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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MAILBOX: Is the Rest of the World America's Hamburger?




Dear Editor,


Legend has it that Archimedes, the famous Greek mathematician, was killed by the sword of a Roman soldier while quietly contemplating geometrical problems in the sand. There is much symbolism in this deed when considering the relationship between the United States and Russia.


Let us suppose that America is the equivalent of a modern day Rome. Large, powerful, intrusive and every bit the "indispensable nation," as once described by Madeleine Albright. Countries learn to govern themselves through our methods of democracy; some have even been brutally punished for believing they know better how to rule their people. They appeal to American-sponsored agencies for extravagant loans to nurture the roots of capitalism and enrich their people. A commercial empire, no doubt, but empire nevertheless. But like the great empire that was Rome, it seems that we may be over-extending our boundaries of influence and control. As we travel further afield in our global pursuits, the boldness of our convictions intensify, and we are convinced of the notion that our way f the American Way f is truly the only way.


Therefore, we refuse to believe that every system possesses redemptive qualities. And the greatest casuality of any battle (for example, the Cold War) remains truth f the victors write their biased version of history. Caesar reminded us of this power two millennia ago when he stated that the republic is nothing more than a word.


If this is true, America must be truly a mighty republic, for at no other time have the means for distributing "the word" been so extensive. However, it seems that the communications are all going in one direction. Newspapers, television broadcasts, entertainment and culture are largely controlled and distributed by American agencies. (Entertainment, in fact, has become our most lucrative export). America's view of the world f what we consider newsworthy, is transmitted across the globe via CNN and various other media. Such a one-sided understanding of events in the world can only be detrimental, not least of all to Americans themselves.


Presently, much of the world is struggling to reform their economic systems to the all-powerful American model. However, there is little debate on what the faults of the American model are. To merely say that the "American economy is doing great" says very little about how the American people as a whole are performing.


How is it that the richest country in the world cannot find the means to finance a national medical care system? There are presently 48 million Americans with no access to health care. Why are Americans presently working, on average, six weeks longer per year than our European counterparts? Why has the media not focused more on the trauma of corporate mergers for workers, as opposed to the clash of executive egos? Why is so much attention reserved for the dot.com phenomenon when 85 percent of the American economy is powered by the service industry? Questions like these need to be answered before the model of the New Economy is super-imposed on the planet; gross contradictions such as these will only surface later, at possibly a terrible price. But with the ongoing consolidation of news sources, it seems that this will prove to be a difficult issue to resolve.


Robert Bridge


Moscow


In response to "Build 'Villa Suburbs', July 12.


Dear Editor,


The commentary by Staffan Ringskog was so idiotic I am surprised it managed to get published. I enjoy The Moscow Times very much, but this opinion piece was truly awful. Please keep the ranting of a misguided, naive man off your pages since it only besmirches your reputation.


Tim McCutcheon


Columbia Business School


In response to "Food Fans Not Immune to Lax Linguistic Laws," June 29.


Dear Editor,


How many restaurants do you know in the United States that offer their customers a menu in a language other than English? I have been in the States about 30 times, but aside from restaurants in Little Italy or China Town in Manhattan, I can't remember too many that do. I remember one, a five-star restaurant in San Francisco that gave me the option to read the menu in German. I had a very good laugh over the words used.


What about all the U.S. expats here in Moscow f have you ever checked their spelling in letters and e-mails? Of course their rate of grammar mistakes is not as high as "two misspellings" per item, but two misspellings per letter is not unusual.


In "The Spoke in the Wheel of Summer Travel" in the same issue of The Moscow Times, Yevgenia Albats reports that her visa application to go to France was rejected because of some missing accent marks! Is this really the right approach in an international world?


A more general question: what is the percentage of the U.S. population able to speak any (!) second language, and what is the percentage of the Russian population speaking English? I dare to bet that the Russian rate is higher.


Of course a restaurant should try to avoid offering "mush potatoes" (or, as I once saw in a top restaurant in Budapest: "And if you do not find anything you like on the menu, our chef will be pleased to serve you the representatives of the Hungarian cuisine" f a cannibalistic offer that was repeated in German and French as well). But is this really "a crime"? Wouldn't it be better (and more polite and helpful) to first appreciate the attempt to make life easier for non-Russian-speaking guests f an attempt so absent from the United States? Or to simply politely correct such mistakes?


I've met many Americans who were surprised their ideas, suggestions, etc. had been rejected f not because the idea was so bad, but because of the way they behaved while selling the idea: there is just too much of a touch of "We are the greatest, and if you don't do what I tell you, you are an idiot." Well, as we say in German: wer selbst im Glashaus sitzt, soll nicht mit Steinen werfen.


Herbert Musil


Moscow