Saturday, April 21, 2007

UK Spin

It was an interesting day for me in the blogosphere yesterday. I got angry at my country being accused of banning the Holocaust when it was untrue. I was really surprised by how upset I got and considering my recent post on what life like an expat is like, I suppose I am still very much patriotic for home in spite of all New Labours bungling and Blair's obedience to his master Bush. I still believe in the integrity of the country I grew up in. I believe in the justice system and the press (excluding the Daily Mail!!) to keep that same system in check.

However as I also wrote in my last post, I was taught in History lessons, in Scotland, all about the causes for the First and Second World Wars. Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by certain factors all lining up. It wasn't that Germany suddenly woke up and decided to persecute the Jews. It was a long build up of perception that the Jews were causing or aggravating the plight of the "german" people. And whilst the UK has not banned the holocaust from the class room, what I learnt in history tells me to be extra vigilant in looking for the signs that resentment is building in a civilised nation to where it could tip into uncivilised thinking and actions.

July 7th 2005 began murmurings in the press and society in general in Britain about Muslims. I remember talking with my friends about it. It was awkward. How do you address fanaticism in the Muslim community? How do you address a group of people who like to create their own community within a society and do not necessarily want to assimilate? How do you address the growing feeling that immigrants are changing the country from how it has always been perceived?

The UK is still very much a class based society. The recent split between Prince William and Kate Middleton has allowed the aristocracy to reveal their distaste for Kate because of her aspiring upper middle class mother and return William to the fold and set about finding him a true blue blood for the future throne. Oxford and Cambridge are still bastions of privilege and old boys clubs. Yahs still frequent the trendy bars in Edinburgh. Which school you went to and who your father is can still get you further in the UK than ability alone.

The difference now is that this class based society does not want to be seen as such. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, has gone out of his way to prevent a photograph of himself being published. Is he nude? No. Is he drunk? No. Is he wearing women's clothes? No. He is photographed as part of an elitist old boys club in Cambridge. He is in short, photographed as a toff!! He knows this is not the image to win votes. You have to be young cool, green and hip with none of the stuffiness of Oxford dons or polo matches.

The UK is a country of spin, thanks to New Labour. This is a country where perceptions are spun to hide the truth beneath. So we elected a party and prime minister in 1997, who was young cool and hip (alas not green enough..) and who seemed to care for people and making a difference in a way the population was starved of after so much thatcherite incompetency. That election was incredible. The whole country was on a high. It was like the good guys had finally triumphed over the forces of darkness and were riding home in victory. It was infectious.

Finally rid of the Tories, the UK seemed like it may modernise and shake off the class ridden power basis. We may find that the UK could become one of those trendy socialist countries that everyone is envious of - Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland. That was the perception. That was the spin.

Underneath it all everything was the same. We were made to feel one thing when the reality was something different. So I suppose we did "modernise" into the ultimate "postmodern" country of Baudrillard's "Simulacra" where we are always spun away from reality. I did not know of Tony Blair's righteous Christian beliefs. I did not for a moment think that He and George Bush would have anything in common. New Labour might have had a face lift but surely they were supposed to be somewhat close to the left? Blair's beliefs had me thinking he was one of those Christians who truly care about the poor and helping people and to be fair I think some of that is true. But I was totally unaware that that would morph into a "holier than thou" attitude that invading foreign lands to liberate suffering people was OK. I suppose the high he got upon being first elected must have lasted too long.

Britain is a country of two faces. One is the outward modern one that has a diverse multicultural society that welcomes immigrants (I personally believe that after taking over half the world its only right that those people we colonised should be able to come and live in the UK too - although I can guarantee they won't like the weather). The other is a conservative class structure that wishes to preserve power and influence. I fear what would happen if the conservative elite ever felt truly threatened. I fear they would hold onto power at all costs. The compromise right now is that through the spinning of the simulacra everyone can feel hip and cool and modern and open and free whilst the mechanism doing the spinning is the same fixed structure that its always been.


A Paperback Writer said...

Fascinating read, this one was. I'm too much of an outsider to make comments on UK politics, but my sympathies on Blair.
On a lighter note, I got much sympathy from Bob Irvine and some Scottish classmates the morning it became clear that the US was doomed to 4 more years of W. Bob, as I recall, suggested I might apply for political assylum in the UK to escaped a country that would re-elect Bush.

TravelingMermaid said...

Indeed a fascinating read. More!

Cursed Tea said...

prbackwrtr - thanks for reading - I'm all for anyone's opinion - and I think having been in Scotland (especially around the Eng Lit folks) I think you are more than qualified to have an opinion on UK politics!!

TM - this started as one thing and morphed into another but I enjoyed the stream of wittering that resulted and yes, I need to do this more and you now have my promise that I will!! Glad you enjoyed my witterings!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Kirsty, this is fascinating to me, but I must confess that I cannot discuss it intelligently as I know very little about British politics.

The fact that class distinctions still exist does not surprise me.I wondered whether Prince William was getting flack from his family over the commoner girlfriend, despite the fact that his mother was one, too. (Of course, we know that the Queen and Prince Charles did not think highly of her. As you know, she was adored in America, kind of like Jackie Kennedy.)

