I was thinking the other day: do non-Americans use the “wow, we can land a man on the moon, but we can’t…” trope like we do, to express day-to-day technological disappointments (shopping carts with squeaky wheels and so forth)? Like, is the “we” here “the human race” or is it “this great nation”? Because other nations have plenty of other amazing accomplishments of their own they could take patriotic credit for. Norwegians could say, “We can send a man to the South Pole, but…” South Koreans could say, “We can clone a manatee and a zebra into a horrifying hybrid creature we call the man-bra, but…”
In the former Soviet Union, were they like, “Bozhe moi! We can launch an unmanned probe around the back of the moon, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof!”?
I also wonder if the expression of this idea (“humanity’s greatest achievements are not reflected at my local level!”) has only been around since July 20, 1969, or if there were earlier variants. I’m picturing a chronology like this:
10,000 BC: “We can domesticate the goat, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
200 AD: “We can cross the vast Mediterranean in boats of efficient triangular sail, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
1620: “We can calculate great mathematical products using a pair of sliding logarithmic scales, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
1780: “We can soar above Paris in a ‘balloon’ of heated air, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
1840: “We can vulcanize rubber by curing it with sulfur, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
1911: “Cy Young can win 511 games, but I can’t get a guy to come fix my roof?!”
You also have to wonder what future technological breakthrough will be epochal enough to finally replace Neil Armstrong in this meme. Will nothing short of a Mars landing to do it? Because the Segway and “Angry Birds” are not really making the cut so far.