The World of Dictatorships According to the USA

Get the Atlas of Prejudice on Amazon US | UK | Germany | France | Italy | Spain

world-dictatorships-according-to-the-us

In case you haven’t noticed, there are thunderstorms across the Sahara desert. Half of the Arab world is on fire, people from Tunisia to Yemen are rallying the streets demanding a better future. You would think that the Obama administration would at least send its best wishes to the protesters. You’d be wrong. The reason is very simple – human rights and democracy rhetorics are only used when the interests of the US government and the crumbling regime don’t match. In cases like Tunisia and Egypt, human rights and democracy can actually clash with vital US policies, therefore every US government would ultimately prefer to have a reliable friendly dictatorship, preferably a long lasting one, in which everything depends on a single person that can be wined and dined in the White House and easily persuaded to do “the right thing”.

And there’s nothing wrong with this approach. Countries like France and Britain have used it for ages. Openly. The problem with US policy is that its main inspiration is exactly the denial of self interest, after all America was founded as a political alternative to Europe, where kings and queens used to decide the fates of whole nations in the same fashion they used to decide what to wear at a dinner party. There was a brief period in history when America really lived up to its ideals. But when it grabbed 1/3 of Mexico and tasted the sweet sangria of forceful diplomacy, something cracked. America became as European in its diplomatic approach as any other empire from the Old World. And while WW2 and the Cold War presented an amazing opportunity for political charade with idealistic notes, after the end of Communism, there is no reliable ideological veil under which America can continue to perform the role of the Altruistic Freedom Fighter. Someone should just alert the casting director.

But let’s be realistic. The dichotomy in US Foreign Policy will continue, ultimately undermining the otherwise noble principle of Human Rights itself. And if it’s true that relations between countries can be compared to relations between human individuals, the word “dichotomy” should actually be replaced by “hypocrisy”.

A Sexist’s Wet Dream: Silvio Berlusconi’s Map of Europe

Get the Atlas of Prejudice on Amazon US | UK | Germany | France | Italy | Spain

europe-according-to-silvio-berlusconi

Winston Churchill once said that Russia was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I have no clue why the old guy had such difficulties deciphering Russian nature. If there is a country in Europe I would use this brilliant sentence for, it definitely is Italy. It’s a country strangled by controversies. It’s considered an advanced First World democracy, yet its political life resembles a gerontophile soap opera more fitting to the last days of Imperial Rome. It was the major cradle of European Renaissance, yet it was politically paralyzed by its lack of unity and suffocating provincialism.

Contemporary Italy looks like a reflection of a geographic rather than a cultural idea. But so do Spain and Belgium. Yet none of these countries produced anything even remotely resembling Silvio Berlusconi. He’s a truly unique, Italian specialty. From his plastic surgery inspired looks to his patriarchal macho attitude peppered with outrageously sexist jokes, there is a common vibe that is unmistakably Apennine. What is shocking is the lack of other Italian qualities that can compensate the bad traits. If only he could, for example, host a good cooking show, or make sculptures, or discover some obscure satellite of Jupiter.

There is another, even more shocking paradox – all Italians I know are absolutely against him. And if I have to trust their words, everybody they know is also against him. Yet the old guy is still in power and not because of a weird coup d’état. He got elected. Several times. Probably by the same people that swear on their mothers graves they are opposing him at any cost. The sad thing is his public image is close to become a synonym for an Italian man worldwide. And that’s sad, no matter from which side of the political spectrum you see it.

Europe’s Most Popular Given Female Names

europe-most-popular-female-names

Same exercise like yesterday but about the most popular female names in Europe. As you can see, the male and female name patterns don’t necessarily overlap. I’m very surprised by the abundance of Marias in Scandinavia, for some reason I always thought all women there were named Agnetha Fältskog. Another prejudiced fantasy down the drain! France, Luxembourg and Norway should really enter an alliance – both their most popular female and male names match. Germany was the biggest surprise, instead of Gertrude, we have an epidemic of Mias. I think those guys have a secret Latin fetish. Go figure!

Data is data and it’s very hard to argue with it, so we haven’t much choice here.

