Foreword Communications

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Ugly American: Are We Really Any Uglier Than Everyone Else?

Ok, so bright and early this morning I had a discussion with a European-based buyer about how American freelance writers gripe about the low rates that the market is currently paying primarily because of the influx of writers from developing countries.  For internet writers, the globalization of freelancing has resulted in competing against writers who are able to charge a mere $2-ish an hour.  In this country, that wage would qualify you for food stamps – no, homelessness!

 

And, have you seen the work of these so-called writers?!  Horrors!  Just surf the web and you’ll find an internet crammed full of content that is plagiarized, grammatically incorrect, rife with spelling errors, and completely lacking in any real ability to speak to the audience.  Their grades in school may have reflected a relatively solid understanding of the English language, but, linguistically, they fall so far short of making the grade, it’s frustrating.

 

But, let’s stop here for a minute.  Before I’m accused of being exactly what I hate, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to make a living.  All I’m saying is that, if you can’t compete, don’t lower the bar for everyone else.  For instance, I’m not a huge fan of women firefighters or overweight policemen.  I believe that every job has a certain minimum standard that has to be met for the job to be done properly.  If you can’t meet that standard, don’t expect the industry to lower the minimum standard to accommodate you.  Does this mean that no woman can be a great firefighter or that an overweight policeman can’t do his job?  Not at all.  It just means that, if the male firefighters are expected to lift 250 pounds, the women had better be able to do it too.  And, if that overweight policeman can huff his way through a back-alley foot chase, more power to him.  But, no special dispensations; find another job, if you’re not willing to adhere to the minimum standards.  After all, I wouldn’t try to get a job as a nurse without the right skills, would I?

 

Now, back to that buyer who has a problem with paying a fair wage.  His rantings about how Americans only complain when something affects them and how Americans expect the rest of the world to kowtow to them reminded me of the age-old, and significantly overdone, rant about the Ugly American.

 

Sure, there is such a thing as the Ugly American, but there are Ugly British, Ugly Germans, and Ugly French too.  The ugliness of the tourist is common throughout the world.  Just ask anyone in the hospitality industry.  Still, that whole Ugly American thing has always bothered me.  It’s as if we’ve been held up as an example of everything that’s wrong with politics, economics, morals – everything!  Like we’re a bunch of whiny two-year-olds.

 

But, hey, we are a bunch of whiny two-year-olds!

 

The United States is only a little over 230 years old.  Old for a person, but a babe-in-the-woods compared to other countries.  The UK, Germany, France, Italy, etc. are old-timers compared to us.  And, like any toddler, we are testing the limits and pushing the boundaries.  We make bad decisions and end up paying for them.  And we stomp our feet when we don’t get our way.  We’re not ugly, we’re inexperienced!  Newbies in the global community.

 

And, this is different from everyone else how?

 

Actually, we Americans are no different from anyone else.  We’re just newer at it.  Remember when Rome controlled most of the world?  How about when England and Spain battled over the very grounds we live on.  And, speaking of England, didn’t they have colonies all over the world at one point?  Remember South Africa and apartheid?  Guess they were pretty ugly too, huh?  The only difference is that, now, it’s ok to speak out against a nation’s need to spread its wings, whereas, back in the days of the Tudor’s, it would have gotten you beheaded.

 

Still, we Americans are pretty stupid.  We just bounce gleefully along until we get ourselves into a whole heap of trouble.  Wanna come live here?  Ok, no problem.  All are welcome.  Now there are so many immigrants in the US that we’re arguing over official languages, arguing about what to do about illegal immigrants, and bending backward so far we can kiss our own you-know-whats.  Other, more established nations don’t have this problem; nor do developing third-world countries.  If you’re an illegal immigrant in the UK, you can kiss your butt goodbye.  If you go to France and don’t speak the language, do ya think they’re gonna make new walk/don’t walk signs just for you?  I don’t think so. And, China and Japan, well, they don’t let anyone in to just wander around like they’re free or something.

 

So, what does the Ugly American complain about?  The same stuff that developing – yes, in the larger scheme of things, we’re still developing – nations throughout time have complained about; the right to make a living, secure our boundaries, and be a recognized player in the global community.  Sometimes our complaints are focused inward (Rhett, whatever will I do without my servants!) and sometimes outward (How do we compete against third-world countries in the distribution of goods and services?), but they’re the same complaints that every other, much older, nation has already experienced.  Remember the hard time that England went through when they didn’t know where’d they get their tea?  How about when Rome couldn’t draw from a pool of captured slaves for servants – ok, Rome fell, so maybe that’s not a good example.  Either way, you get my point; the US is experiencing a host of growing pains; pains which most of Europe has already outgrown and most of the still-developing nations have yet to experience.

 

So, get off your Ugly American high-horse and recognize that Americans are just a few centuries behind the rest of the world.  Someday, we’ll put drastic limits on immigration, hunt down and deport illegals, require that the citizenship test be completed in English only, and stop rewarding our own corporations with tax breaks for outsourcing and leaving our own citizens jobless.  After all, isn’t that what everyone else does?

 

 

 

I don’t have all the answers either.

 

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