I don't spend a lot of time worrying about the European Union, and the time I DO spend is usually in terms of just wishing it would go away. But sometimes the question comes up: why are certain nations in the EU very prosperous (Germany, Austria, the UK, presumably the Netherlands, maybe France and Belgium) and other nations (Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, for example) the dregs bringing up the rear.
One might also wonder why the Scandinavian countries are well off, and places like all of Africa (except South Africa) and the overcrowded nations such as India, inevitably poor. The same can actually be said for North America vs South and Central America. Canada is doing fine. Mexico is not. The Dominican Republic is not. Cuba is not. Why?
Is it the weather? Work ethic? Some kind of underlying religious influence or underpinning? Racial/ethnic breakdown (God forbid!)? Do beer drinkers just tend to work harder than wine drinkers? Are you as confused as I am?
You can even look at it this way: In most countries, the industrialized part is in the north, the agricultural area in the south. Italy is a perfect example: Northern Italy includes Milan, a heavily industrial European city. Germany and Switzerland are at the border; say no more !! (Basically what we are talking about here -- if you want to get down and dirty -- is the difference between Catholic mentality and the contrasting serious mindset and organizational skills of what is sometimes referred to as "protestant" work ethic (in Germany, the UK, and the US).
Go south from Napoli and you meet another brand of folk, swarthy, dark, and passionate...terreni: different culture. OK, the southern, 'hot' Italians (and Sicilians) are the ones Hollywood has turned into caricatures, the frantically arm-waving or mumbling (Brando-like) paramour-psychopaths of what I call 'Mafia Soap Operas' (I guess machine-gunning guys to death while they are eating spaghetti at "Liugi's Pasta Parlour" IS kind of sexy, isn't it?), -- and the girls are the ones that Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida made legendary by showing a lot of cleavages and tossing their raven-haired heads about their father's cafe, saying sassy and saucy things while the apparently unemployed local ragazzi sat and drooled. (Until the American hero came in and swept the dusky prize away, of course -- back to paradisical Trenton, New Jersey!)
Well, nobody fantasizes about hitting the sack with a stout Canadian woman in mid-February in Hamilton-Ontario. But there is not a SINGLE heterosexual man who has not dreamed of locking up in the sheets with some raven-headed wench from Palermo or Syracuse.
But, workwise, workwise, workwise -- Who does the Work ?? Answer: the Canadians. The Hamburgers. The Liverpudlians. The Brits. The Americans (US).
Russians? Well, I'll come to that. We'll talk about that later
In England, the industrial north includes such cities as Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, and you can throw Birmingham and Nottingham in as well (Midlands); whereas, in the more balmy and picturesque southern areas around Devon and Cornwall, the story looks very different. Farmers, poets, folk singers, and many wonderfully refined people who, having inherited their fortunes, spend a lot of time at the massage parlor or squash court -- and do not work a whole lot. You can hear it in their speech. If you have any experience in English language whatsoever, you can tell the difference of what let's call 'outlook on life" or "life experience" just by comparing the speech patterns of, say, a factory worker in Bradford with the more educated, and perhaps stylized (affected) voices you hear in the south (BBC country..)
All in all, it seems......indeed it does appear, that people from cold northern climates simply work harder than people from the sunny south. OF COURSE -- and in no way can it be denied -- from the southern regions of the world came the so-called 'cradles' of civilization: the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. -- and this doesn't even begin to address the wonderful Phoenicians, Byzantians, as well as the Inca and Aztec civilizations in South America.
If civilization (or the appearance of what we now call 'homo sapiens' actually began in Africa -- and why not? -- I have no argument against the likelihood of that) -- and if the early great empires were established in 'hot' climates', why is it that now, in 2017, the most affluent cities and nations are in the north?
The answer is Industrialization -- which led to the concept of the modern city -- and with that came, by degrees what may be termed "city/urban mentality." Northern countries drink beer and have a 'factory' mentality. Out of industry has grown technology, and that pretty much seals the deal. So the Greeks and Portuguese live as they do. And maybe in the cosmic spirit of things, they have more fun. I mean, which IS better: to work a 15 hours day, then drive to the suburbs, grab a bite of dinner from the microwave and fall out next to your equally exhausted wife......
Or, ride out in your small boat, catch a few fish, go home, drink some wine and strum your guitar while you wife prepares the meal -- play with your kids while you eat and drink, then with a full belly go and have a siesta with you olive-skinned honey-girl, and maybe even make a NEW BABY !! -- ?
Probably, most of you would choose the second option.
But only -- if you would be European -- as long as the Germans are out there watching your back and paying the bills, right?
So where does Russia fit into this? If we start with the premise that first there is Moscow and then there is the rest of Russia (excuse me St. Petersburg), perhaps we can make a coherent conversation out of it.
But then we must simply omit the rest of Russia EXCEPT Moscow because of the terrible economic conditions in those distant places. Even in large Russian cities such as Ekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, salaries are low and prices are as high as in Moscow. .Meanwhile, the Russian government does nothing except dig up the streets of Moscow itself, plowing things over and under every which way...for what? The World Cup?
So, Moscow is definitely not a 'southern city.' It gets cold here. And snows. Indeed it is the 'business capitol' of the nation. Surely people work hard here the year around, right? In my next blog I will assess the Russian 'work ethic' as I find it in Moscow -- in comparison with other northern productive nations.
I warn you that what I will have to say is not entirely what you may wish to hear..
===Eric Richard Leroy===