commonalities of our culture in all 50 states. I argued that until there was a common literature and popular culture crossing borders in the EU it does not matter that there are common passports or a common currency. If moving from Copenhagen to Lyons feels more like moving between countries than between states the economic advantages of moving will be muted by the cultural disadvantages.

The example I often used was the fact that virtually every person raised in the US read 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' as a student and at the same time most every person (for better or worse) knows the words to theme song of TVs 'Brady Bunch'. These shared experiences bind us as a nation and also provide us with a common vocabulary of experiences.

As far as I can tell the Eurovision song contest is not enough to bind together the disparate peoples of Europe. The best common popular culture that they share is imported from the US. For example - not long ago in London I was struck by the McDonalds ads in the Underground. Each one had a picture of a McDonalds food with the phrase "A taste of home" in one of many languages. That is what US culture has become - 'home' for people in many countries around the world. Crossing borders the shared experiences of many peoples include eating McDonalds and watching Friends.

I believe that this shared popular culture can only help us to understand each other in the future - I will go along with the idealistic goals of "World Peace through shared popular culture".


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