When I travel in Central Europe, which is where I grew up, every hotel and “pension” (family hotel) usually offers TV channels in several languages for foreign tourists, including English, French and German.
If you travel or live in United States, only English and a few TV channels in Spanish are available in most commercial packages sold by cable and satellite TV operators. It is quite complicated and expensive if you want to subscribe to a TV channel in another language.
When Cox Communication, my local cable TV provider, started offering programming in a number of foreign languages about 2 years ago, I subscribed to German, French and Japanese programming at the cost of 10 to 20 dollars per channel.
It is such a relief to be able to escape after 30 years from the English language ghetto through a large, high-definition TV set. The foreign language TV situation is not as hopeless in big cities with a large population of recent immigrants. I remember that I used to listen to a Polish FM broadcast in San Francisco on Sunday morning in early eighties, and that in mid eighties, the local multilingual cable channel 26 had programs in different languages every few hours for the immigrant salad bowl that is the San Francisco Bay Area.
But here in the southern Bible Belt, (I have about 8 religious channels in my cable package which I can’t get rid of), it was English and Spanish only for a long time until Cox finally figured out how to make money on other languages 2 years ago. With Internet radio and Internet TV, I can listen to any station in any tiny town anywhere in the world, of course, or watch a grainy TV picture on my PC. But I like my steaks well done and my TV programs on a large screen, in high definition and with surround sound.
I really like the English language. It is a language that I have been using predominantly for the last 30 years. But if I can’t hear other languages that I love at least as much as English, I feel that something is missing in my life.
To me, the comparison of cultural and linguistic differences between different countries is the ultimate thrill. One way to look at the differences between “America” and “Europe” is to compare the American and European concept of “reality television” shows.
In the American show “Cops” (Whatcha gonna do when they come for you, bad boy, bad boy!), I usually see black and white cops chasing a young, shirtless dude, who is usually black and high on weed or worse. He jumps a few fences and runs through a few backyards before the cops finally slap the hand cuffs on him and take him to jail. Unlike on German TV, the faces of the young people being chased by American cops are usually not blocked out. They show them on our TV because otherwise the show would not be nearly as much fun to watch.
On a typical show of a comparable German “cops dokutainment” show called “Toto & Harry”, two avuncular German policemen called Toto and Harry explain to wayward children smoking something (weed?) at night in a park that what they do is really stupid and dangerou, before they take them home to their mothers. In another “dukutainment” episode, Toto & Harry find a peaceful solution to a fight between drunk hoboes and shortchanged prostitutes in front of a restaurant. This is the kind of work Toto & Harry specialize in. Drunk teenage delinquents usually talk back to cops in Germany using language that would land them in front of a judge in my country. Apparently, not in Germany. Toto & Harry laugh it off and seem to be enjoying themselves.
Kids have to go in front of a judge here for every stupid infraction, partly because that is how the police departments generate revenue. And since unlike in Europe, teenagers can’t legally have a beer in America until they turn 21, this wonderful law has been paying the salaries of judges, policemen and the mortgages of lawyers in the land of the free for the last two decades, because obviously, kids will start drinking once they turn about 16 regardless of some stupid law. Toto & Harry would simply take the drunk kids to their parents. Here, stupid kids are money makers for the system since their parents have money.
My guess is that Toto & Harry would not last very long at LAPD or NYPD. Although, who knows, maybe I am wrong about the differences that I see between the police here and in Germany. After all, there was only one instance of one “white shirt” policeman pepper-spraying helpless women trapped in orange netting at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations so far. The police has so far displayed mostly restraint in a number of American cities where young people are peacefully rebelling against a system that has no place for them.
But this can change very easily. All it takes is one brick through a shop window and the fury of the Wall Street will be unleashed with full force through the police, which has been so far mostly watchfully waiting, on the young, idealistic and disillusioned demonstrators.
After all, the police is not there to protect the demonstrators from themselves. The police are there to protect the 1%, who were called the moneychangers by Jesus, from people like me, which is to say from people who do honest work for living (if they can find it).
And we are not talking about Toto & Harry here.
Note: When the old lady in the clip of the German cliffhanger police drama above goes shopping and forgets her way back, police has to escort her home because she does not remember where she lives. The last time when police brought her home was 3 weeks ago.