by Stefanie Claudia Müller
While Donald Trump is not just hated in Europe for his “America first”- policy, but also in his own country, especially in spots such as San Francisco, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have become somehow heroes. They stand for a Europe that is tolerant, generous, that fights for female rights and a Europe that is very diverse and open-minded. In Germany, refugees get a kind of “Welcome package” and also for legalized immigrants they are a lot of social benefits, nearly the same or even some times better assistance than for the nationals who fell out of the system. This has attracted a lot of people who are seeking help.
Behind this human face it is obvious that Europe has as well massive problems with illegal immigration and in consequence with a rise of right extreme parties. But as in the US migrants and refugees are not the problem of a declining fierce capitalist system driven by the American way of life. Anyhow, an Economic upswing in front can we really be the paradise for everyone? Are we so different than Trump in our immigration policy or are we just less honest? The crucial question is how comprehensive can we be and how far can we permit to import to our European society “strange” traditions like wearing a Burka or female genital mutilation? Can we permit immigrants to live their political conflicts in their new home like the Kurdish and Turks do in Germany?
The Utopia of the American Dream: 0 days of vacation
America is without any doubt a worldwide unique melting pot. The whole history of the American continent is based on migration and cultural diversity. It is a wonderful country and its original values of democracy and freedom are shared by most of the people in the world, the American working spirit is admired as well as their capacity to reflect about themselves in movies, series and books. We are all influenced by “Friends”, “Melrose Place” or “South Park”, but also by “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest”. We love the American happy end, the Oscars and who does not love New York. But it seems that Trump is the beginning of an end of the American glamour era. Or is it just that we changed and America is still the same?
Before the Trump era, America was a country with a quite successful immigration policy that was based on the Green card system. After the Nazis America took over the power in the world blowing up the dollar and the financial markets, setting up a new money and market system based on creating fears and hopes. This system attracted Irish, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Germans and Arabs to come to live and study in the most powerful and as it seemed the most democratic country in the world. But is that any longer true? Or is the American society and their financial system about to collapse. If that is going to happen who is responsible for it? The immigrants as Trump tries to suggest? Or is it simply the American system that sucks?
Why the immigrants are suddenly a problem?
But we have to admit that unlike in Europe most of the Americans immigrants, regardless of their legal statues, swear on the American Flag, their hymn and their capitalist vision of life. Yet, while in France or Germany many foreigners are not really proud to belong there. We have many identity crisis going on in many European countries like in Greece, Italy, Spain and also in Germany. Like in the US there is a global trend again to look for your own crowd. In a very individualistic country like America you can observe how even in San Francisco people tend to care only for themselves, they are often not interested in getting involved with tourists. There is also the general doubt about what does it mean in our days to be American? Isn’t it a big bubble that we associate with being American?
However, integration in the US works because there are always jobs available for everyone that arrives, while this is not the case in Europe where we have a less shadow economy and higher gross wages in agriculture or gastronomy that cover health and pension insurance. The US in comparison is a non-efficient economy, based on low service salaries and low social standards. A lot of places in the US such as, gas-stations, shops or restaurants have an unnecessary amount of people working for them earning each of them less than someone in the same job in Europe, comparing acquisition power. Because the US has become very expensive in the last years.
As already announced in the movie “The big short” (2015) the US economy would blame foreigners at the edge of the second big financial crisis to distract from the fact that they just went on selling lies and hopes packed up in dangerous financial products despite the disasters of 2007/8. “America is full”, that is the message that the big trader and real estate agent Trump spreads. But probably America is rather empty, empty of content and a vision for everyone, not just for the ones with the good jobs and not just for America but for the whole world. We should watch out in Europe not to commit the same mistakes.
America will never be great again
Because the American melting pot starts to explode due to the social and economic system that is about to change completely. Also this time it is not the immigrants’ fault at all, but the very basic system of making money by speculating and blowing up things has come to its end. The young generation of Greta Thunberg wants a different world, not based on the American dream and pure capitalism, but a global fight against climate change and for our common future. Nevertheless, although the Chinese working all day long and being bullied by Trump or the many immigrants from Bangladesh that hardly can make their living in the US and are not integrated at all, they prefer the American system with its many good and many bad perspectives of a better life around the corner to their poor, boring and hopeless countries.
Europe has got right now the same problem than the US, although we still deal in a different way with it, or at least that is what seems. We attract labor force, but cannot integrate them properly. Different to the US they struggle with the culture and language in the case of Germany for instance. The foreigners live very often in misery in Spain, Germany, France and Belgium compared to the national population, but however, they do not want to go back to their home countries where they face a worse life, at least that is what they believe. Different to the US Europe is a continent of very strong nations, a long history and different cultures were people do not want to tolerate different traditions that do not fit in their Christian value system.
Not even a job secures life in the US
But although life in Europe has become tough, it is still a paradise compared to many place in the US. Working in the sunny and without any doubt beautiful state of California, more open-minded and advanced than the rest of the country, is not entertaining at all for most of the people. Downtown L.A. is a dangerous place full of homeless American people. Rich Beverly Hills faces a broad social class that struggles to survive, the middle class does not really exist. Without an expat package in his pocket it is hard for a foreigner to survive. The rules are tough in Southern California: 0 days of vacation – officially.
