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Old 08-23-2006, 10:29 AM   #31
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I think it's at least partially the whole class thing in Britain. Australia? I have no idea why they have such a racism problem. My cousin is married to an Aussie. Most of the people on my Turkey trip were Aussies and they were very nice.
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Old 08-24-2006, 06:12 AM   #32
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I am really not sure about Australia having a massive racism problem, anecdotal evidence is useless.
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:16 AM   #33
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I am really not sure about Australia having a massive racism problem, anecdotal evidence is useless.


well, i did see "Rabbit-Proof Fence" ...
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:21 AM   #34
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well, i did see "Rabbit-Proof Fence" ...
Me too.

But actually to be serious for a second, if you compare Australia's attitudes and treatment of their aboriginals to that of Canada or the US, it's shocking to me that still, very recently, the racist attitudes not only existed but when you watch the documentaries and so on, there really wasn't an acknowledgement of wrongdoing either, not on the scale we see her with our First Nations peoples.
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Old 08-24-2006, 10:39 AM   #35
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Me too.

But actually to be serious for a second, if you compare Australia's attitudes and treatment of their aboriginals to that of Canada or the US, it's shocking to me that still, very recently, the racist attitudes not only existed but when you watch the documentaries and so on, there really wasn't an acknowledgement of wrongdoing either, not on the scale we see her with our First Nations peoples.


not that i'm australian, or ever been to australia (though would positively kill to go one day), i have heard similar things in various articles that i've read and various pieces of anecdotal evidence (usually picked up after several pints in various backpacker pubs in Europe ... which always seem to be filled with Aussies).

so ... yeah, A_W is right, you cannot really trust anecdotal evidence.



but, it struck me that "Rabbit Proof Fence" seemed an attempt at making something analagous to, say, "Dances With Wolves" or "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (and forgive me for not knowing a Canadian equivalent). it was also an excellent movie. i think there has been a tremendous shift in North American attitudes towards First Nations/Native American peoples over the 1970s and 1980s, where terms like "Manifest Destiny" that were once wrapped up in the glory of a nation fufilling it's destiny are now loaded with sadness and sorrow for the genocide that accompanied it. ultimately, it's a process.

but, anyway, i think that the non-Native history of North America is one of immigration, sort of a vast stretch of land where anyone from nearly anywhere could go and seek their fortune. there's really never been a group of people who can lay credible claims to authentic North American-ness. i would say that those who do are usually written off as paranoid nativists with the very apt phrase that "we were all once immigrants, too." nativism is also probably better understood as an expression of economic frustration and impotence than anything else.

anyway, it seems as if North America has always been made up of different "tribes," so to speak, and i think this is reflected in our collective memory -- my mother grew up in 1950s Brooklyn, where you were either Irish, Italian, or Jewish, and while there might have been lots of inter-tribal competition, no one group could claim a more authentic grasp on American-ness -- as well as in popular culture -- one of the most authentically American film genres, the mobster films, are virtual celebrations (and indictments) of this tribal outlook.

i suppose what happens is that all people can locate themselves within a particular tribe, and then understand how that tribe relates to the nation as a whole. certainly, American and Canadian notions of this are different -- "melting pot" vs. "mosaic" -- but i think it is always true that nearly every immigrant group can claim an authentic space within North America. you might be an immigrant, but you are never a "foreigner," whereas European notions of identity, forever tied to blood and soil and religion and race, are, i think, harder to infiltrate for the immigrant.

however, i think this is changing.

take "bend it like beckham." loved it. smash hit across the world, and, to my mind, as "British" to me as Monty Python or a Richard Curtis romantic comedy.
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Old 08-24-2006, 01:48 PM   #36
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Well, I enjoyed Bend It... too, and you're right about it being highly successful (including in India, where it's touched off a wave of enthusiasm for girls' football clubs), but I'd be a bit wary about drawing conclusions about ease of assimilation of British Muslims based on it (as you know, the film focuses on the Anglo-Punjabi Sikh experience, anyway). One could also cite other signs of recent pop-cultural broadening of "British-ness" (e.g., Prince Charles' at-least-partially-serious act of deeming chicken tikka "the new national dish of Britain"), but I don't know how much these add up to, either.

