The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'britain'
Expatriate citizen-of-the-world Momus returns to Britain -- and hates it; on returning, he finds squalor, shabbiness, crass consumerism and an edge of latent aggression.
The marketing is slick and constant, nothing works, and it's twice the price it would be back home. And there's some sort of druggy, boozy menace hanging over the streets at night. Blame the binge drinking sprees! Have a happy smashed British Christmas!
We stop at a filling station on the Shoreditch High Street to buy some food. A homeless man is sitting at the entrance. 'Spare some change, please? Spare some change?' A black man gets out of a BMW and comes over to reform him. 'Look at yourself, mate, you've got to stop using the stuff. Go to a gym, man, do a workout, get out of this state you're in, it's a fucking shame on you, man!' He's a winner, the junkie's a loser. Go to a gym, start a business, buy a BMW, join the winners. It's dog eat dog.
The next morning the taps in the bathroom don't seem to work, and neither does the flush in the toilet. Fuck! At least I'm able to shower. I don't think I could bear to be dirty in London. It already feels like a gigantic toilet. Crossed with an advertising agency. An advertising toilet? Why not? Clever marketing idea! Out on the street, I see a bus with an advert on the side that says 'More Glitz! The Brent Cross Centre, feed your addiction'. Feed your addiction? Fuck, you mean become like that junky we saw last night at the filling station? Have drugs and celebrity become metaphors for everything in Britain? Are they marketing heroin yet? Welcome! Fuck!
The atmosphere didn't feel benign at all, nothing like soft, safe neon nights in Tokyo. `it felt brutal. Minicab sharks, cars pulling up behind pedestrians. You're in there, protected, and I'm out here, not. I'm just going to have to hope you have a good heart. People in hip hop hooded tops looking hard in kebab shops. It all feels like one of those Streets videos where a bunch of tanked-up British guys end up with blood streaming down their faces. 'Mate, mate, I don't want any trouble, mate.'
The kids in the next seat just said 'Bling bling!' The phrase is everywhere in Britain, an R&B-rap-pop fashion as widely adopted as the flash white sportsgear people wear on British streets, minus all the gold, silver and diamonds that stars like J-Lo and Britney accessorize it with. I open the Virgin Trains magazine. (Wow, marketing! Trains never used to have in flight consumer magazines! Then again, they once had basic services like running water and hot food.) There's an article about shopping in Birmingham. It begins 'Diamonds, platinum and all things bling lie ten minutes from the city centre in Birmingham's jewellery quarter...' Later in the journey, bored, I open the new tabloid Times and there it is in the financial section. 'Bling bling: fashion designer John Zhao shows off his crystal encrusted iPod'. Britain speaks fluent bling bling. Britain, from top to bottom, embraces the showy materialism. the 'I won, you lost' mindset of hip hop and R&B videos. Bling bling, I win!
I've noticed some of these things since coming here; the ubiquity of branding, often taking priority over other things (for example, anything to do with live music here has the Carling brand (which is a rather generic lager) slapped on it, and band venues have advertising billboards on the walls), the "ATM attendants" stationed beside every cash machine, trying to guilt the relatively well-off user out of one of their tenners, the chav kids looking hard and dead-eyedly cynical in their hip-hop thugwear (Burberry baseball caps worn under hooded tops, to hide faces from the ubiquitous CCTV cameras, seem to be a big part of youth fashion here), drunk arguments in the streets, with couples screaming "FUCK OFF, YOU FUCKING WANKER!" at each other, the dozens of different posters on every form of public transport, from buses to long-distance trains, warning passengers not to assault staff.
From a Graun article on drinking culture in Britain, the following tidbits:
The timelessness of our desire to get drunk has led anthropologists such as Kate Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, to speculate about the British character. She concluded that we are all suffering from a "congenital sociability disorder", a disease whose symptoms are akin to a kind of autism combined with agoraphobia. In plain talk, the British are uniquely buttoned up and starched stiff. Animal watcher Desmond Morris says that if we were monkeys we would be picking imaginary fleas out of each other's fur, in an act of "social grooming", a pretext for prolonging social encounters. Instead we have for centuries propped up the bar.
A national characteristic has been identified in numerous scientific trials. In one, British volunteers were plied with drinks, all purporting to be alcohol, half of which were placebos. Everyone became equally loud, crude and garrulous, the technically sober behaving identically to the genuinely drunk. Similar tests carried out on volunteers from Mediterranean countries found no such associations. Scientists concluded that British people invested alcohol with "magical disinhibiting powers".
I wonder how this experiment would have run in Australia.
A scholarly work by two Russian mathematicians positing a new chronology for British and European history, and seemingly proving that Britain didn't exist, and all references to it map to places in eastern Europe and the Balkans. "London" referred to either Constantinople or a Bulgarian town named Tyrnovo, England (or Albion) was Albania, Scotland was Scythia, the Welsh were Turks, and the Norman Conquest was actually a reference to fourth crusade and the conquest of Constantinople. The conspiracy of cartographers strikes again, so it seems.
(If this is true, and these things didn't happen in British history, then what did? Perhaps the Royal Family is actually descended from Odin (as their official genealogy is said to claim), or perhaps the Queen is a giant lizard?) (via Psychoceramics)