I have never had an urge to visit Scotland. The landscape is unattractive, the weather is mostly bad, and the traditional food is unappealing (Deep-fried Mars bars!). There are too many places that are more-appealing and more-attractive for me to waste any of the short time I have on this earth.
Scotland is mentioned often in the news these days, especially on those channels emanating from the “United” Kingdom, of which Scotland is a (partly) unwilling member. The current “royal” family owns a lot of real estate, which their ancestors plundered from the local people, not unlike what Americans did to the original owners of the country. Native Americans seems to have been given less rights and powers than the folks in Scotland, who are being given the chance to decide their future with or without English overlords. It is surprising that two peoples that hate each so much have been able to live in relative harmony for so long. Many English are deluded in believing that members of the “royal” family looking silly in kilts and tartans have endeared them to their neighbours to the north.
If Scotland leaves the “United” Kingdom, how great will “Great” Britain be? Not that it ever was. Or, at least, not for a long time. Perhaps, the split will send signals to people in other countries. Will the Flemish and Walloons, who dislike each other more than the Scots dislike the English, finally kill Belgium…which no one would miss. Will Catalonia split from Spain? Or will Bavaria become an independent country? Bavarians already feel superior to other Germans and think that they can go it alone. The list is long and the future uncertain…
The mess that Bush created continues to rage in the Middle East. Citizens of the former Soviet Union continue to shoot at one another, despite a cease fire. People continue to die in Africa, because drug companies are not willing to invest in discovering medications that do not turn a profit. The Dutch continue to ignore the truth about who killed hundreds of their citizens with a surface-to-air missile, despite having the evidence in their hands. Scotland continues to hope of freedom from their English overlords, despite having lived peacefully with them for centuries. The United States Government continues to not function, despite the ability to talk ceaselessly. Humans continue to lose every battle with Nature, despite copious evidence proving that they should not try.
But, hallelujah, there is a bright spot in news. An untalented young woman, who married a privilege, untalented young man, who will inherited a huge plundered fortune, has been forced to stop working. In this case, "work" entails dressing up, smiling foolishly, and shaking one or two hands. But, hordes are rejoicing over the reason of her sloth: she is pregnant with a child, who will also be born with immense privileges and will someday inherit a large, unearned fortune. Along the way, he or she will, like his nearest relatives, become a tourist attraction and be drooled over by countless girls or boys, who all want to marry into that life of privilege. For anyone living in the Commonwealth, no other news is of any significance....
If you want to lose some money, London bookmakers will take bets on the child's sex and it's name.
Americans are known for the delusion that everything about their country is divinely ordered and that every aspect of the country and life in the country are superior to everything else in the work, but the English are not far behind in the delusion department.
Case in point: the CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport thinks that its the best in the world. I’ve bee to third world airports the function better and I prefer. In a P.R. puff piece on BBC, he made such absurd comments as
(We have the) “best baggage system in Europe/one of best in world”
(Heathrow has) “two world class terminals”.
Why was he speaking to the press? The baggage system broke down last week, with many people still not having received luggage after 5 days. He blamed a computer glitch and the need to sort baggage by hand.
If you ask me, this guy must not have traveled to other countries or in and out of his own airport. I have always found Heathrow to be one of worst. Arrival and depart is bad enough, but transferring terminals is a disaster. Terminal 5 gives priority to shops and not passenger flow. Lines are long and slow-moving for check-in and security. The word efficiency does not come to mind…ever.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a running word battle between “Great” Britain and other members of the European Union (or Europe for short, as used in British media).
I saw a headline today that said something like: They insult us all the time, why should we stay? These people must not read their own newspapers. I read each day disparaging comments about one European country or the other. Much of this has to do with the English superiority complex and failure to recognise the tides of history. Long-term memory seems to work better than short-term memory…which hardly exists.
As with everything, this is all about domestic politics. The Conservative prime minister must pander to conservative voters and more-conservative members of his party. Sound familiar? Because the prime minister does not have an unjustified war in which to pretend to be tough, he must flex is (lack of) muscles at countries across the “English” Channel. In the long run, England will suffer more than Europe.
Everyone--except American baseball fanatics--understands the absurdity and arrogance of calling a national championship involving only teams from the United States the World Series.
Not to be outdone, he English have equally stupid titles. The top football/soccer league is called the Premier League or Premiership (with appended sponsor’s name). What would be called Second Division in sensible countries is called The Championship. It cannot be called the Champions League, because that a name belonging to the European Football Association (UEFA) and is battled out between the top five clubs of all member nations. Of course, an English team must be in the premier league, not the championship, to be eligible of the champion’s league. Go figure...
This is an interesting article, and not just for those interested in languages. What the guy writes makes sense, something rarely finds in opinion pieces.