I have to guess that the overwhelming majority of white Britons would vehemently deny that they have any problems with embracing South Asians, or anyone else, as fellow Britons in full standing, and most of them would probably mean that sincerely. But this is different from the impact of how "British-ness" is usually conveyed (in textbooks, films, politicians' speeches, and manifestations of "the organic community" such as you spoke of) upon non-ethnically-English Britons--clearly, even Welsh and Scottish Britons sometimes also take issue with this, and feel caught between their own (small contingents of) separatists and the ease with which English people identify with British-ness. (As the Holy Grail running gag goes, "Who are the Britons?!?") And then above and beyond that there's the economic inequalities, the ghettoization issue (all the more salient when these boundaries reflect profoundly different lifestyle sensibilities, not just ethnolinguistic divides), and the (for some) strong identification with Muslims in countries Britain is militarily intervening in. Add all these elements together, and--so these articles suggest, anyway--you have a serious assimilation problem. But which element is most urgently in need of addressing? I guess that's the question that intrigues me most.
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Old 08-24-2006, 02:15 PM   #37
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I'll third that...

Significantly more so than Britain, then? Because I think that's the part that surprised me here (and I take it maybe Irvine and anitram, too). Perhaps it's just naivete on my part--I've known only a few British South Asians (none of them Muslims), and none really all that well, and I don't think I ever inquired into any of their views about Britain--but I guess I just tended to assume, Well the UK's political culture isn't all that different from ours really, and London at least always seemed so vibrantly cosmopolitan to me (though that's just as a tourist), and there seem to be(??) a fair number of well-to-do South Asians there, so...

...

I don't doubt this, and I've certainly seen evidence of it firsthand in France...I guess I just thought (again, probably naively) that Britain was maybe a bit different, that the ghettoization tendencies were perhaps not so strong there, etc. Then again, I was unfamiliar with the different US/UK immigration histories (as mentioned in the article) concerning the different ratios of blue-collar to white-collar jobseekers, lesser tendencies here to arrive in large groups all at once, etc. Which makes sense; North America is after all a very long way to go...is it more expensive to move to and settle here, as well? Honestly I have no idea.

But surely different attitudes towards "minorities" as fellow countrymen also have something to do with it; surely Saudi Arabia isn't precisely analogous, and Irvine's onto something with his idea that it's harder to "break into" British/French/whichever local culture, but easier here, where the collective memory doesn't revolve around some particular group's (long long, old old) story? (And I wonder if your "national success story"-appeal idea perhaps ties in here, since it implies--I *think*--a shorter collective memory.) I can certainly agree that Fukuyama and his ilk tend to understate the importance of economic factors, but surely most poor young Muslims in Birmingham and Riyadh, respectively, wouldn't explain what's hurting their communities--or what the best solution to that is--in the same way? From what I can tell, the anger among British Muslims has more to do with "Britons discriminate against British Muslims, and Britain bullies and exploits Muslim countries" than with "Blair and his government are corrupt authoritarian thugs, unworthy of rule." (I realize that if you really stretched it you could conflate these two analyses, and perhaps that's exactly what an extremist would do...but, my sense from this article is that both elements of the former--plus, I guess, poor economic opportunities as well--are necessary to create the sort of environment where that happens.) And Britain is less than 3% Muslim, so it's not like an Islamist government, or even a powerful Islamist party, makes sense as a "solution" to aim for there...not that alienation and withdrawal make for good alternatives, either.

Hmm...you and Irvine are right that the American-Canadian vs British/European "values of equity and inclusivity" may be very similar, but due to historic, geographic and demographic reasons, among others, it seems the reality is being borne out differently in neighbourhoods, ethnic communities, cities, etc., of the two continents. (Though i'd first like to see lots more data on this...income rates, employment rates, education/university-degree rates, home ownership/weath rates, etc.)

As you pointed out, what starts out as a strong ethnic community, can be a good (cultural preservation, strength, etc.) and bad (lack of integration/assimilation with rest of Western country) thing. Why there's an economic disparity, and whether it's a trend and whether it's exclusive to Muslim communities is something I think sociologists, anthropologist, politicians, policy makers and academics are still trying to figure out. Is it a lack of access to government-provided institutions (higher education)? Is it lack of public and private investment in these ethnic communities and, if so, why, what are the barriers? Is it a lack of proper representation of these populations within government/legislation/policy-making? Or is it something specific to the cultures and ethnicities?

This month's Atlantic article by James Fallows (on how America is beating Al Qaeda) points out some of the issues:

"Something about the Arab and Muslim immigrants who have come to America, or about their absorption here, has made them basically similar to other well-assimilated American ethnic groups -- and basically different from the estranged Muslim underclass of much of Europe.

"Marc Sageman [who has studied why people join or leave terrorist groups] points out that western European countries, taken together, have slightly more than twice as large a Muslim population, as does the U.S.'s 6 million Muslims. But most measures of Muslim disaffection or upheaval in Europe -- arrests, riots, violence base on religion -- show it to be 10 to 50 times worse than here.