Unofficially the companies pay between 5 and 15 days of holiday a year, but many of the immigrants don’t even take them, they prefer the cash in a cash oriented country, which is bad for the company on the long run, because one needs to disconnect, to get separated from the working environment and distract every now and then. We also need time to spend with the family. The US is the worst example what happens to a society if you care more for money and debts than for each other.
We also experience in Europe every time lower salaries and less influence of workers unions, but who works in Germany still has guaranteed certain life standard, while many barkeepers and waitresses in L.A. for instance are working without a social security system. They depend on tips and a good health. If they become sick the “Californian Dream” is over. Thus, health and loans are the most important topics among average Americans. And ending up on the street can be the destiny of everyone even a before well-paid manager. A life based on debts and a hire and fire-mentality is risky.
Should we start pitying America?
Does progress mean to launch the IPhone 11 or Uber? Or is progress rather to make life nicer for everyone and deal with the rising poverty and mentally ill people in reasonable way? Funny enough most of the homeless people in the US are Americans, that do not fit anymore in the system. You work hard and spend money in the US or you are out of the system. Half of the population is on some kind of drugs, most of them legal – pills and in California also Cannabis is legal. It is a very easy, but dangerous game. You need to show that you have money with a big leased car or a good rented house, otherwise you are considered to be poor and that is the worst. But less and less people want to play the game of the winner takes it all. These normally come to Europe where they can live with less and more relaxed, because they do not have to worry about basic things as health insurance or unemployment. They state will always care a little bit for your well-being.
Meanwhile the American society has no public solutions for the rising number of mentally ill people, it produces. Americans sell drugs, yet have no plan for the negative consequences of it. They complain about Mexicans, but they are the biggest drug dealers themselves. In fact, in California Cannabis is legal now. In some states you cannot have a beer at the age of 18, but can own a gun. This is the current reality. The American dream of unlimited freedom is threatened by mass shootings and more and more people in all sort of pains, it is a sick society.
The Argentinian-American investor Martin Varsavksy said in an interview with planet-bpm.com that he could not understand why such a rich country like the US could not deal with daily problems like security on the streets, sick people and also the growing number of mentally ill homeless people wandering around in the big urban cities, while much poorer countries such as Spain can do it: “Madrid is a safe place, in contrary San Francisco where all the Silicon Valley people sit, is not”.
The US is no longer a role model for Europe
Spanish people have known for a long time that life is much more than just becoming rich. Spanish people are social animals,and not just because of their jobs. Spanish people both young and old like to network and go out with friends and family a lot. They do not stay in their flat, they have breakfast with friends and see their adult children and grandchildren nearly every day. In the rest of Northern Europe we realize Americans are not role models especially for issues such as pollution, immigration, climate change or the fight against cancer.
The American system is mainly based on dreams, speculations, on hopes and presumption, rather than on facts, or talent. Unlike countries such as Finland or Germany America lacks a strong school system. The basic knowledge is poor and the average American does not even know the main facts about his own country.The media is influenced, sensationalized and mainly focused on sports. That is the same in Spain, but it is very different in many other countries in Europe. We love to analyze, to summarize, to go into deep and to debate, while it seems that just money makes the US turn around. But for how long this fortune, this system is sustainable with another financial crisis ahead, more and more crazy mass shootings, rising urban poverty and social problems everywhere?
But Europe cannot replace the American dream, that has become a utopia, although many immigrants that came to Europe tell their family how great they are in their new home and create another legend. The reality is that many of them are illegal in Europe, they have no rights and no future.
Fake, false and frustrating’
But also we may argue about the American dream and the American way of making money and controlling the financial markets with a blown up dollar and the policy of fear, we have to admit that it worked for a very long time and it worked for many of us. We just have to watch “The big short” to understand the correlations. For the moment Donald Trump is still the most powerful person in the world, although he is just an insider information trader.
Not just because of Trump America is no longer a blueprint for Europe, not in economy, not in entrepreneurship, not in education (it probably never was). Do we really want to become like the current internet and digital economy gurus in Silicon Valley? Europe has a chance to show the world that content is important, that we are more then just a bubble, that our banking system is more stable and that our economy is more sustainable. To be rich is no goal anymore, it is boring to be rich. It is important to do something that make sense. It is vital to be a happy person that does not rely on pills to calm down or relax, that can sleep because of a healthy consciousness and a satisfying life balance with family and friends.
Europe led by Scandinavia, France, Germany and Spain has a great chance right now to be a counterweight to the US power built up after the II world war. We should not be afraid to execute our rules and values in our countries or to control the people that we want to live in our country. We should start investing in a sustainable way in the countries where they are coming from in order to stop the current stream of desperate people risking their life to get to Europe to find nothing else than broken dreams. Europe has to partner up with China, because the UK and USA are no more reliable allies. We have to realize that the power balance in the world has changed and make now the right moves to foster content in economy and politics and not create more bubbles. We have to be straight forward, as well with immigrants. But we should never blame them ever again for our own mistakes.