Thursday, January 15, 2004

Right, time to take a deep breath, pour myself a few fingers of Scotland's finest (speaking of which and as it's also his favourite tipple, you'd think my ex-roving researcher would know how to spell it by now!) and attempt to further clarify yesterday's little rantlet.

First of all, I'd just like to make it clear that there was no blanket statement "I like Americans, it's America I can't stand", although as a device for summing up my general drift and as an introduction to a response it served its purpose admirably, I feel it doesn't quite encapsulate the points I was trying to make. The nail was hit, but perhaps not as squarely as it could have been.

'I can't stand' is rather too close to 'hate' for my liking and certainly does not come close to describing how I feel about America. I hate neither the country nor its people, my emotion is reserved for what the country has come to represent in the minds of many non native Americans. Even then these feelings could better be classified under the heading of 'things that make you go "Aaaaaaaaaargh!"' rather than hate. Things that provoke me to anger, to a feeling of deep frustration and sometimes despair.

America seems to have become a code for all these things, a handy catch-all, shorthand expression for all that I find wrong with the world today. And why? Well, as I said yesterday, a lot could be put down to sheer exposure...the fact that I hear more about America than I do about say, Uzbekistan (shouldn't there be an aitch in there somewhere?) but I honestly do believe that if I need to find a prime example of anything that winds me up, then I can find the best ones in the land of the free. I'm not saying that I am unable to find any cant, hypocrisy, mendacity or ignorance in the country of my birth...they are there for all to see and I do not deny it but it seems to me to be a matter of extremes.

We spent half the last century witnessing a battle of ideologies, capitalism versus communism, America against the Soviet Union, a cold war in which both sides provided the extreme version of their political creed. Europe was kind of caught in the middle with an affinity for both socialism and the free market but also with an abhorence of totalitarianism. We looked at both systems and saw the cult of the individual at work. In the USSR's case the individual happened to be the one running the whole shebang and in the States it was every man for himself and devil take the hindmost.

We looked at both extremes and felt comfortable with neither. Since 1989 however, there has been only one extreme in existence and it has not toned down its extremity in response, rather the perceived attitude seems to be "Hey, we won...told you so...we were right after all, fuck you!" Again, this is at government, foreign policy level but to us over here, this is what we see.

Now, as England is undeniably a kind of America Lite it follows that anything which gets my goat in England is mirrored in America but multiplied by the A factor, hence my use of it as that shorthand I was telling you about.

But just to even up the score a little...

Mendacity...Tony (WMD) Blair.

Hypocrisy...Secretary of State for education sending her own children to private schools.

Ignorance...well, here we're back to the average IQ, aren't we? But typical attitudes here are British is best...asylum seekers are scrounging loafers...bloody blacks coming over here, taking our jobs...Wednesday are a big club...I could go on and on.

Cant...that typical European attitude that patronises America...the "of course, if you only had our experience, culture, education etc..." Again, bollocks the lot of it.

Anyway, rest assured that it is the rampant Republicanism of Dubya and his cohorts more than anything else which pushes all my buttons as a lifelong socialist and that any American I meet is and will continue to be treated on their merits as an individual and not as a grindstone for any axes I might have to hand.

Oh, and Jess...if ever you visit Hungary, just bring a bottle of obscure Bourbon. I promise not to treat you like an embarrassing relative and the more of a spectacle you make of yourself, the better I'll like it!

Oh well, I might stick a feather in my cap but I'm damned if I'll call it macaroni.

Pip, pip!

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