"The median income of Muslims in France, Germany, and Britain is lower than that of people in those countries as a whole. The median income of Arab Americans is actually higher than the overall American one. So are busines-ownership rates and their possession of college and graduate degrees."

----------

This next site (an obvious advocacy group it seems) summarizes the challenges Muslims face in Britain and is a good overview, but, really, doesn't account for the differences we're discussing re: N.A. vs Europe.


http://www.minorityrights.org/Profil...file.asp?ID=24

"The majority of Muslim immigrants entered Britain at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Many (mostly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) are still concentrated in semi-skilled and unskilled sectors of industry. These communities suffer from unemployment, poor working conditions, poverty, overcrowded housing, poor health, and low educational qualifications.

"The 2001 disturbances in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford highlighted how multiple social deprivation leads to deep disaffection, alienation and frustration. The areas most affected suffered from relatively high levels of youth unemployment, inadequate youth facilities, and a lack of strong civic identity or shared social values to unite the diverse local communities. Those communities remain strongly polarized along ethnic, cultural, religious and economic lines. A feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’ developed between communities, enabling divisive racist organizations such as the BNP to exploit anti-Muslim feelings among many white people.

"However, a degree of social mobility exists within British Muslim communities. In the early 1990s the proportion of Pakistanis in professional occupations already exceeded that for white people; successful business ventures in property, food, services and fashion have continued to expand. Many Pakistanis have moved to affluent suburbia. There is a high proportion of skilled Arab settlers employed in professional positions as engineers, professors, doctors and businesspeople. Currently, there are over 5,000 Muslim millionaires in Britain.

"Religious discrimination

"Muslims have been subject to religious discrimination, as well as wider racial discrimination. Asylum-seekers are particularly vulnerable. Among the issues resulting in discriminatory treatment or exclusion have been the lack of halal food; a denial of time-off for religious festivals; refusal to allow time-off for daily prayers; lack of or inadequate prayer facilities; difficulties in obtaining planning permission for mosques, schools and burial sites; and conflicts about dress and language in a range of settings (the wearing of the hijab has proved problematic in schools and the workplace).

"Participation of Muslims in public life

"Beyond disadvantage and discrimination, there has been considerable exclusion of Muslims from public life. However, for the first time, a Muslim, Mohammad Sarwar, was elected (from a Scottish constituency) to Parliament in 1997. A record 53 Muslim candidates stood in the 2001 general election, and there are currently two Muslim MPs and one Muslim MEP. There are also four Muslim peers. Participation in local politics has also expanded and 160 Muslim local councillors were elected in 1996. By 2001 this figure had risen to 217.

"However, while Muslim influence and involvement at the grassroots level has gradually increased within mainstream parties, by the late 1990s there were still no Muslim leaders of local councils, and only a handful of deputy leaders. Muslims have faced resistance in selection processes because of negative stereotypes. Muslims have been accused of opportunism, illegal recruiting practices, bribery, corruption and using politics for personal gain, though there is little evidence to show that their conduct is any more open to suspicion than that of their white counterparts."
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Old 08-24-2006, 02:37 PM   #38
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Well, I enjoyed Bend It... too, and you're right about it being highly successful (including in India, where it's touched off a wave of enthusiasm for girls' football clubs), but I'd be a bit wary about drawing conclusions about ease of assimilation of British Muslims based on it (as you know, the film focuses on the Anglo-Punjabi Sikh experience, anyway). One could also cite other signs of recent pop-cultural broadening of "British-ness" (e.g., Prince Charles' at-least-partially-serious act of deeming chicken tikka "the new national dish of Britain"), but I don't know how much these add up to, either.

I have to guess that the overwhelming majority of white Britons would vehemently deny that they have any problems with embracing South Asians, or anyone else, as fellow Britons in full standing, and most of them would probably mean that sincerely. But this is different from the impact of how "British-ness" is usually conveyed (in textbooks, films, politicians' speeches, and manifestations of "the organic community" such as you spoke of) upon non-ethnically-English Britons--clearly, even Welsh and Scottish Britons sometimes also take issue with this, and feel caught between their own (small contingents of) separatists and the ease with which English people identify with British-ness. And then above and beyond that there's the economic inequalities, the ghettoization issue (all the more salient when these boundaries reflect profoundly different lifestyle sensibilities, not just ethnolinguistic divides), and the (for some) strong identification with Muslims in countries Britain is militarily intervening in. Add all these elements together, and--so these articles suggest, anyway--you have a serious assimilation problem. But which element is most urgently in need of addressing? I guess that's the question that intrigues me most.

my, two Americans discussing what it means to be British? where are our UK posters?

