Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Check out this story about three European kids and their swell behavior; one of them is a Spaniard. (We found this through Best of the Web.) Are we surprised? Unfortunately, no.

First, you need to remember who European exchange students are. They are rich kids. Participating in an student exchange is not free. Also, your English needs to be good before you get to America or you're going to have real problems. Only rich kids have the money to go to the kind of private schools where they make sure you learn English. The father in the story said they were spoiled, which I have no problem believing with a Spanish kid, especially a boy, who really is the king of the house. These rich kids are super-hip; they're from big cities and are used to hitting snazzy discos on weekends and going sailing and the like. They have every kind of electronic gear imaginable and they use it, so they're absolutely up-to-the-minute on what's in and what's out in London, Paris, Berlin, and New York. Also, these kids drink and use recreational drugs. They can afford it. The absolute last place to send them is Utah, for God's sake. Of course they're going to hate it.

America, unfortunately, except for New York, is not hip in the eyes of the rich kids. What's hip now is being anti-globalistic and solidarious and the like. The children of the wealthy are always the first to jump on every trend--they've got the motive, social competition, the opportunity, being able to find out instantly what's hip in Tokyo, and the ability, since they have tons of dough. Anyway, the trend now is pretending you're a squatter. Walk through rich parts of Barcelona like La Bonanova and Sarrià and you'll see fourteen-year-old kids dressed like Sixties hippies and with shit stuck through their faces.

But almost all of America is square; high schools in Utah ask you to do silly stuff like take the homecoming game seriously and rent a tuxedo to go to the Prom. These Euro-kids are just going to be bored with that. And they're going to be bored in school, too, since European private schools are at least two grade levels above average American public schools. It shouldn't be too surprising that they should get into mischief--they're used to getting away with everything anyway. Also, part of being hip is being anti-American. You can't be hip and like George Bush, not even in America and especially not in Europe. What it's really hip to do, in fact, since being a squatter is so hip, is to mouth the squatters' ridiculous political slogans, which usually have something to do with smashing capitalism or justifying the ETA and other terrorists. Sixteen-year-old kids never see the contradictions between their lifestyles and radical politics.

So you've got three immature though worldly rich urban European kids who think America's uncool and that Utah is especially uncool--the poor kids begged to be taken to Ogden, for God's sake, for a little urban atmosphere! And they do something really dumb and in rotten taste instead of, say, going back home when they decided they didn't like it. Nobody should be at all surprised. Also, I'm not surprised that the FBI checked them out, either--they damn well should have, with these morons filming themselves with a gun and yelling infantile squatter stuff about how terrorism is cool. You never know what the hell they might be up to.

I have had several Spanish students in my Proficiency-level classes who had done an exchange in high school in the United States. They all had very positive experiences; I'm sure it helps a lot that these were nice rich kids whose parents hadn't spoiled them. These were kids who were interested enough in learning English that they continued trying to improve though their English was already very good. And none of them could remotely be described as hip. Thank God. Really, I think people who have friends over for dinner and go to a movie or maybe for a few drinks on Saturday night probably have a lot more fun, and are certainly a lot more fun to be around, than people who care so much about how others see them that they go out of their way to do silly crap so that other folks will think they're hip. Like stay out until seven in the morning in expensive discos listening to crappy music that's so loud you can't hear what people are saying and they have to yell in your ear while swallowing pills whose contents you're really not too sure about.

This has been today's Startlingly Obvious Sermon. Thank you.

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