designed to incite to lust or depravity

So whatever incites lust or depravity is obscene, sex for example is obscene, or is it?

After living in America for 18 years and in Europe, for 10 I can argue differently. Sex is obscene in America, but in Europe money is more obscene. Spain has a reputation for being a Catholic country. And it used to be. But the latest statistic is that only 14% of the Spaniards under 25 consider that catholicism plays an important role in their lives. In Franco times the answer was 66% according to El Pais. In Spain sex was obscene…in Franco times. Now the only obscenity left is money. And the same is true in France, in Italy or in Germany. In America women don´t uncover their breasts while sun bathing. In Europe they do. Walk around Paris during a sunny day and you will see plenty of topless women sunbathing. Same is true in Spanish beaches. There´s nothing obscene about this. For Americans, however, obscenity is closely associated with nudity. Jesse Helms, the right wing American senator who was once asked to define pornography and he simply said “I can´t define it but I can certainly recognize it when I see it”. Still I would imagine that the former leader of the Moral Majority of the United States would consider obscene to see topless women sunbathing in American cities. Europeans clearly don´t.

Now there is one thing that Europeans do consider obscene, quasi pornographic I would say, and that is money. While many Americans disclose their income to their friends and co workers and in many cases it even appears published in SEC filings or business magazines, in Europe asking somebody about their income is like asking an American to show you what color their underwear is. Americans love sex, and Europeans love money. Yet Americans are as likely to admit they love sex as Europeans are likely to admit that they love money. I have been an entrepreneur in the States and in Europe. My advice to any successful American entrepreneur coming to Europe would be similar to my advice to a French woman going to a beach in the States: DON´T SHOW YOUR BOOTY. In Europe people are partly attracted but mostly disgusted at displays of wealth. European entrepreneurs, for the most part, hate to appear in publications that disclose how much money they have. In the case of Amancio Ortega for example, the wealthiest man in Spain, with a net worth estimated by Forbes Magazine at $10bn (no Spanish magazine wanted to expose Amancio Ortega!), there is only one picture ever taken of him that appears on the press. Amancio does not want his image to circulate around Spain, does not want information on his wealth to appear around Spain and he is not alone. Same is true of most wealthy Spaniards. When I moved to Spain and put together Ya.com with an investment of 38 million euros and sold it two years later to T Online for 550 million euros in a very public transaction (my partner in this transaction was Jazztel, a publicly traded company) I received very negative publicity after having to disclose all the details of the transaction. To most people in Spain, making a lot of money very quickly was simply obscene. I soon learned to apologize for it. Looking for an explanation as to why Europeans are sexy and Americans rich? Go no further.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Xavier on June 25, 2005  · 

That’s is rigth, and is quite related to your blogs speaking about that in Spain an Europe people who has succes isn’t apreciated (you put the example of the cycle race) and this is completly true in Europe when you want to work more than the 8 hours you use to recive claims from your colleagues, If you want to do a big effort for the company that is not apreciated for them. Seems that everybody shoul dod the things with the same quality, If you try to do your best and you made an effort in a cycling race, someone can’t claim versus you, because the logical thing is that you finish at the same time than the rest.
I think that this is consequence of too many years of socialism and comunism in Europe, that afects the way of thinking of the European people. As consequence of that we have the euroesclerosis, and a very poor capacity of advance in economy. We must be honest and rememeber that the european people suffer a lot of wars as consequence of personal ambitions and that’s change a lot the collective personality, think that the most socialist moments of USA was during the NAM war and probably during the iraqui war.

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Eric on June 28, 2005  · 

You are completely right about how Americans are much more willing to disclose their money than their bodies. I think, though, the subtle difference has to do with pride.

After having lived and worked in Spain for the past 5 years, I can attest to this fact. The problem in Spain is that no one will pay you a decent salary, increase your salary, or hire or promote you unless you are part of some pre-established and recognized elite. Therefore, detailing how much you earn immediately indicates that you have not really “earned” the money but have had it handed over to you.

On the other hand, Americans are proud to show their achievements because they believe they have earned them. It’s the American Dream (although less accessible than 30 years ago). What Americans are totally ashamed of is letting you know that maybe, just maybe they got their jobs from a contact and actually do not deserve either their job title or the salary.

Even though a country like Spain has a much stronger middle class than the US, I know how to make more money in the States. I just work harder or improve my education. Then, I can be proud to tell people how much I earn. In Spain, if I don’t start my own company and do it all myself, there is absolutely no correlation betwee my work performance/potential and my upward mobility.

And, yes, nudity is obcene in the US. That’s why I can’t find TV interesting in the States any longer. And just as it is much more fun to have money in Europe than in the US, my experience is that nudity has been much more fulfilling in the states than in Europe.

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