anyway, i didn't mean to suggest that one hugely successful movie means the end of racism in the UK; rather, that new, more inclusive and expansive cultural images are currently being produced that will insert themselves into the minds of UK youth that will, i think, ease assimilation for 2nd and 3rd generations of Asian youth.

i wrote my senior thesis on Trainspotting, and the basic crux of my thesis was that the novel was positing a way out of the "organic community" -- which, in Scotland, was an imaginary past authored, in a sense, by England to the south and the status of Scotland as a post-colonial society ... so i wonder if this might not be salient to India as well, what Indians think India was before the Britsh ... but anyway -- where Renton basically screws over his "mates" (who he really doesn't like anyway) and moves to Amsterdam, commiting what is tantamount to class-suicide. essentially, it's the story ofa junkie-as-critic whorejects expectations of what it once "meant" to be Scottish (and there are passages about Scottish racism) and offers numerous attacks on Scotland's historic anti-Englishness and traditional notions of working-class values. the novel can be understood as an articulation of anti-Scottish nationalism as well as a rebuttal to romantic notions of Scottish nationalism (think Braveheart), but it speaks to all notions of nationalism and ideas of an "essential" way of expressing a particular national identity. what Renton basically wants is an evacuation of nationalist narratives and manufactured mythology. it's nationalism that's the true drug in the novel; heroin is a stand in for the cultural and political "high" nationalism (and the racism that follows) delivers to the user. the nation is the drug trip from which one must withdraw. his voyage to amsterdam can be read as an embrace of a wider pan-European outlook -- for a "European" identity is far broader, more cosmopolitan, more welcoming, than a specific "Scottish" identity.

which sort of leads us back to the need for the EU to express a set of unversalist values akin to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" or "peace, order, and good government" in which people from across the globe, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, etc., can find a point of reflection, and therefore a means identification and then adoption. culturally, ...Beckham does this. Jess simply wants to play football. she idolizes Beckham. end of story. her ethnicity is an obstacle to overcome as she works about achieving her goals, though it is not an obstacle to her actual performance of these goals. i also think it's quite telling that she goes to the US at the end of the film -- after all, women can play football here, and get paid for it (or at least get college scholarships).



oy, talk about going back a few years to being an undergraduate.

anyway, i think this must be Europe's project if it is to effectively assimilate immigrants from around the globe.
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Old 08-24-2006, 03:46 PM   #39
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Jean Marie le Pen's National Front polls as high as 30% in some areas of France, Jorg Haider's party polled around 30% in an election in Austria (a country whose % of immigrants is actually relatively low) less than a decade ago.

In light of this I think it would be naive to think that white Eurpoeans who want tougher restrictions on immigration are just a lunatic fringe.
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Old 08-24-2006, 04:25 PM   #40
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(Though i'd first like to see lots more data on this...income rates, employment rates, education/university-degree rates, home ownership/weath rates, etc.)
Yeah, me too, though I suspect inadequacies and differences in relevant data collection methods (census, etc.) would make comparisons difficult. For example, our census, as the NYT article references, doesn't track "Pakistanis" as an ethnoracial category, so you'd have to work from piecemeal sources if you want anything more solid than economic data for the huge, vague "Asian" category. However, the UK census does track this data--in fact, I just checked, and for starters...

--28% unemployment for young "Pakistani" males, 41% for young "Bangladeshi" males...well over twice the "white" unemployment rate in both cases.
--68% of "Pakistanis" and "Bangladeshis" live in low-income households, compared to 21% of "whites."

See here for more...though be forewarned, it has the same labyrinthine structure that census data sites usually do.

Gives me bad deja vu of 2000, when I was in India doing my dissertation research (on mass conversions of Dalits) and pulling my hair out over having no solid national government data on caste to work from...But this is always the struggle it comes down to with social science research; you can indulge in theoretical speculation about the sources of assimilation problems, etc. 'til you're blue in the face...but then you have to back that up with demographic data, and often in the process you come across information that contradicts some of your assumptions...but then you have to explain those contradictions, which in turn leads to more theorizing as you attempt to reconcile them with the information that wasn't contradictory...and that's all before you get to the offering-solutions stage, and the further assumptions that requires about which underlying problems need to be prioritized.
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...the basic crux of my thesis was that the novel was positing a way out of the "organic community" -- which, in Scotland, was an imaginary past authored, in a sense, by England to the south and the status of Scotland as a post-colonial society ... so i wonder if this might not be salient to India as well, what Indians think India was before the Britsh ... but anyway
Erm...uh, yeah, you don't really want to get me started on this topic probably , and subaltern studies (the preferred Indian postcolonialists' term) is not per se an area of expertise for me anyway, though I have drawn upon it often in my research. As a broad generalization though it's much more Marxist in character than European postcolonialisms...more introspective and focused on reclaiming "subaltern" Indian voices than on promoting cosmopolitanism per se.

