I woke up on board a 747. Once I’d remembered why, I looked at my watch, and estimated we were an hour or two from landing. I took a drink of water. Soon the BA flight attendants started bringing in breakfast, and I gently prodded the spouse awake. Against all probability, I had managed to get 2 or 3 hours of pretty decent sleep onboard an airplane. Soon we landed at Heathrow Terminal 4.
It had been some four years since I had last visited England. Given how little time off Americans get, visiting my family means not actually having a proper vacation that year, so I don’t get to go back as often as everyone would like. This time the visit was for a particular event: my brother Edward was getting married. I know I have some friends who don’t really understand the whole “marriage” thing.
In case anyone in the UK is feeling complacent following this week’s US torture legalization, it’s worth noting that the US agreed to return nearly all the UK residents currently being tortured in Guantanamo—and the UK government said it didn’t want them back. Four of them are still being actively torturedinterrogated.
We like to think that we are immune to propaganda. Yes, other feeble-minded individuals may allow their attitudes to be shaped by the media and their surroundings, but we’re sure that we are far too smart for that.
In 1975, John Cleese savagely satirized British attitudes to Germany, in the classic Fawlty Towers episode The Germans. After a blow to the head, hotel proprietor Basil Fawlty loses his ability to self-censor. While taking a dinner order from some German guests, he proceeds to blurt out the names of Nazis; eventually he descends into xenophobic ranting.
The sad thing is that after 30 more years, nothing much has changed.
When Britain started deploying surveillance cameras everywhere, civil libertarians got worried. No need to panic, they were reassured—the cameras were just to watch criminals, they weren’t going to be spying on law-abiding citizens. Well, starting next year the government will be using the networked cameras to feed computers running license plate recognition software. They will record the time, date and location of every car they see, and store the information in a big database.
The trouble with being a goth is, you can’t be a goth at a seaside resort like Bournemouth. It just looks silly. Trust me on this. I notice stupidity is being imported from America. I saw a letter in The Guardian where the author, apparently serious, refered to himself as an “African-Briton”. Speaking of which, when did The Guardian start carrying ads for phone sex lines and hot bi action?!
England seemed much more bearable this time. I think there were several reasons for this. Firstly, now that my family have all up and moved to Bournemouth, there are actually things to do when I’m visiting. About the only thing worth doing in Hyde Heath was getting a lift to Amersham station and a train to London. The second thing is that it was summer, which means the rain was slightly less frequent and it was pleasantly warm.
England is about to lurch further to the right. David Blunkett is said to be planning further “reforms” which will partially abolish the right to trial by jury, and end the “double jeopardy” rule by which you cannot be tried twice for a single crime. Police will also now be allowed to electronically tag suspects who have not been accused of any crime. The right to silence was ended some years ago now, and armor-plated cameras routinely watch the‘citizens’ of Britain, piping their video feeds directly to central police monitoring stations.