Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Brits in America

To be honest, I think my whole mood, even my view of life struck the wrong note here. Americans cherish a self-image of themselves as casual, lively and free and the English as reserved, even stuck-up. But sometimes the opposite is true and I'd get in to trouble for swearing, for example, or making a frivolous remark about the task in hand ("well, it's only words and pictures!") to lighten the mood, none of which tends to go down well here. To use broad brush-strokes, I'd say that Americans are more serious, less flip; then again, they can seem more determined than Brits, less cynical. These are our different national virtues.

And with gay culture here, very often the mood of seriousness - and a readiness for anger which I found truly shocking - comes from entirely understandable sources. Gay America was hit harder by AIDS, for example, while the Religious Right is a serious opponent. In Britain, one senses that despite setbacks, gay people pushing for equality are pushing against a door which opens ever wider with every year. In America, there is an equally energetic, often more powerful lobby pushing back from the other side. So ever apparent step forward - like a State moving to endorse gay marriage (and gay marriage is a particularly sore subject in this city right now) results in a backlash, with a highly motivated, politically organised Christian right lobbying for constitutional changes or redress through higher courts.

James Collard, The Times, Jul 14 2006

I largely agree with his comments. British people think America is like Britain (and vice-versa). But it's not. America is a very foreign country. This is good in some ways (the relative lack of class consciousness, the divideness of government), but severely awful in others (the lack of vacation time, the avoidance of real class conflict, the willingness to deny government interference in life combined with allowing massive private enterprise control and intrusion).

No comments: