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Two worth watching on ABC1

17 Aug

I have been enjoying Sunday nights on ABC with Stephen Fry in America at 7.30.

I have often felt a hot flare of shame inside me when I listen to my fellow Britons casually jeering at the perceived depth of American ignorance, American crassness, American isolationism, American materialism, American lack of irony and American vulgarity. Aside from the sheer rudeness of such open and unapologetic mockery, it seems to me to reveal very little about America and a great deal about the rather feeble need of some Britons to feel superior. All right, they seem to be saying, we no longer have an Empire, power, prestige or respect in the world, but we do have ‘taste’ and ’subtlety’ and ‘broad general knowledge’, unlike those poor Yanks.

What silly, self-deluding rubbish! What dreadfully small-minded stupidity! Such Britons hug themselves with the thought that they are more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than Americans because they think they know more about geography and world culture, as if firstly being cosmopolitan and sophisticated can be scored in a quiz and as if secondly (and much more importantly) being cosmopolitan and sophisticated is in any way desirable or admirable to begin with. Sophistication is not a moral quality, nor is it a criterion by which one would choose one’s friends. Why do we like people? Because they are knowledgeable, cosmopolitan and sophisticated? No, because they are charming, kind, considerate, exciting to be with, amusing … there is a long list, but knowing what the capital of Kazakhstan is will not be on it.

The truth is, we are offended by the clear fact that so many Americans know and care so very little about us. How dare they not know who our Prime Minister is, or be so indifferent as to believe that Wales is an island off the coast of Scotland? We are quite literally not on the map as far as they are concerned and that hurts. They can get along without us, it seems, a lot better than we can get along without them and how can that not be galling to our pride? Thus we (or some of us) react with the superiority and conceit characteristic of people who have been made to feel deeply inferior.

So I wanted to make an American series which was not about how amusingly unironic and ignorant Americans are, nor about religious nuts and gun-toting militiamen, but one which tried to penetrate everyday American life at many levels and across the whole United States. What sort of a design should such a series have? What sort of a structure and itinerary? It is a big country the United States…

Very informative and entertaining.

Then on Friday nights is a new (to us) crime series: George Gently. Set in 1964 – a time that to me seems not all that long ago! – the first episode features great acting, well-delineated characters and a good plot line. I look forward to making this a regular date.

I have added video on both to the Vodpod – see the end of the side-bar.

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13 responses to “Two worth watching on ABC1

  1. Lisa

    August 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I am enjoying Stephen Fry too 🙂

     
  2. Kevin

    August 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Do you know what REALLY ticks off a brit? When Americans call Great Britain ‘England’. So of course I do it all of the time :).

    But I think it’s unfair to call Americans ‘unironic’, if that’s even a word. I mean, we, the land of the free, just elected a socialist to be our commander-in-chief! Can’t you see the irony of free people electing a socialist?

     
  3. Kevin

    August 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Ooh, torrents are available so we can watch your tv in America. Nice. Thanks for the tip.

     
  4. Kevin

    August 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Crud, sorry for the triple post. It turns out that the link I gave previously was for a Beeb series from 16 months ago. It must be different than the one that you guys are watching. Apologies.

     
  5. Bruce

    August 17, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I mean, we, the land of the free, just elected a socialist to be our commander-in-chief! Can’t you see the irony of free people electing a socialist?

    I do hope you are trying to be ironic by calling your commander-in-chief a socialist!

    And socialism is an economic theory, not a system of government. Socialism doesn’t forbid voting even if some socialists do.

    If I pointed to the not inconsiderable number of capitalists from the 1930s (esp. in Europe) who weren’t fond of people being able to vote, would it make sense to say that it was ironic for a capitalist to be voted in?

     
  6. Neil

    August 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    @Kevin — check the Vodpod bottom right in the side-bar. Also the link at the top of the entry is to Stephen Fry’s site and includes transcripts of parts of the program.

    @Bruce — standard US political rhetoric, I’m afraid.

     
  7. Kevin

    August 18, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Bruce, socialism is inherently freedom-sapping, because when it comes down to it, all socialism is is taking stuff from some people and giving it to others. It saps the will to produce from the productive, and saps the desire to achieve from the non-productive. I mean, they get stuff for free, so why work?

    Please note that I said nothing about voting. I only said that we voted for a main who would (and his currently attempting to) curtail our freedoms.

    Neil, Thanks, will do.

     
  8. Bruce

    August 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Bruce — standard US political rhetoric, I’m afraid.

    Indeed.

    Bruce, socialism is inherently freedom-sapping, because when it comes down to it, all socialism is is taking stuff from some people and giving it to others.

    Which capitalism is and does as well, it’s just that the means are in the private sector.

    And at any rate, Obama has a mixed-economy economic philosphy. It’s neither strictly socialist nor capitalist, although closer to the latter – you need to look around the world a bit more Kevin, to see where Obama sits on a continuum. He’s not even close to being socialist – far more likely at the capitalist end of social liberal.

     
  9. Kevin

    August 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

    That’s silly. Capitalism takes nothing without approval of both parties involved in the transaction. Socialism, on the other hand, can take most things from you simply on a government employee’s whim, and often did in the socialist countries of the 20th century.

    I’m stunned that you consider the two systems to be similar.
    ________

    Yes, I can look around the world and find people who are more hardcore socialist (Neil, for example), but the fact remains that Obama is America’s most socialist-loving president ever. Even more so than Carter! It’s sad :(.

