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General Interest

TELL ME THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN…

So, there’s lots of news involving Sweden lately. Not that actual Swedes are making news, that would be a little too much to ask of them above and beyond being Swedes, but the focus on Sweden gives one pause to wonder about the place. Has there ever been a famous Swedish woman that didn’t have one of these prefixes attached to her name: “the Beautiful,” “Statuesque,” or “Stunning?” Seems like they don’t produce any regular women in Sweden, or if they do, they don’t let them become internationally famous. As far as Swedish men go, outside of one playwright, one film maker and one painter, none of them seem to be allowed to be internationally famous.

The work of those 3 famous Swedes is awful convoluted and dense, too, with not a whole lot of trouble taken to create art that very many other human beings can relate to, cleverly earning themselves unbounded praise by critics and total ignorance by the general public, thus ensuring their privacy and near-anonymity. If that seems like the opposite goal of someone looking to share their artistic visions with the world, well, what can you expect from a nation that named their Peace Prize after the guy who invented high explosives? Sort of brings Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize into perspective, who accepted it in between strategy sessions involving the 2 wars he is running. So, the more anonymous the Swedes keep themselves the better it is for the rest of us who don’t want our heads to explode from contemplating these things.

Swedes are clever that way, as are all Scandinavians, precious few of whose names spring to mind outside of a bunch of beautiful, statuesque and stunning women. So the question is: other than borders and the names of their kings (and who remembers which is which, both the borders and the kings?), what is the difference between Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and the Finnish? Can Europeans tell, what with them all living cheek by jowl on that very crowded continent?

Probably not, any more than they could tell the difference between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants. How about the differences between the French, the Belgians and whatever it is they call the natives of Luxembourg? A show of hands, please. Anybody? Okay, how about Germans and Austrians? What major difference stands out there?

Okay, moving south, is there a difference between Spanish and Portuguese people other than the slight variations in their respective languages and the fact that they’ve hated each other for approximately forever? Nothing that jumps out at you. While Spain gets more ink, the Portuguese also carved out a giant brutal empire back in the day and they also fill stadiums to watch guys dressed like sissies gang up on bulls and stab them to death. So, what’s the difference?

Moving further south to Rwanda, can anyone explain the vast differences between Hutus an Tutsis? There must be some, otherwise they were wasting their time slaughtering one another back in the 90’s to the tune of almost a million dead, no? Another odd thing about this mutual genocide is that some people blamed it on the Germans, others blamed it on Belgians. How did they know it wasn’t Austrians and people from Luxembourg responsible? Somebody must know these differences!

Take Islam, for example. What’s the deal with Sunni Muslims and Shiites? Seems like Episcopalians and Methodists to the untrained eye. In other words, not much of a dif at all. Why the suicide bombs and the hatred? Could it be that just like Christianity, Islam has reached that age where the different sects are going to war with one another? They could simply cut to the chase and study the history of Christianity and save themselves a lot of grief.

The end product is the existence of a whole bunch of different Christian sects, none of them all that different from one another, and agreeing to disagree on minor points of dogma and getting on with their lives peacefully. Basically, there is no great difference between Catholics and Baptists, anymore than there is between Sunnis and Shiites. Do they need to repeat one of history’s great slaughters to discover this? Judging by current events, apparently so.

It seems that most people agree that to ignore history is to be doomed repeat it, except when it comes to themselves, because they are special and different and their little subset of humanity is exempt from reality. So, what’s the difference between someone who thinks like that and a complete drooling moron? A show of hands, please. Anybody? Anybody?

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