Who cares what they think?

Jon’s post (not, I think, representing his real views) implies that being respected, or even loved, by foreigners is only useful insofar as we can manipulate them into doing something for us. This recalls Calogero’s dad’s distinction between fear and respect (A Bronx Tale, 1993) and misses the important point that if a lot of people despise you, you may be doing something despicable, and might want to stop because despicable is a bad way to be even if you could profit from it.

When American crime TV shows were first shown in Europe, Europeans started asking about things like habeas corpus and a right not to incriminate oneself, that they didn’t have and had never missed. Good for them, no payoff for us; but still good. I had a much better experience in Europe these last four days than the last few times (I stayed up all night Tuesday with my laptop in a hotel room) because I felt better about myself and mine; I even got to poke my Italian friends about Berlusconi. On hearing my accent, strangers would tentatively approach me for reassurance that Obama would win. They clearly thought they were going to get something very important out of that outcome, a big non-zero-sum payoff.

John, a British reader, sent me the following email:

This morning, in our local coffee shop (in Islington, our version perhaps of the East Village or Park Slope in NYC, more investment bankers and barristers than trendy lefties these days—but definitely a touch of ‘Stuff White People Like’), my wife saw:

– A British woman whose face was painted with the Stars and Stripes

– an American woman who said for the first time in 8 years she could stop pretending to be a Canadian

The real historical significance of this will turn out to be, I think, that a Kenyan-American rose to the presidency of the world’s largest power. Only Americans (and ill-informed Europeans) thought this story was about ‘black’ America—what it really was about was immigrant America. The children of Africa, the demographic future of the human race (roughly speaking, c.10% of the world’s population, but approaching 20% of its under 25s, even with the depredations of AIDS) are beginning to make themselves felt in the world. 3 million years after Lucy left her footprint in Olduvai Gorge, a man of Africa, whose father was born a few hundreds of miles away from Lucy, is again leaving his footprints on the human race…

I sometimes think that Americans (or their media) didn’t ‘get’ this election, in that you could not grasp the degree to which the world’s image of you as a land of something other than rule by hypocritical incestuous elites (as Europe is so ruled) and irrational hicks (like GWB), was riding on what happened. I still don’t quite believe that you found the guts to make the right choice. This was the world’s election, that happened only to grant the franchise to Americans.

It felt a bit like the day Mandela was released from prison….

In Kenya they are saying:

Ndio Tunaweza, America.

Ndio Tunaweza

(Yes. We Can. in Swahili)

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.