     
  10. Neil

    August 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Bruce, get up off the floor! Neil, a socialist? Pigs might fly…

     
  11. Bruce

    August 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Capitalism takes nothing without approval of both parties involved in the transaction.

    This is factually incorrect. It doesn’t always. It is perfectly acceptable in capitalist terms for the rich to have greater access to the court system. Capitalism by definition does not allow state intervention (e.g. legal aid) to address this power differential.

    This enables spurious patent claims. Capitalism enables the taking of property on a whim, without consent Q.E.D.

    Socialism, on the other hand, can take most things from you simply on a government employee’s whim…

    Even under Communism, there was due process preventing the whims of most government employees from being fulfilled. Anyway, you’ve just defined socialism in a manner that excludes Obama – whatever re-distribution of tax dollars Obama is engaged in, it’s not able to be done at a whim. Obama simply doesn’t have the unchecked executive power to do so, nor has he shown evidence of seeking such power.

    Yes, I can look around the world and find people who are more hardcore socialist…

    It’s very easy to find someone more socialist than someone who isn’t socialist.

    …but the fact remains…

    Fact is the wrong word. What follows was purely a statement of opinion.

    …that Obama is America’s most socialist-loving president ever.

    You started out calling Obama a socialist. Now he’s a socialist-loving president. Equivocation is as good as a concession of failure as is a concession of failure.

    I thank you for having the honesty to signal that you know you are wrong. 😀
    ___________________

    Bruce, get up off the floor! Neil, a socialist?

    I guess Kevin thinks The Open Society and Its Enemies made no impact on your whatsoever. Maybe if we can get Kevin to admit that he’s never read it, we can start calling him a socialist for not reading what is arguably the most significant criticism of Marx of the 20th century.

    (Although, I put odds on Kevin calling Popper a socialist as well.)

     
  12. Kevin

    August 23, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “This is factually incorrect. It doesn’t always. It is perfectly acceptable in capitalist terms for the rich to have greater access to the court system. “

    Wow. Completely untrue (aka factually incorrect). 1) Anyone with $50 US has access to the court system. 2) Capitalism ‘by definition’ as you would say, has nothing to do with the courts or legal system. Capitalism is such a beautiful thing because it’s so simple. Laissez faire. Let the invisible hand do its thing. It’s as beautiful and simple as Einstein’s E=MC squared and should be revered equally. Or perhaps more so, since it’s the greatest creator of freedom and prosperity that the world has ever known. Capitalism says nothing pro or con about legal aid any more than it does about governments building roads or creating education centers. Both are ideas that I support, btw, but not in their current conditions.

    “Capitalism enables the taking of property on a whim, without consent Q.E.D.”

    I hope that you know how silly you sound. This is blatantly false.

    Even under Communism, there was due process preventing the whims of most government employees from being fulfilled.

    Even our socialist friend Neil is laughing at this statement. Due process!?! Have you read histories of the USSR? the GDR? Heck, if you’re too lazy to read, watch the movie, “Other People’s Lives” from 1985 East Germany. Sheesh, that sentence quite annoyed me. Do you think the 30 million Ukranians who were forced to starve to death in Stalin’s 1930s Russia had some form of due process? How about the millions sent to prison camps in Siberia? Do you think that they had some of that wholesome due process that you mentioned?

    You don’t seem to be thinking things through before you type. Frankly, Bruce, I don’t think that we are in the same league. But here’s some good news: You can take the previous sentence to mean that you are so smart that I couldn’t understand you! Yes, you should go with that. Going with the truth would be depressing.

    ______________________

    “I guess Kevin thinks The Open Society and Its Enemies made no impact on your[s] whatsoever. Maybe if we can get Kevin to admit that he’s never read it, we can start calling him a socialist for not reading what is arguably the most significant criticism of Marx of the 20th century.”

    I have not read it. Or heard of it. I’ll check it out though! I’m glad to hear that both of you know the horror of communism, but I thought that we were talking about its evil baby sister, socialism. You know, the idea that we should take from some people who work very hard, and give some of what we took to other people who choose not to work very hard (the socialists in charge keep the difference). That’s the thing that I’m against.

     
  13. Kevin

    August 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Aside, or maybe back to the point: This IS the BBC show that aired last year in Britain and America. I’d agree that it’s quite good tv. But he does a bit too much pandering to the American Indians (I’m 6.25% Blackfoot Indian, btw), acting as if their ways were somehow worth preserving. They’re really not.

    He also spends too much time dwelling on man-made global warming, which most (54%) Americans no longer buy into. As a scientist who champions the questioning of this non-scientific global warming belief-system, I found it annoying that he searched for and found the whackiest of believers in America to mourn about the dying of our planet with. It seems all the weirder, since you could kind of tell that he doesn’t buy into the nonsense.

    Take the whole thing with a grain of salt. Or better yet, come visit us! I recommend Colorado in the winter if you like skiing, or Florida or Texas’ Padre Islands any time of the year if you prefer fun in the sun. Or Maine in the summer if you like hiking or fishing. Or California if you’re gay and want to express yourself in some weird way like wearing wings or something.

    Other than that, it’s a fair assessment of both the perks and the pitfalls of America.

    Have a great week!

     

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