Saturday, March 05, 2005

Diagnosing the European condition 

Victor Davis Hanson, whom I interviewed earlier this week, has another great piece in National Review Online (hat tip: Dan Foty again) on "Eurospeak" and trying to make sense of a number of contradictory "European" positions and policies, such as this one:
"Pay attention to the Muslim world! Hear us who have more experience with the Middle East. Try to incorporate, rather than isolate, the 'other' ­ BUT stop telling us that we have to let Turkey into the EU."
Hanson only touches on one of the biggest contradictions I blogged about yesterday, which can be summarized thus: "Conflicts should be resolved peacefully; violence is not a solution; the era of soft power and multilateralism has now dawned BUT we do intend to become a military superpower."

"What are we to make of this strange passive-aggressive syndrome?" muses Hanson. While a classicist and a military historian and not a psychologist, he's clearly onto something here. Let's look at the classic symptoms of the passive-aggressive syndrome:
"*FEAR OF DEPENDENCY - Unsure of his autonomy & afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs - usually by trying to control you.

"*FEAR OF INTIMACY - Guarded & often mistrusful, he is reluctant to show his emotional fragility. He's often out of touch with his feelings, reflexively denying feelings he thinks will "trap" or reveal him, like love. He picks fights to create distance.

"*FEAR OF COMPETITION - Feeling inadequate, he is unable to compete with other men in work and love. He may operate either as a self-sabotaging wimp with a pattern of failure, or he'll be the tyrant, setting himself up as unassailable and perfect, needing to eliminate any threat to his power.

"*OBSTRUCTIONISM - Just tell a [passive-aggressive] man what you want, no matter how small, and he may promise to get it for you. But he won't say when, and he'll do it deliberately slowly just to frustrate you. Maybe he won't comply at all. He blocks any real progress he sees to your getting your way.

"*FOSTERING CHAOS - The [passive-aggressive] man prefers to leave the puzzle incomplete, the job undone.

"*FEELING VICTIMIZED - The [passive-aggressive] man protests that others unfairly accuse him rather than owning up to his own misdeeds. To remain above reproach, he sets himself up as the apparently hapless, innocent victim of your excessive demands and tirades.

"*MAKING EXCUSES & LYING - The [passive-aggressive] man reaches as far as he can to fabricate excuses for not fulfilling promises. As a way of withholding information, affirmation or love - to have power over you - the [passive-aggressive] man may choose to make up a story rather than give you a straight answer.

"*PROCRASTINATION - The [passive-aggressive] man has an odd sense of time - he believes that deadlines don't exist for him.

*CHRONIC LATENESS & FORGETFULNESS - One of the most infuriating & inconsiderate of all p/a traits is his inability to arrive on time. By keeping you waiting, he sets the ground rules of the relationship. And his selective forgetting - used only when he wants to avoid an obligation.

"*AMBIGUITY - He is master of mixed messages and sitting on fences. When he tells you something, you may still walk away wondering if he actually said yes or no.

"*SULKING - Feeling put upon when he is unable to live up to his promises or obligations, the [passive-aggressive] man retreats from pressures around him and sulks, pouts and withdraws."
Frankly, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. So what's the treatment?
"Patients with [passive-aggressive personality disorder] who receive supportive psychotherapy have good outcomes, but psychotherapy for these patients has many pitfalls. To fulfill their demands is often to support their pathology, but to refuse their demands is to reject them. Therapy sessions can thus become a battleground on which the patient expresses feelings of resentment against the therapist on whom the patient wishes to become dependent. With these patients, clinicians must treat suicide gestures as any covert expression of anger, and not as object loss in major depressive disorder. Therapists must point out the probable consequences of [passive[aggressive] behaviors as they occur. Such confrontations may be more helpful than a correct interpretation on changing patients' behavior."
In other words, keep talking, and one day it might sink in. Hanson, on the other hand, suggests a "tough love" approach:
"What should the U.S. do about these aggravating moments, these 40-something nesters who like staying in the house but not maintaining or repairing it? Like all parents, ignore the childish slander and wish our Europeans well on their belatedly new lives. So close the door firmly with a warm hug, and remind them that they are still part of the family after all ­ always welcome for visits, but of course never quite encouraged to move back in."
To be fair and balanced, it bears reminding that the Brit historian Niall Ferguson, a generally sympathetic observer of America's foreign adventures, has recently diagnosed the United States as suffering from Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's sufferers "cannot deal effectively with the social world in which we are all, perforce, obliged to live. They do not understand how or why people tick, and invariably offend or alienate friends or acquaintances with their uninhibited and direct ways of interacting. In other words, they do not understand the subtleties of normal social interaction - that intuitive appreciation we have of knowing just how far to push things. People with Asperger's syndrome trample unwittingly on others' social sensibilities without embarrassment." Or what someone might call, "a Texan bull in an European china shop" (no pun intended).

Anyway, read the rest of Hanson's piece. My own - non-medical - take? Europe cannot handle foreign policy idealism anymore, whether of a Wilsonian or a neo-conservative variety, because its last three experiments in idealism (colonialism, fascism and communism) have ended so badly for her. Sulking for decades after the battering of the Second World War, Europe has decided that realism is the only way to preserve sanity (not to mention territorial integrity and a pleasant lifestyle) in this crazy, crazy world. One one level, as a former resident, I can't blame her, but I also understand that what in many cases passes for realism is merely a thinly disguised attempt at escapism - from reality.


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