My post on Competition and Co-operation touched on cultural differences between The UK and the US, so I was attracted to read Jon Sopel’s recent book ‘If Only They Didn’t Speak English’, which explores the differences Jon has found during his long stint as the BBC’s North America correspondent.
Jon’s book confirms that the US is a very different country, quite alien in many ways to a European perspective – resulting of course from a very different history and geography. A list of the subjects covered by chapter gives an idea of its scope:
- the anger felt by many Americans, the ‘losers’ in the globalising project
- the pervasive influence of race and discrimination
- the evident patriotism
- the system of government, and the current neglect of public infrastructure
- the continued major influence of religion and God
- the issue of guns and the right to bear arms
- the easily aroused anxiety felt by many Americans
- the ‘special’ role that Americans feel they have with the world, and the supposed ‘special’ relationship with UK
- the increasing loss of contact with truth in the political arena
- the descent into chaos with the Trump administration.
There is much insight here, although interestingly he does not focus on issues of competition vs co-operation. The book provides a stimulating read. And Jon warns that we should not expect major change or realignment; these are real differences. We really are confused by a common language, to suppose that the differences are not as great as they appear – they are.
At the end of the day, although Britain aspires to provide a bridge between Europe and America, our culture is much more European than American. Attempts to move us in an American direction must be seen in this light. Americans think we’re socialists, and most Brits don’t really want to change the current settlement and, for example, lose our NHS. Brexit puts this all in jeopardy, engineered as it was on a misleading and false prospectus of supporting the NHS.
2 thoughts on “If Only They Didn’t Speak English”
Thx for this post, Barry. I loved your post on Competition and Co-operation (in fact, I still have it put aside to reblog or expand upon) and I enjoy Jon Sopel on BBC regularly. I’ll have to take a look at his book. I agree that these are real differences, and I think they’re more pronounced now than ever. Canada is a “European “ country. The US is a real outlier among developed (and many developing) countries. Guns, NO legislated parental leave, no universal health care, far higher levels of incarcerated people, etc. The history of the “wild” west had a profound impact, resulting in a sense of individualism that one doesn’t find elsewhere.
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Thanks for your comment, Jane. It’s good to hear that Canada does not follow the US example.