Tuesday, 8 July 2008

I have a dream...


Disclaimer: The following was written under a state of extreme annoyance using some rather large-scale generalisations. I like to generalise. It’s my blog. I’ll write what I want. Nice one me.

Having been back in my home country for all of three days, it still surprises me that no one has yet juxtaposed the famously held view of Greece, by Byron, Massimo, and others (lovely place, shame about the people) onto the United States. Get out of most of the cities and much of the country is astonishingly beautiful; some of the national parks are stunning bits of the planet, but in the cities, the endless idiocy of the people subsumes any potential aesthetic merit. For me, the primary annoyance of American people stems from their general lack of awareness that they share their cities with other individuals. On the West Coast anyway, I think people pretend that the abundance of physical, geographical space means that there’s no accountability to others who live in the same city. Why would we need to consider other people, there’s plenty of room for everyone, seems to be the mentality. Arizona, and correspondingly, Phoenix are very large places, with plenty of room for people to spread. In London there’s no room anywhere; people live on top of you, you get crushed on the tube in the morning, navigating a Saturday walk on Oxford Street requires SatNav just to avoid the throngs. Consequently, an “awareness” of other people takes place, consciously or not, all of the time. But here people pretend that no one else exists on planet Earth. No man is an island simply does not apply. It’s why everyone lives in a huge house (flat-sharing is pretty much unheard of), drives a giant 4 x 4, petrol prices be damned, eats too much, talks too loudly, and generally does what ever the hell they please. As Prince of Planet Me, why act otherwise?


My European friends never fail to offer the counter argument that Americans are “lovely people, so friendly and helpful.” Let me clarify: Americans love strangers (qualifier – white, European strangers. Top marks scored by the Anglo-Irish in particular) and hate their neighbours. Don’t be fooled for a second by the Obama “change” fervour. Americans don’t want change – there is no love of the social welfare here. They just want their cheap petrol back and no negative equity on their mortgages. The NHS is suspiciously viewed by Americans (those who know what it is anyway) as a borderline socialist farce, hence the perpetuation of the sometimes efficient, yet financially inane US healthcare system. Friends pay $80-200 per month for health insurance policies - and this is only their cost, the remainder is met by your employer - they may use once every two years, if that, yet which in no way subsidises the cost of health care for the poor. In essence this means not paying a health insurance premium means no health care, full stop.

Public transportation is impossible in cities designed to subsidise the American motor industry. There is no social responsibility, least of all where environmental issues are concerned. No one carries a bag for shopping. A supermarket charging for plastic bags would probably start a riot. Yesterday at the supermarket I bought some houmous (which was disgusting), some radishes, a bunch of celery, and a bottle of water. Not only did this cost me $7.63 (sales tax results in annoyingly odd prices), but the cashier put my FOUR items in TWO bags. When I took them out altogether to carry, he looked at me like I ought to be committed to an insane asylum. If I would have faked a public school girl accent and said something like “Oh no really dahling, I have no need for a carrier bag,” he would have smiled brightly and said “Oh my god! Are you Irish? Do you guys, like, have supermarkets in Ireland? My great-great-great-great-grandfather’s from Galway? Do you know it/them/my relatives/etc.” Nutters. A dear friend has suggested I look at this involuntary exile as a learning opportunity for personal growth or some other such nonsense, but what I really want is just to go home. Now that I finally know where that is…


More observations from the “big island” coming soon. Less generalisations next time. I promise…

1 comment:

J. Harker said...

A) Brilliant post.

B) I'm sorry I didn't find your blog sooner.

C) I shall have to add you to my list of things to read and procrastinate with.