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The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Jean-Francois Revel...

... has died.

I've yet to read his books, though they're on my short list. His very existance was only recently brought to my attention by Bruce Bawer:

It is not only in the U.S. and Britain that the bookstores have lately been filled with books harshly critical of America—and that responses to these works have begun to appear. France has seen a spate of volumes with titles like Dangereuse Amérique and Après l’empire: Essai sur la décomposition du système américain; Thierry Meyssan’s L’effroyable imposture, which argues that no plane struck the Pentagon on 9/11, was a bestseller. So, however, was Jean-François Revel’s L’obsession anti-américaine, which has now appeared in the U.S. as Anti-Americanism. Revel’s earliest opinions of America, he tells us, were formed by “the European press, which means that my judgment was unfavorable”; yet those opinions changed when he actually visited America during the Vietnam War. Decades later, he notes wryly, the European media still employ the same misrepresentations as they did back then, depicting an America plagued by severe poverty, extreme inequality, “no unemployment benefits, no retirement, no assistance for the destitute,” and medical care and university education only for the rich. “Europeans firmly believe this caricature,” Revel writes, “because it is repeated every day by the elites.” The centrality of this point to the entire topic of European anti-Americanism cannot, in my view, be overstated.

Item by item, Revel refutes the European media’s picture of America. Poverty? An American at the poverty level has about the same standard of living as the average citizen of Greece or Portugal. (Indeed, according to a recent study by the Swedish Trade Research Institute, Swedes have a slightly lower standard of living than black Americans—a devastating statistic for Scandinavians, for whom both the unparalleled success of their own welfare economies and the pitiable poverty of blacks in the racist U.S. are articles of faith.) Crime? America has grown safer, while the French ignore their own rising crime levels, a consequence of “permanent street warfare” by Muslim immigrants “who don’t consider themselves subject to the laws of the land” and of authorities with “anti-law-and-order ideologies.” Revel contrasts France’s increasingly problematic division into ethnic Frenchmen and unassimilated immigrants with “America’s truly diverse, multifaceted society,” pointing out that “the success and originality of American integration stems precisely from the fact that immigrants’ descendants can perpetuate their ancestral cultures while thinking of themselves as American citizens in the fullest sense.” Bingo.

Bingo, indeed. Rest easy Jean-Francois Revel. Take comfort in that your observations did not entirely fall on deaf ears.

(Via: Michelle)

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