Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Feed the world?

Classic critique of Live8 from someone who lives in one of the corners of England that didn't have an all-African lineup performing this weekend: "Ok I may have missed the point. I watched it for a bit and my conscience feels a lot better. Presumably I don't have to do anything else now to help Africa.. except depose Mugabe on my next trip."

This in a nutshell is why I often suffer from England envy. The English don't feel the need to go into histrionics about every little thing. Their humor is often understated unless it's over-the-top absurdity. They're less prone to see a ban on loudspeaker prayer as "kicking God out of public schools." They see value in subtlety.

As an amateur sociologist (like Shavlik Randolph, I declared for the draft but wasn't picked), I think a big difference between England and the former colonies over here is that the English are a bit more collectivist in their thinking. That's a mindset forged over history, especially when the nation suffered together and triumphed together in two world wars -- sure, the U.S. played a noble role in each war, but we didn't see losses on the same scale, and we didn't have bombing raids in New York or Washington.

We may perceive the English as snobs, and sometimes they are. (I converse with a lot of soccer fans -- yes, there's a lot of condescension in those circles.) But they also have the humility of seeing themselves as part of a greater whole. We've never had that here.

And perhaps that's why the Band Aid song that started the whole charity kick was called Feed the World, while the U.S. response was called We Are the World. Feed us? I guess the buffet at the USA for Africa session was pretty good.

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