The other day I was in the supermarket trying to figure out a way to earn enough stamps to get a free pan. Or actually half of a free pan. (But that is another story). And I saw a bag of ginger snaps that advertised to be “Swedish Style”. They looked awfully like Australian Arnott's Ginger Nuts to me, so I decided to give them a shot. When I tried them, they were a little softer and smaller than the Australian version, but other wise fairly similar. Score! So I don't know if they are actually Swedish style or if it is a labeling error because when I was in Sweden last year I wasn't on the look out for Ginger Nuts.
New Years Weekend wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Very little discussion of politics.
Driving home yesterday from New Jersey, we were listening to The Big Listen which is what last week sent me into a tirade about American Exceptionalism. This week they interviewed a pair of sisters who live in Sydney and Germany. I felt like my faith in America had been restored just a tincy little bit. (Also if you are going to point out my hypocrisy, YES, if I am susceptible to exceptionalism it would be for the Australian sort, and the sisters were Australian).
What I wrote last week was intended as social commentary, rather than political, but I guess it has some political ramifications. I think a lot of people (Americans and non-Americans) look at the political system in the states and say “of of course if you just fix this one structural thing and do it more like this then everything would be solved”. If that one thing be guns or electoral college or whatever. Although I have strong opinions on those issues, my observations from living in Australia as an adult inform me in a different way. There are important differences in the systems of government used, and they have real consequences. The problem I see is the weird things that we obsess about and thus become controversial. For example, in America abortion is controversial, and in Australia building roads that connect from one city to another without horrendous traffic is controversial. It seems weird to most Australians that you would threaten to shutdown the government, or throw the supreme court into chaos over who should control a woman's body. Likewise Australians inability to build a proper freeway through Sydney would be laughable if I hadn't had to drive it a few times.
In Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, he describes the problem in the non-bookworld of Thursday Next, which is the Stupidity Surplus.
The dangerously high level of stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in The Owl that morning. The reason for the crisis was clear: Prime Minister Redmond van de Poste and his ruling Commonsense Party had been discharging their duties with a reckless degree of responsibility that bordered on inspired sagacity. Instead of drifting from one crisis to the next and appeasing the nation with a steady stream of knee-jerk legislation and headline-grabbing but arguably pointless initiatives, they had been resolutely building a raft of considered long-term plans that concentrated on unity, fairness and tolerance. It was a state of affairs deplored by Mr. Alfredo Traficcone, leader of the opposition Prevailing Wind Party, who wanted to lead the nation back to the safer ground of uniformed stupidity.
I don't think Australia or America (or Europe or Asia) are “better” or “worse”. They have different approaches, all of them falling well short of perfect, and it is much easier to see the stupidity surplus being expended in the weirdly specific ways and say “our system is much better”, but your system (for whomever you are) also has a lot of stupidity. Admit it, if you were the King of Whatever you'd do things differently, I sure would.
From an historical perspective, I think that if people in America had been paying more attention to the political winds in Europe, people here (myself specifically for example) would have taken President-Comrade-Elect Thin Skin more seriously. (There was some talk about Brexit, but “It Can't Happen Here”). On the other hand Europe dragged both America and Australia into two world wars last century, and I think if people had studied the enormous loss of life in the US Civil War they might have done things differently? Probably not. But back then America was a backwater and Europe was exceptional.