Look Across the Pond to the Future

For several decades it has been the perceived wisdom that California is the leader of the US in all matters cultural and political.   So goes California so goes the nation is the theory.  Like all bromides there is some element of truth there.  It is fact that from demographics to our societal mores that California has been the first in so many fields over the last several decades.   It has been a trend setter in many matters.  Not all of course but it has been the lead horse in many areas.   Many view it as the incubator of new ideas and approaches to government and the views that society takes on groups or segments of society.   It is an update if you will on the Turner Thesis of almost a century ago.  That Thesis postulated that the US was influenced by the West in regards to our economy, our culture and government more than any other region.  It argued that the West dominated our thinking as a nation.

In turn our thinking as a nation as been dominated by European thought and culture from our inception.   The government and cultural ideas of Europe spread from there to the rest of the world but always came to the US sooner rather than later.   We did lead the way in republican and democratic reforms with our Revolution but the base ideas were those that had been advanced by our European forefathers in England and France.  The American and French Revolutions came along at more or less the same time.   We lead the way by only about a decade.   The great experiments in economy and government were most often germinated in Europe then transported across the Pond to the US.   The anarchist and socialism movements were begun in Europe and spread from there.  We had some communes here in our earliest days but they were fleeting and without exception failed after a very short lifespan everytime.   Karl Marx was German but ended up spending most of his days in England.  (In fact he is buried in London which very few people remember).  The big ideas of economics came from European roots.  Some were successful such as Capitalism and some ended up in horrible failure such as Communism.   The Europeans have lead the way in all major societal changes for good or ill.  We adopted some, tinkered with some and rejected many.  But all those ideas were considered at one time or another.   The developments in Europe were often forerunners of what would occur in the US.   It was the California for the entire US and free world.   Some of the very liberal ideas that have taken root here had their origin in Europe.  Europe lead the way for example in desegregation and having inclusive societies.  Blacks and other minorities found a much more welcoming atmosphere there than here for decades before our Civil Rights movement.  They experimented with Socialism in various degrees from the early 20th century until late in that century.   So if you want a picture of what might be occuring in the US a few years or decades from now you can look to Europe and see how they are handlinig matters for a preview.  We don’t follow them slavishly but that we do consider their approaches cannot be gainsaid.

The current problems with immigration both legal and illegal is an area where we should watch the developments in Europe to see how the “liberal” and accepting societies are dealing with the issue.  We might not go their route but you can be assured at a point we will consider the methods they are adopting to deal with the matter.  I urge you to read news accounts from Europe about this issue.  They are readily available these days on the web.  From Holland to Italy and England the call is going out to more closely restrict the influx of immigrants.   Holland is one of the most liberal of countries in the world but their issues with Muslims has made its way to the front pages.   The assassination of some of their parliament leaders has heighten their concern. In Denmark, another very liberal country, you do recall the outburst of venom from the Muslims over the political cartoon they found offensive and the riots throughout the Arab world.   The Danes were flabbergasted that anyone could try to restrict the freedom of thought and expression of ideas.   Now Italy is having some very severe calls for immigrant restrictions.  You remember the riots and police intervention that occurred in Naples only a couple of months ago.  The city was up in arms about immigrants and there were numerous clashes.  In the north of Italy the Northern League is openly and forcefully calling for strict limits on immigration and hostilities between the locals and immigrants is making headlines on a regular basis there.   Great Britain has seen a reversal of its accepting attitude in recent years, primarily since 9/11 and the London bombings.   Spain is beginning to clamp down on immigrants after the train bombings there and we all recall the riots in France of only a year ago and the public reaction to them.   No politician in Europe is calling for more immigration or leniency in dealing with illegal immigrants anymore.  That is quite a reversal from 30 years ago.   Most of their immigrants come from Africa or the Middle East.  It is a short hop across the Meditterrean Sea to France, Spain or Italy and then on into the heartland of Europe for the illegals.   For the first time in decades many European politician are calling for more laws to restrict immigration.  They now do so without fear of being branded a troglydite in social thinking.  The same position a couple of decades ago would have seen them pilloried for such positions.  I don’t know how we will react here to these issues but I can assure you that if you want to get a glimpse of our future policy on immigration that you should look to Europe and see how they respond to that crisis.   Stay tuned and stay informed.   Don’t take my word for anything, do you own reading and reach your own conclusions but make them based on real facts not op ed pieces.

The Briton Joseph Priestly was a true Renaissance man of his time.  He was a contemporary of Ben Franklin and friend and collaborator.   He was foremost a theologian and also a pretty fair scientist.  He discovered oxygen and many other gases and conducted numerous experiments regarding electricity.  He also discovered the concept of aeration with CO2 for fluids.  Yeah, soda  pop.  He did this while watching the fermentation process in an ale house that was next to his rectory.  He found that the escaping gases of CO2 could be captured and then re-injected into a beverage.  He didn’t even apply for a patent but wrote of his idea and experiments and let anyone interested do with it what they will.  Schweppes certainly did.  Everytime you drink a soda pop the idea came from that preacher.   He ended up being a founder of the Unitarian Church and was all for the French Revolution.   He was not popular for those ideas and finally came to the US in George Washington’s second term where he would be free to express his views whether religious or scientific without restriction.

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Foreign Affairs, history, immigration

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