I believe that any close association with George Bush is an unholy alliance. He has single-handedly destroyed America's standing in the world and probably made us the most hated country of all. I liked Tony Blair once, but now he has shown himself to be just another pol, despite his elegant British accent.

HORIZON said...

‘history’ is an interesting word and its contents fashioned and coloured by whoever happens to be want to tell its version for whatever purpose. Look at 19th century history books and they are a kaleidescope of imperialistic triumph and monarchy doing a fine job of bolstering the class system and Great Britain’s global ravaging. Someone said that most history is written by the victors and that is often so from the Greeks onwards and by governments today. Anti-semetism is not a 20th century phenomenon. Jews were persecuted with fervour in Europe for centuries (especially in England) and it still emerges in some aspects of our value addled society. In the UK we are having a real problem coping with cultures that want to build their own separate identities and communities. They don’t eat the same food, school in the same way, have the same tastes and probably don’t listen to the Archers or the Queen’s speech-lol. All this from a nation that trampled around the 19th century world making ‘little Britain’ all over the place as it robbed and plundered (nothing changes that then!). God help us!
Totally agree with the weather part though :) Great post Kirsty.

Cursed Tea said...

HeartinSF - welcome to the sticky world of UK politics and class!! I (obviously) agree with your Bush assessment - my only quibble is that to my ears Blair's accent has never been elegant!!!

Horizon - WELCOME back!!! Thank you for your comment - I was hoping some fine folks from home who are experiencing all this from the "front lines" so to speak, would comment!! So thank you!!

Josie said...

I have just discovered your blog, having seen you around the various blogs explaining the Holocaust denial in British schools as a hoax. Good for you that you took the time to do that. It's amazing how these awful rumors start, and they get perpetuated so quickly by well-meaning folks.

You have a great blog, and if you don't mind, I will be back.

I LOVE Northern Scotland, by the way. My best friend lives in Aberdeen. It's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. (How can you tell I like it there?) Ha!


Travis said...

I'm leaning quite a bit here. I think I'll bookmark so I can come back.

And just for the record, I did my best to tip the balance away from the re-election of Mr Bush.

Cursed Tea said...

Josie - Thank you for your kind words and please visit anytime!!
Aberdonians can be very cool people - perhaps I'll break out and post in "doric" one of these days...
I definitely need to do a post on the town I grew up in!

Travis - thanks for returning. I hope you find more in my humble witterings to keep you amused. And THANKS!! for voting against Bush - the v sad thing is that I was at work in hong kong during the election and I watched the results live on BBC world - and they kept saying "its coming down to Cuyahoga county" - I lived in that county in Cleveland at the time but I can't vote (yet) - I was fuming!!!!!!
I hope you come back!!

Best Wishes

Adrastos said...

CT thanks for steering me here. At least in the UK class is acknowledged. In the US we pretend that everyone is equal, which is utter rubbish.

Enjoyed the bit about Cameron pretending not to be a toff. Yeah, right.

Katie said...

I agree that the UK is still very much a class-conscious society. I'm currently reading a book called "Affluenza", which discusses how there's very little upward mobility in Britain. Oxford and Cambridge are still full of prep school students and working class people tend to remain as such for their entire lives.

I also agree that people from countries that Britain colonised should be able to come live here - like me, for example. :)

Anonymous said...

Like Adrastos, I fine the UK fascinating. But I am just not quite into the politics as he is.

There are glimmers of the same kind of class structure if you know where to look. The Skull and Bones Society isn’t on par with a Cambridge club, but the idea is the same, just watered down. It has its influence, as the political stage largely encompasses the northeast where class-like distinctions still linger.

It was always puzzling to me how the (US blue-blood) Bush and Blair were joined at the hip. From my perspective on this side of the Atlantic was that, if anything, Clinton was a much better match. And with the Bushes, the rule of thumb was whatever Clinton did, do the opposite. I suppose it could be that Bush admires Blair’s ability to speak in complete sentences, and maybe Blair always dreamed of being a (drugstore) cowboy, or something like that.

Mo said...

Very thought provoking post Kirsty and very true. I've just been drafting a post for my French readers on why the Scots became so disillusioned with their parliament so quickly and we've been thinking along similar lines.

One thing that really annoys me about Britain is hypocrisy. Brits expect to be able to buy up property throughout the world creating Little Britains in France, the costas, the Algarve etc etc. They don't attempt to speak a word of Spanish, French or Portuguese and then complain like crazy about the number of immigrants in Britain.

Cursed Tea said...

Katie - thanks for your comment - sounds like a fascinating read!

celcius - I think you and mr A have given me the inspiration for my next post!!

Mo - I think there is also a big post brewing on the subject of Scotland, devolution and independance - I'm not sure if you'll agree with me or not - and I think I may inculde a thing or two on hypocrisy in Scotland! :)

I completely agree with the whole linguistic hypocrisy and xenophobic attitudes in the UK. I shudder to think of our reputation in such spots as the costa del sol!!!

Thanks y'all!