Europe’s Most Popular Given Male Names

europe-most-popular-male-names

Have you ever wondered which are the most popular names in Europe? I got the answer in this Wikipedia article. Of course, like everything European, the statistic collected there resembles “organized mess”. The information is compiled from various sources and different years, some of it represents the entire population at the time and some only the newborn in the specific year. There seems to be no data about Montenegro, Albania and Cyprus, while other countries are extensively covered, for example Belgium is cut in all its glorious regions. Guess which name is the most popular for Brussels (2008)! Mohammed.

Anyway, I loved this exercise, exactly because the data is so messy. It’s a beautiful metaphor for anything European. As many of you know, I am not trying to be scientifically accurate in my maps, that’s not the point of my project.

There are many surprising things on this map but the most intriguing are the cases in which one name is the most popular in more than one country. I tried to emphasize those groups, assigning to each one similar color shades. You can clearly spot what I would like to call the Luca Empire – spanning from Norway to Croatia. The Greek name Alexander is popular in many countries (and probably one of the most popular worldwide) but on the map it is absolutely dominating only in Russia, Ukraine and… surprise… Macedonia. George is spanning Greece, Bulgaria and… well… Georgia. The two remaining groups are significantly smaller. Jakub covers Poland and Slovakia and Robert(s) – Estonia and Latvia.

Fun, no?

The World According to the United States of America

Get the Atlas of Prejudice on Amazon US | UK | Germany | France | Italy | Spain

world-according-to-the-united-states-of-america-2010-edition

The newest map from my Mapping Stereotypes project is again dedicated to the USA but on a much grander scale. Instead of simply Europe, it includes the whole world. I know this is a sort of a compliment since a large part of the US population doesn’t have a clue there is dry land outside their borders. Ronald Reagan for example, on one of his first international trips, was surprised to find out that Latin America is not a island. I have not much evidence to back it up, but I suspect Sarah Palin thinks Japan is a name of a car factory. And so on and so forth.

Enough small talk. Here’s a full list of the labels:

North America

Greenland – Ice Cap
Alaska – Hockey Moms
Canada – Vegetarians
United States (mainland) – Civilized World
Mexico – Maids and Gardeners
Guatemala – Fringe Lab
Belize – ?
El Salvador – N.A.
Honduras – Mess
Nicaragua – Reagan’s Rancho
Costa Rica – Jungle
Panama (joined with Ecuador) – Banana Republic
Cuba – Quarantine
Jamaica – Reggae
Haiti – Poverty
Dominican Republic – Holiday
Puerto Rico – Latinos
Bahamas – Northern Sea Cliffs
Antilles – Southern Sea Cliffs

South America

Colombia – Estados Unidos de Coicaine
Venezuela – Evil Empire of Venzenweelah
Guyana and Suriname – Forest
French Guiana – Rockets
Brazil – Liberal Commies (allied with Iran)
Ecuador (joined with Panama) – Banana Republic
Peru – Our Bitches
Bolivia – Cuba del Sur
Paraguay – Catholic Socialists
Uruguay – Tupamaros
Argentina – One Dollar Store
Chile – Chili Con Carne
Falklands – British Riviera

Africa

Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Senegal and The Gambia – Fucking Desert, Dude!
Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo 1, Congo 2, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola – AIDS
Madagascar – Penguins
Somalia – Jack Sparrow
Ethiopia and Eritrea – Hunger & Stuff
Kenya – Obamaland
Malawi – Madonnaland
South Africa – Land of Bling

Europe

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland – Socialist Union
Iceland – Wikileaks
United Kingdom – Mummy
Ireland – St Patrick
Portugal – Brazil
Spain – Mexico
France – Smelly People
Germany – Dirty Porn
The Netherlands – Sodom
Belgium – Chocolate
Switzerland – Cash
Italy – Godfathers
Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia – Resident Evil
Greece – Democracy
Turkey – Thanksgiving Meal
Bulgaria and Romania – Dracula
Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia – Buffer Zone
Austria – Apfelkuchen
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia – No Clue
Russia – Commies