Everyone should learn languages, but it helps if the one chosen is useful. When I was in school, the only language offered--language study was required--was French or Latin. I was smart enough to know that learning language was difficult...and worthless, so I chose the lesser of two challenges. I did not have any use for French, but I could imagine traveling to France at some point in my life. And, a version of the language was spoken just up the road in Quebec. Usefulness has been limited, although a few words do come back during vacations in France...only to be immediately forgotten upon crossing the border.
Now, I would urge anyone willing to listen to learn Chinese, because these folks will rule the world long after I am gone. The combination of English and Mandarin should be useful on the international stage. Anyone staying home, can get by with the local language, although knowledge of English will be useful for understanding entertainment products. I cannot imagine Chinese music or films conquering the world.
I have this love/hate relationship with London. For me, it is the most interesting city in the world, because of the mix of cultures. I hate the bloody aristocracy, with its privileges, unearned wealth, and arrogance, but they have allowed a myriad of cultures to live in peace and cross-cultivate. Other cities might have attracted people from many cultures, but there has been less mixing.
I read that the Los Angeles government has translators for 123 languages (which might have increased since reading), but I always felt that foreigners tried to assimilate into America. They came seeking the American Dream, which each imagined in his or her own way, and they sought to turn it into reality that fit in. In London, there is little assimilation, because no one wants or is able to become “English”.
I dislike the evolution (if only it were backwards develop!) of American English language. This became evident at the hotel in the Maldives, where American culture and English has a (negative) impact on much of the staff. Many are from the US colony of Philippines, which produces most the the domestic staff hotel staff for Asia. The country also produces a great deal of US hospital staff, because doctors can make more as a nurse or technician than they do at home.
Anyways, this became evident during a conversation with the girl taking room service orders. Because I did not understand her greeting, I wanted to confirm that I had the right number. The conversation went as follows:
“Yes, Mr. Thomas.” (Typical greeting in much of Asia).
“I would like one club sandwich.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Thomas.”
This threw me a bit, but I recovered quickly, recalling that this is the way stupid American girls butcher the language.
“Uh, and, one coke.”
“Definitely, Mr. Thomas. Let me repeat your order.”
Absolutely? Definitely? What about “Okay”...or “Yes”?
I do not blame the girl. She cannot help picking up bad English from trash US television programs. And, television writers listen to the garbage spoken on the street and at schools, where language is not a priority. Confucius said something about the importance of getting language correct. Too bad Americans never studied The Analects.
Another article in the same newspaper writes about morality.
Tourists behaving badly
There are plenty of other places where you can let your hair down
and indulge in what would normally be considered inappropriate,
morally-dubious or downright illegal.
I think often about the concept of morality, because my novels deal with human behavior. Morality plays a big role in each story. In many cases, moral behavior is what you can get away with if no one is looking, no finds out, or no one cares. Who decides if one country’s laws are right or wrong? Judging other country's morality/mores is a sign of arrogance. Americans and Englishmen are good at this, and are also the biggest hypocrites.
I often tell anyone within hearing a truism about soccer/football: on any given day, any team can win. This is particularly true for the World Cup competition. With the event starting in about six months, hype is beginning to grow. Some countries (as always, in particular the English, who claim to have invented the game) are already making excuses for their team’s inevitable poor play. A recent New Yorker article confirms this:
“In England, home to a reliable quadrennial cycle of overinflated World Cup expectations, a deep fatalistic gloom set in minutes after the draw. Seventy per cent of Guardian readers in an online poll don’t expect England to advance beyond the group stage. As the ESPN journalist Iain Macintosh quipped, “Many of us are already drunk.””
One of the excuses being offered is the weather. The English will play in Managua, where temperatures can reach into the 30’s. I recall the temperature being around 30 for the final Rome in 1990 and not much cooler in 1994. These millionaire players want ideal conditions, whatever that might be to please them. And, someone is complaining about the need for inoculations to travel to Brazil. This is a nation that used to brag about its flag never setting on the flag. All tourists need shots to travel overseas, so why should coddled players be an exception?
Most reporters/fans/team officials over-emphasize the importance of the draw:
“Landing in an “easy” group offers the tantalizing prospect of a long World Cup run; a bad draw can puncture a team’s ambitions before the tournament has even begun. For a few unlucky countries, that sense of doom is already overwhelming.”
Experience has proven that performance during the competition is the only thing that matters. I recall sitting in the front row of the 1998 final game, in which Brazil was supposed to “kill” France. During warm-up, I noticed that the Brazil team acted strangely. This was a foreboding of worse to come: France won. I also recall watching in 1994 Italy’s best player kick the final ball of a penalty kick shoot-out over the goal to relegate the favorites to runner-up.
England expects to lose; Germans think their team will win. My prediction: some other country will take home the trophy. I will not place any bets, because I cannot tell how “any given team” will perform on that July day to come.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.