Social and mental change in the USA: More and more people consider themselves to be poor and losing their legendary optimism.
At first glance, the ostentatiously cordial reception for French President François Hollande in Washington seems to have little to do with the infamous “Fuck the EU” quotation by Victoria Nuland, the competent U.S. diplomat responsible for Europe. Incidentally, she is married to the prominent neoconservative hardliner Robert Kagan, who cultivates a downright alarming U.S.-centered worldview.
While Nuland’s attitude reflects Americans' notorious contempt of the European Union’s complicated structure, Hollande’s triumph goes no further than the renowned Roman “divide and conquer.” At least since the NSA scandal, Germany, Europe’s leading power, infuriatingly distanced itself from Washington. What Barack Obama now prompted is support for Europe’s No. 2, the president of France. That has certainly been good for Hollande, who has had little success with domestic politics. However, the EU must pay attention so as not to become further divided. Europe is like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s oppressive story, “The Metamorphosis,” who one morning wakes up as an enormous insect — in the Nikkei Asian Review, French historian and social philosopher Emmanuel Todd, who is not known for being pro-German, wrote that Europe had fallen asleep as a community of free and equal states and woke up as a hierarchy dominated by Germans. The end of democracy in Europe is coming. The Germans are just too efficient and will destroy industry in other countries. Even though the American imperial system is fading, it will urgently be needed considering the instabilities in Europe and China.
America’s imperial power reached the zenith of its empire after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is obvious that it has decreased relative to China’s rise and Russia’s re-emergence.
But what is the internal state of America? In an analysis for The New York Times, conservative Canadian author David Brooks recently used a term in the headline that was previously only used in connection with the social problems in Europe and spoke of the “American precarity.” Thus, there is evidence of a troubling decline of the legendary American spirit, which until now has been a synonym for dynamic entrepreneurship and unabated optimism.
In the 50s, wrote Brooks, 20 percent of Americans moved within the country. Today, it is only 12 percent. Earlier, an American lived in his own house for five years at most; today it is already 8.6 years. Nowadays, Americans are not more mobile than the Finns or Danes. In between the 80s and 2000s alone, the mobility of younger Americans fell more than 40 percent. A more essential reason for this remarkable change is the loss of confidence of many Americans, and the confidence in the beneficent action of American capitalism. This primarily concerns poorly educated people.
Only 46 percent of white Americans believed in being able to improve their standard of living — the lowest figure since the collection of such surveys. People in the U.S. move less because they no longer believe they can find a better job elsewhere. Success, many believe, is owed more to a matter of luck than to hard work. And while at least 50 percent of people 65 and older say their country is the best nation in the world, only 27 percent of 18-29-year-olds share this opinion. In the last 30 years, the overwhelming majority of surveyed Americans are middle class; today the number of those who perceive themselves as “have-nots” has grown enormously.
A precariat has emerged with what is historically atypical for the U.S. — fatalism, uncertain living standards and a lack of confidence in America’s possibilities. American exceptionalism, the belief in America’s uniqueness, has fundamentally vanished with one look at the American youth.