Asia

Syria – Rogue State
Lebanon – Mess
Israel and Palestine – Pals
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait – Uncle Allah
Yemen – Thugs
Oman, U.A.E., Qatar – Flying Carpets
Iraq – Fuck Yeah
Iran – Satan
Turkmenistan – Kwpzsfrstan
Uzbekistan – Szwrkstan
Tajikistan – …stan
Kyrgyzstan – Wtfstan
Mongolia – Savages
Kazakhstan – Borat
Afghanistan – Vietnam 2.0
Pakistan – Cambodia 2.0
India – Curry
Bangladesh – Hunger
Sri Lanka – Tigers
Nepal – Alpinists
Bhutan – Meh
Mianmar (Burma) – Rascals
Thailand – Brothel
Laos – Nixon’s Bitches
Cambodia – Skulls
Vietnam – Cemetery
Malaysia – Two Skyscrapers & Stuff
Indonesia – Mesoindia
The Philippines – Rice Dolls
Japan – Toyota
South Korea – Samsung
North Korea – Dr. Evil

Australia & Oceania

Australia – Aussiebums
Papua New Guinea – Guinea Pigs
New Zealand – Kiwis

33 States on the Map of London

33-states-on-the-map-of-london

This was supposed to be funny. I wanted to make a map of London for quite some time. The city is as diverse as the whole of Europe and that makes it an excellent target for satirical jokes. But somewhere in the middle of the realization of my idea I discovered my approach to Europe simply didn’t work with London. First of all, I like Europe. I adore the cultural amalgam it represents, its nuances and flavors. This sympathy, I hope, is easy to detect, even in the harshest puns on every map. London is a different case.

It’s a strange, almost artificial place. It tries to imitate cities like New York but it lacks spontaneity and dare. Yes, I know it’s the “design capital of the world” and all that. But I also know – from experience – that all those statements don’t reflect its own qualities, they are imported from the outside world and carefully planted on local soil, backed with the money generated with the help of its financial institutions. London resembles an aging Hollywood star – pretty on the silver screen but frighteningly shocking from up close.

My first association about London has always been restraint. It’s not something you can sense initially. In fact, it’s easy to feel anonymous in this town, even with all the CCTV cameras around. If there aren’t all the labels warning you are under surveillance, you can barely notice them. One thing that can’t go unnoticed however is how distanced and silent people are. This is a place where the individual is totally closed in himself, where every time you step out on the street or enter public transport, you wrap yourself in an impenetrable mental shell. Nobody is curious about your haircut. Or the clothes you wear. Or the newspaper you read. People are in a spontaneous agreement not to notice each other. It’s almost a matter of honor to stay as invisible as you can, with as little impact on your immediate environment as you can afford. You may notice something similar in every big city around the world but there’s nothing that could compare to the silence reigning in the London underground.

Which brings me to the next omnipresent feature in this city. Fencing. There are physical signs backing all those mental restrictions. The most iconic of them all – the Transport for London roundels. They may be the epitome of corporate design and branding but reduced to their semantic foundations they actually resemble one of the most widespread regulatory road signs humanity has ever known. In all cultures where modern transport is available, this sign is used to communicate one simple message: Do Not Enter!

And if this example is too abstract for your taste, perhaps you can try to notice the actual fencing on most crossings and public areas. It borders wasteful extravagance and it’s menacingly disturbing, especially in parks and children’s playgrounds. Londoners love to wrap themselves with iron, sometimes even with multiple layers of it. There are parks that look like steel onions. I suppose this fencing frenzy gives them a sense of security but most of those fences are frustratingly impractical by any common sense. And yet they are there and nobody seems to mind.

Let's Have an AdventureThe Elusive Adventure

The mental restraint is just the beginning of course. A lot has been said about London’s tolerance and multiculturalism. And yet, almost any culture, dipped in an environment like this, sooner or later adopts its characteristics. The tolerance is not a conscious effort but simply a reflection of apathy. People aren’t surprised by the way you look or the attitudes you have mainly because they don’t genuinely care. And they rarely care because their own values and opinions are numb, suppressed by this very restraint ordering them to mind their own business and avoid closeness to others as much as possible.

That was the reason I never managed to like London and the reason I got out of there. And it’s the same reason why this map didn’t become what it was supposed to become in the first place. Instead of being joyfully satirical, it’s bitterly grotesque. But at least it is genuine.