It sounds like a fascinating thesis though...if you haven't read it already, Declan Kiberd's Inventing Ireland is a very enjoyable take on Irish postcolonialism, with a lot of resonance with the themes you were looking at.
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which sort of leads us back to the need for the EU to express a set of unversalist values akin to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" or "peace, order, and good government" in which people from across the globe, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, etc., can find a point of reflection, and therefore a means identification and then adoption.
You think it's impossible for this to happen at the national level, then? I kind of hope not, because I don't have the impression that the will is currently there (or likely to be anytime soon) to dissolve national identities into the EU that radically.
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Jean Marie le Pen's National Front polls as high as 30% in some areas of France, Jorg Haider's party polled around 30% in an election in Austria (a country whose % of immigrants is actually relatively low) less than a decade ago.

In light of this I think it would be naive to think that white Eurpoeans who want tougher restrictions on immigration are just a lunatic fringe.
Oh, I don't think they are, though I do think that to *some* extent you can distinguish that from the issue of assimilating existing minorities.

IYO, is this just as true of the UK? I admit I know very little about Haider and Austria, but I've done some reading about Le Pen, some of the local National Front governments they've had in Provence etc., and I'm not sure I'd find them readily analogous to any major factions in Britain.
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Old 08-24-2006, 04:46 PM   #41
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IYO, is this just as true of the UK? I admit I know very little about Haider and Austria, but I've done some reading about Le Pen, some of the local National Front governments they've had in Provence etc., and I'm not sure I'd find them readily analogous to any major factions in Britain.
Not really, the BNP are not a significant electoral force in the UK.
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Old 08-24-2006, 05:25 PM   #42
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You think it's impossible for this to happen at the national level, then? I kind of hope not, because I don't have the impression that the will is currently there (or likely to be anytime soon) to dissolve national identities into the EU that radically.



it's interesting ... the tourist part of me wants Europe to remain a museum, which i understand is incredibly patronizing, but romantic fantasies are incredibly enjoyable (and sort of what you're purchasing as a tourist ... though i've done the actual living in Europe, so i'm aware of how manufactured even the most authentic of tourist experiences really are), and in Europe, for an American (or at least this American), i really want my italians to linger in the piazza whilst sipping prosecco and gesticulating, and i want my french to smoke their cigarettes and sip their coffee while having what looks like terribly fascinating conversations. i want my scandos to be beautiful and i want my scottish accents and my warm british lager and jovial conversations at the pub.

i would imagine that many of these images are things from which the residents of said countries draw a certain amount of national pride, just as i draw a certain amount of national pride from the general friendliness and earnestness of most Americans as we sip our budwisers at the baseball game. but what Trainspotting rightly points out is that there's an ugly exclusivity to the underbelly of all forms of national identity, and the goal, or my goal, i think, is one less radical than Renton/Welsh is suggesting (abandon it all, purchase and then assemble your identity), and more of an enlightened understanding of newness and exchange. sort of a Salmon Rushdie outlook -- we can have our warm beer with our chicken tikka.

we have African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish Americans, and ( ) Gay Americans (thank you, Gov. McGreevy) -- can we not one day have Italian-Europeans, Irish-Europeans, French-Europeans, etc., with that particular Euro-English ("this morning, did you take a breakfast?") as a unifying language?

i think the European version of that would be far more complex to articulate, but i also see the EU moving in that direction -- i do remember more than one co-worker of mysterious (but i suspected British) accent who refered to herself as European first. granted, this was an international school filled with global nomads, but that seems to be the direction we are all heading.

to be unabashedly optimistic about these things.
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Old 08-24-2006, 06:27 PM   #43
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we have African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish Americans, and ( ) Gay Americans (thank you, Gov. McGreevy) -- can we not one day have Italian-Europeans, Irish-Europeans, French-Europeans, etc., with that particular Euro-English ("this morning, did you take a breakfast?") as a unifying language?
I sincerely hope not.

Also I have to say I think you're reading too much into Trainspotting.
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Old 08-24-2006, 06:30 PM   #44
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I kind of hope not, because I don't have the impression that the will is currently there (or likely to be anytime soon) to dissolve national identities into the EU that radically.
Agreed.
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Old 08-24-2006, 06:36 PM   #45
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I sincerely hope not.


why?


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Also I have to say I think you're reading too much into Trainspotting.
i have to say i think i'm not -- i spent a year with that book, and know it backwards and forwards. it's all there.
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