“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Americanisation and the Special Relationship.

What is it with this country and the United States? The term "special relationship" was coined by Churchill at the close of World War 2 and I can't remember a single British administration that has not trotted it out at every opportunity. The relationship is special in more ways than one however, and is certainly an unusually complex and psychologically fraught one. I remember as a kid receiving two quite contradictory inputs about America and Americans. Adults were eager to tell me how in two world wars the Yanks had come in at the last minute and stolen all the glory. America was the epitome of flash, know all big headedness; but not a patch on us really. I remember a teacher at school explaining how much better British universities were compared to American ones. As there was no likelihood of any of us setting foot in any kind of university I'm not sure what we were meant to do with this pearl of information.
On the other hand, to us kids America was a wonderland of glittering success. Americans just seemed so much better at everything. Rocky Marciano made short work of our own hapless Don Cockell and even when Randy Turpin outpointed the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson we knew in our hearts that the middleweight title was only on loan and that the result of the return match was a forgone conclusion. The only sports that Americans didn't shine at were ones that they disdained to participate in. Or so it seemed to us. Hollywood was of course the home of celluloid glamour and British movies seemed grey and ordinary in comparison to the American ones. All of the music that was worth listening to, the cars (tail fins, chrome and whitewall tyres) all of the clothes, food, just everything worth having, from chewing gum to Superman, was American. Did the 60s and the Vietnam War change all this America ligging? Not really, just transferred it. Now it was our hippies and revolutionaries who seemed pale imitations of the Panthers, Yippies and Weathermen.
None of this is "true" or "fair". How could it be? That feeling of longing when I hear Delta Blues, of contempt when our foreign policy trots amiably along at the American heel, of mild irritation at having a Border Agency, Supreme Court and "Homeland Security". The feeling of sadness that so few of us know that other America of The Wobblies, Freedom Riders, Studs Terkel and City Lights Bookstore. Is all of that part of the special relationship.? I think that it probably is.

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