It’s another dreary weekend in the valley: rain and cool, damp weather; all the leaves are falling from the trees. Fall lasted, at best, ten days. On top of that, the pediatrician discovered that E-boy has an ear infection, though you wouldn’t know it from his playfulness.

I’ve been finding a lot of articles about the world’s view of America and the West. French president Sarkozy wantd more French citizens to be bilingual, in particular, to speak ze English. France lags behind other European countries, especially French-speaking Belgium. This article analyzes the failures of French students to learn basic English despite years of instruction at the highest levels.

Philip Golub, “The Sun sets early on the American Century“, considers the decline of empires, arguing that Americans have overplayed their global hegemony attempting to regain the luster lost after Vietnam by pursuing aggressive foreign policies.

Better yet, and perhaps a little friendlier, are several articles that appear in the current Axess Magazine. Nathan Schachar, “Hating America,” considers anti-Americanism as a manifestation of an emotional need for an explanation for all the world problems. “[A]nti-Americanism is placing the USA in a moral category of its own,” excluding all positive qualities and embodying all negative qualities. Moreover, it inhibits critical self-reflection by externalizing all problems: “The USA is a lynch-pin in the one sided materialist explanation of the world.” Shachar also argues that America is not forgiven its errors like other countries (although I’d say he exaggerates the exhoneration of Germany).

Avashai Margalit, “The West by the Rest“, is a long-winded and meandering article that explores his notion of “Occidentalism”, the image of the western mastery as a political tool. I’m uncertain of a few of his arguments, but his mantra deserves consideration: the critique of the West was made in the West. Ideas about the nefarious influence of the West originate among western thinkers who pondered degeneration and the emergence of civilization without culture; non-western thinkers have picked up this internal critique, repackaged it and exported it.

The rise of populism, the other democracy, has become a hot topic. Meike Duelffer offers a roundup of important articles.

Timothy Garton Ash offers some wishful thinking in “If our political parties did not exist, would we ever need to invent them?” A variation on “I don’t make the rules,” he argues that parties have become superfluous to the groups and ideas they claim to represent. Consequently, they are not necessary to the political process in a democracy. I’m waving a copy of Rosanvallon, however, who argues that the discomfort with democracy, especially the inability to create a unity of public opinion, leads to the creation of organizations designed to counter democracy. Parties are not social membership or philosophical ideas, per se, rather engines for creating majorities to support the interests of the few.

Finally, exiled German Matthias Matussek offers some thoughts on German identity, especially in its embrace of Western mass culture.

Après la guerre, l’empressement des Allemands à se définir comme «européens» était une façon de faire oublier la dérive hitlérienne. En se dotant d’une citoyenneté de substitution, ils pensaient oblitérer un passé compliqué. Comme correspondant en Grande-Bretagne, j’ai pu mesurer d’ailleurs à travers le sentiment antiallemand des tabloïds et des élites à quel point nous étions considérés comme des barbares, sans culture, ayant besoin d’une bonne leçon de démocratie.

After the war, Germans were pressured to define themselves as Europeans in order to forget the currents of Hitlerism. In acquiring a citizenship of substitution, they believed they had obliterated a complicated past.