Thursday, November 04, 2004


I'm not entirely sure where this is headed but you're welcome to hitch along for the ride if you promise to raise a glass or few with me as we go.

As is my wont, I read the Shoe yesterday and, as is her wont, she provided a post which turned into a bit of a brain worm and which has been gnawing away at the back of my mind all day.

Not the triple whammy she was suffering as a result of D.W. being D.W., Dubya being Dubya and Alfie being Alfie but rather several soundbites concerning US politics and European ignorance thereof.

I sympathise, I really do, with most of her admirable, honest and heartfelt sentiments but I just cannot, no matter how fervently I desire it or how much of this rather delectable red I drink, see any chance whatsoever of any of them being magically zapped into reality by a simple shake of the simple Texan's schlong.

One of her wishes was that America should become more isolationalist and not ship out her military, industry, business, time and materials anywhere. Minority of one, I think there, girl. Although I'm sure the people of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq would side with you on the military bit; and although I for one would have preferred the boss of the local GE factory not to have, allegedly, put pressure on the mayor of Nagykanizsa to refuse planning permission for Philips to build a factory in town, creating much needed jobs but probably pushing up GE's wage bill at the same time; and I'm sure we could all manage to live without Coca-Cola, Burger King, Starbucks and McDonald's, the likelihood of all that happening is on a par with me waking up tomorrow morning with a face full of Nastassia Kinsky's nether regions, albeit just as desirable. And anyway, you'll never be able to be at all isolationist as long as you depend on the import of foreign oil to fuel one of the most fuel inefficient economies on this planet. Saudi was becoming a bit hot and the Bush-bin Laden ties a tad too close to the surface so a decision was taken to relocate all military bases to Iraq. I await developments there with interest.

As an adjunct to this, a desire was expressed to see more attention paid to healthcare and the fights against crime, poverty and disease. Again, a wonderful ideal but all totally impossible in a society so driven by the buck as that of the US. Was it 600 million dollars spent on advertising alone in this presidential campaign? I wonder how much of that was insurance company donations? How can you hope to have an equitable system of healthcare in a country where the very mention of the word socialism is a guarantee of electoral suicide? And that is just what such a system would be...socialist. Funded by the rich to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Can't quite see that one catching on somehow.

Crime and poverty? Well, call me an old cynic but in a society where such a value is laid on conspicuous consumption, where people worship at the altars of mammon and celebrity and where everybody is under pressure to fulfill their own personal version of the American dream, then I guess crime is inevitable.

Poverty, likewise, will never be eradicated because of the aversion to socialist principles again. And, more pertinently, both crime and poverty are essential tools of the Bush administration in their desire to extend the climate of fear within the country. Be afraid. Be afraid of being mugged, shot, raped, blown up by terrists and of having your morals warped by those commie-pinko-foetus killing-liberal-Darwinist faggots. And be afraid of losing your job, of unionised labour, of cheap foreign imports, of immigrants stealing your, shucks...just be afraid okay? It's the American way.

And disease? Well, just who is suffering from diseases anyway? The poor, the disenfranchised, the illegals? You got the dosh, you get the doc...and the overpriced medication.

The Bush administration and even Republicanism come to that, is characterised, for me anyway, by huge defense spending, wars overseas to boost same and the rise of oil, big business and pharmaceutical lobbies to cabinet rank; tax relief for the very rich while persuading all the blue collars that the trickle down theory whereby they run after the rich guys catching the crumbs falling out of their pockets really works and by the instilling of fear into the population. Scared people are easily manipulated and there must have been at least a small part of the Republican machine that saw 9/11 as a godsend.

And the alternative? God give me strength. An entire campaign strategy based on "I am not George W. Bush" was hardly going to light a fire under the electorate was it? The timely bin Laden tape, on the other hand...

The news that "not a one of (the American electorate) cares what the rest of the world wanted" is bad news indeed. Carte blanche for the cronies to do whatever they like in and to the world at large in the sure and certain knowledge that the folks back home won't give a damn. An attitude that may yet come to haunt our very own Mr Blair one day in the not too distant.

The mole in the post, however, the depth charge, the small, strategically placed explosive detonation, the knife between the ribs, the dirty it whatsoever you will...was the very thing which chills me to the bone every time it pings among the little grey cells; just how could a large proportion of the intelligent electorate have turned out in their droves to vote for the candidate they thought best represented their interests? I say potato, you say...I see a chimp, you see...what exactly?

And it is here that we arrive at the very nub of the problem. Jess laments that she has yet to meet any European with a true understanding of the American psyche. Notwithstanding the facts that the reverse may well be true and that we voted in Thatcher for 12 absolutely miserable, hellish and unbearable years, it remains a blatant truth that we have no conception at all of just what it is that informs the thought processes of that non-existent individual, the average American.

We see the dichotomies, the wealth of paradox and the inherent contradictions but fail to see what it is that unifies them all into a coherent whole in their minds. It is particularly hard for us English. After all, they were English once, weren't they? They still speak our language. But we were here long before they were and, therefore, must know better. So what do we do? We patronise, we mock, we employ wit, irony and most of all, sarcasm, we denigrate, we disparage, we cock snooks in our self-righteous arrogance and the phrase, "only in America" trips lightly off our tongues. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Updike, Hicks, Miller, Bird, Coltrane, Davis, Allbright, Carter, Chomsky, Bacall, Earhart, E. Roosevelt, King...abberations all and conveniently forgotten in our scathing desire to belittle.

But you're right, Jess. We don't understand your particular brand of patriotism. The educated Englishman is sceptical of too much flag waving, displaying and saluting and carries too much guilt from our colonial past to be patriotic in anything other than a post modern sense. The grunts will still wave the paper flags and will still turn up for royal occasions but God help us if they ever become truly representative.

To understand your respect for your president, we would have to have an equal respect for our monarch and, quite frankly my dear, I have little if any. We do not have the republican spirit because, quite simply, we are not a republic...we are not citizens but subjects and our country does not legally exist any more, so far have we sunk.

But it is your contradictions which absolutely boggle whatever is left of my mind...the longer the post, the greater the amount of alcohol consumed and this is a biggie...the irresolvable (is that a word?) dichotomies. Intelligence allied with a belief in creationism, tolerance with Republicanism, friendship with distrust, community spirit with individualism, isolationalism with interventionism, pacivism with a lust for war, compassion with hard-heartedness, generosity with greed, secularity with fundamentalist religiosity, Christianity with rampant right wingery, curiosity with narrow-mindedness, complication with simplicity, flexibility with rigidity, cosmopolitanism with xenophobia, mercy with the death penalty, basques with stiletto heels...ooops, now I know I've had too much.

I will not have the brazen effrontery to express the hope that possibly I have made sense here and, if you have been, I salute you.

G'night and God bless.

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