LKE3 2000/2002 Abitur Countdown: Abitur 2001, Textaufgabe II (model answer by W.E.P.)

I. Questions on the text

1)  The text mentions two such ”traditional attitudes towards America”: For the last two centuries Europeans have been confused and at the same time filled with admiration by America, which they see as a giant situated across the Atlantic. To them, America is a powerful country without any culture. In Latin America there are ill-concealed feelings of anger at America’s hegemony, which go back a long time. Certain politicians cleverly play upon these feelings and use them to serve their own purposes.

2) Since the end of the Cold War criticism of America’s – very often military – dominance has weakened and the United States no longer feels forced to support right-wing anti-communist regimes or to use the CIA to get rid of political enemies. Yet America’s dominance, which now can be called “soft power” (l. 17) is just as overwhelming as before. This dominance has its roots in two developments: globalization and the revolution in information technology (l. 15/16). Together, these two developments have, as the French Foreign Minister Védrine [no doubt somewhat critically] puts it, made the United States a “hyperpower”. In the same context a British journalist thinks that people don’t object to America as such. Rather, any existing feelings of anti-Americanism have to do with the fact that people feel “swamped” (l. 24), in other words overwhelmed by the sheer size and power of America.

3) Modern anti-Americanism centres on two main issues: the environment and the death penalty. As regards the environment, the United States is (are) criticized by the rest of the world as “champion enemies of the environment” (l. 35/36). According to Friends of the Earth, Americans, who account for just 4 per cent (percent) of the world’s population are responsible for 25 per cent (percent) of emissions of carbon dioxide. On top of this irresponsible behaviour, the Americans act very selfishly by preventing the despoliation of their own backyard (l. 42) [in other words, countries like Mexico etc.] while allowing it overseas. The second issue concern foreign opposition to the death penalty, which American politicians have only recently begun to take note of. The fact that America is the only rich nation that still executes people – and apparently does so “with something like relish” (l. 49) – is considered barbaric, particularly by people in Western Europe, where even terrorists are not executed.

4) By turning the well-known phrase “there is more to it than meets the eye” upside down, the writer wants to show [in typical journalese fashion] that upon closer inspection there is much less wide-spread anti-Americanism than might appear at first sight. He gives three main reasons for this. Firstly, seen in a geopolitical context, there is no real opposition to American power. Even the Europeans, who might some day become America’s military and political rivals , will not challenge America for the time being simply because they know only too well that this would be much too expensive for them. Secondly, there is America’s huge economic power which is both resented and admired. In France, for example, the French Prime Minister expressed his “unabashed admiration” (l.66) for the way in which American entrepreneurs made use of the latest advances in technology. Thirdly, in the field of so-called “soft power”, American culture isn’t as overwhelming as it might appear at first sight. Disney had to shut down three shops in Germany and in Asia Japanese pop culture icons, such as Pokémon, proved more popular than American ones.

5) American culture has absorbed many different influences and elements from all over the world, acting like a “sponge” (l. 75). Things that appear at first sight as quintessentially American have, in  fact, come from somewhere outside America and often the Americans, after adopting these things, have sent them back to the country of origin in slightly altered form. The so-called “American” pizza,  tacos and videogames are cases in point.  Videogames are particularly interesting in this context because many foreign intellectuals” (l. 80) see in them an especially harmful “American” influence because this “dreck messes up” (l. 81) their [=  of the intellectuals!] children’s minds. Yet all of the hardware comes from Japan and “some of the most popular software was designed in Britain” (l. 82/83).

6) The degree to which the writer of this Newsweek article takes some aspects of anti-Americanism more seriously than others becomes obvious from the register he uses and also from the actual length at which the writer discusses the various aspects of Anti-Americanism. When referring to Walt Disney’s well-known cartoon characters as “a cartoon mouse and his friends” (l. 29), the writer uses an informal style (,) which shows that he considers this aspect of American cultural hegemony not at all dangerous. Similarly, when referring to videogames – another aspect of alleged American cultural hegemony – the writer speaks of “American dreck [which] messes up kids’ minds” (l. 81). The fact that this rather slangy criticism is not to be taken too seriously becomes quite clear from the following sentence: “Yet …” (ll. 81 - 83). On the other hand, the writer takes anti-Americanism that centres around the environment and the death penalty much more seriously and shows this by presenting these two issues in a neutral style without any informal elements. To show how serious he considers  the feeling of anti-Americanism that is caused by America’s apparent lack of environmental concern he quotes Charles Secrett, an expert on the environment, who backs up his criticism of America with impressive facts and figures (ll. 37 – 40).

7) The headline “A Target Too Good To Resist” is in direct contradiction to the message that is conveyed in the last paragraph because in our globalized world taking aim at America, in other words attacking America, would mean attacking ourselves, since, according to this Newsweek article, we have all become a bit American. Thus anti-Americanism could also be regarded as a form of masochism.


                                                AMERICARTOON(1): “Gas guzzling”

“Gas guzzling” means that (in this case) America needs enormous quantities of oil. Since the Americans want to save their own resources they are relying more and more on foreign supplies, thereby becoming dependent on these foreign suppliers, thereby putting the price of oil up for the rest of the world. In the cartoon below the driver, who is happily whistling a song , doesn’t seem to be aware of this connection or he simply doesn’t care.

II. Sorry, NO essay/composition!

III. Translation

Wenn man sich die Alternativen überlegt, dann war es während dieser letzten Jahrzehnte leicht, den amerikanischen Lebensstil zu bewundern. Es gelang und gelingt ihm nachweislich besser als den konkurrierenden Systemen, seine Durchschnittsbürger reich und frei zu machen. Auch kulturell gesehen hat die Welt für Amerika gestimmt, indem sie von Jeans bis (zu) Michael Jackson allem nachjagte. Doch wenn man heute einen Durchschnittseuropäer oder einen Japaner oder einen Lateinamerikaner auf der Straße anhält und ihn fragt, was er von Amerika hält, wird man wahrscheinlich ebensoviel Verachtung wie Lob hören.

Die Japaner werden wahrscheinlich Faulheit („Müßiggang“, Trägheit) nennen (erwähnen), die Europäer Naivität, die Lateinamerikaner mangelnde Sensibilität. Drogen, Waffen und Verbrechen werden eine Rolle spielen; das gleiche gilt für eine Fernsehkultur, die den niedrigsten gemeinsamen Nenner des öffentlichen Geschmacks bedient (befriedigt), ein politisches System, das durch Geld korrumpierbar ist, schockierende Gegensätze von Reichtum und Armut und eine allzu moralische Einstellung gegenüber der freien Meinungsäußerung.

Amerika zieht eine derart bitterböse Kritik auf sich, weil es selbstkritischer ist als andere Nationen. Heuchelei  liegt oft im Auge des Betrachters: wie kann ein Europäer es wagen, ein Land zu verachten („die Nase rümpfen über“, „scheel anblicken“), an dessen Universitäten die hellsten Köpfe unter seinen Mitbürgern (Landsleuten) nur allzu gerne in Scharen strömen? Kritik von außen greift oft amerikanische Gewohnheiten an, die die Kritiker ein paar Jahre später ungeniert selbst übernehmen. Amerika zu kritisieren heißt, das zu kritisieren, was die Zukunft bereithält.


                                                  AMERICARTOON (2): “American Dream“