More to the point are other clues about culture (and the lack thereof) in the substance of what Bush said. For example, he said he “felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad, make something happen” and in the "vulgar" passage said, “See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over,” What better illustration of the logic of sequential instrumentality than this "get x to get y to do...". This also reveals the curious use of "irony" in U.S. culture (it tends to designate any statement that appears to be mildly unexpected). I sincerely believe that one of the "dimensions" -- or differentiators -- of culture forgotten by Hall, Hofstede and Trompenaars is the status and meaning of irony. Perhaps someon would like to run a statistical study of it and then develop a marketable theory based on the spectrum of strongly ironic to weakly ironic cultures.
Bush's instrumental view of problem-solving -- which helps to explain the "reasoning" behind the Iraq war -- appears almost as a parody of the language of a top manager in a Hollywood film about Wall Street (or maybe the Sopranos). Bush's culture -- and much of U.S. culture -- is one of getting things done by giving orders and establishing deadlines. It's also one where results are definitive; throw a stone in the water and there will be a splash but no one need pay attention to the ripples. "Stop doing this shit and it's over" he tells Blair. This should remind us of Bush's remarks in the buildup to the Iraq war ("game over!") and its immediate aftermath: "Mission accomplished". If he still doesn't understand that social and political problems cannot be resolved definitively by simple authoritarian decision-making and subsequent action (what a famous fictional Dane once called "taking arms against a sea of troubles"), it may reflect not only his own incapacity to learn from experience but also some of the reflexes inherited from his culture. As I myself am a product of U.S. culture, I prefer to think there's more of the former than the latter. But I have to recognize that this corresponds to a certain well-established mythology in U.S. culture: if the whale is tormenting you, take a boatload of people and a healthy supply of harpoons and go out and kill it (achieving quietus with a bare bodkin, to quote the Dane again). Melville had already made observations similar to mine about the values of his countrymen.
The NY Times has this description of the event:
"The microphone caught him discussing global trade talks, his impatience with long speeches, even his preference for Diet Coke. For four minutes, the world was given an unscripted look at how he does business with his international counterparts, especially Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who, apparently alert to the peril, brought the episode to a conclusion by turning the microphone off."All reports noticed his impatience with anything but the nitty-gritty and his insistence on respecting timing, which shouldn't surprise anyone. “I’m not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.” Complaining about the behaviour of "the rest of them" is always a clear indicator of cultural isolation. (By the way, "damn" used to be "vulgar" but has clearly changed status over the past 30 or 40 years and has become eminently printable, possibly because it doesn't refer to a bodily function).It's interesting to note that Blair was much more discreet and showed some good English pragmatism by turning the microphone off.
The episode on geography could have been scripted by a Middle School student:
But Mr. Bush sighs, and explains, “Gotta go home, got something to do.”China and Russia are apparently in the same "neighborhood" because they are both far from Texas! Since Bush had never travelled outside the U.S. before becoming president, this is perhaps understandable.
Then, more likely to Mr. Hu, he asks: “Where you going? Home? This is your neighborhood; it won’t take you long to get home.”
The response cannot be heard, but Mr. Bush exclaims, “You get home in 8 hours? Me too! Russia is a big country, and you’re a big country.
But the most delightful is certainly the moment when the most powerful politician on the planet explains why he must leave the seven next most powerful politicians, “Gotta go home, got something to do.”
There are many other observations that could be made about this episode, but they range from the cultural to the political to the psychoanalytical. In the end -- just like the current problems in the Middle East -- it's just a little too much for any one person (or eight leaders, for that matter) to handle.
* For those who are not familiar with "the shot heard round the world", it refers to the opening salvo of the American War of Independence (in a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem).