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Don’t be getting all up in my grill, this is just the flipside of the feature we ran a while ago about American things the Brits always find cool. It’s a yin/yang thing, so be cool, yeah?
The External Monologue
Hey, you know that voice in your head that says things all the time? The one that notices a draft, or thinks it can smell cinnamon? Or wonders if that person you just spoke to finds you annoying? Do you know what that is called? Your INTERNAL monologue. And do you know what that means you should do with it? KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.
The trouble is, if you give full voice to every little thing that is going on in your mind, we will be forced to listen, and to empathise, and to keep the conversation going, because that is what people with manners do. Or, y’know, tut loudly and turn away. Either way it’s an unhappy resolution for us, to a problem we didn’t start.
Or to put it simply: make it interesting or shush the heck up.
Red plastic party cups
“Hey dude, get the guys together, tell the girls, we’re throwing a house party!”
“Whoah! No way! PARTAAAAY!”
“Yeah man it’s going to be OFF. The. Freaking. CHAYZIZZLE!”
“No doubt. And we gonna raise HELL!”
“We gonna get crazy!”
“Uh, dude, did you get the red plastic cups?”
“Did you not hear me say we’re having a house party? I ain’t about to let people drink out of they beer bottles, am I? And there’s no WAY anyone’s getting to the good cups. What are we, animals?”
“No way man! Red cups! RED CUPS! RED CUPS!”
The United States of America is a proud nation, one with a history that is still being written and amended. This is part of the excitement of the place, particular if you’re watching from the outside. There’s stuff going on all the time, nothing ever seems to be where it was a minute ago. And yet, while this is thrilling, it does engender a certain mindset to do with historical precedence:
“I’m better than the others,” says the snippy New Englander, “because I can trace my lineage back to the Mayflower.”
“I’m better than the others,” says the mid-western farmer, because my great-grandfather bought this land over ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, and we’ve been working it ever since.”
Now, I’m not about to pour scorn on either of these people, not least because I just made them up, but isn’t carrying a sense of superiority because of your lineage the sort of thing kings do? Why throw off the regal yolk and then immediately start up with this nonsense yourselves? It’s mystifying. The Brits do it because it’s ingrained in our culture, we’re socially conditioned to be forelock-tuggers, you have no excuse.
Fraternities and sororities
Here’s an idea. Why not go to college and just make friends with people you like and not organise a kind of heirarchical micro-Masonic Lodge that can force you do stuff you don’t want to do before they will even let you join. Why not go to college and spend a couple of weeks meeting as many people as you can and use your own skill and judgement to create networks that contain all sorts of likeminded people, from hugely different backgrounds, and then trust that those networks will only become stronger so long as all parties are prepared to put in the effort, not because you’ve formed a loose affiliation of (often) gender-separated cliques with latin names. It’s not cool when they do it at Oxford or Cambridge, and it’s not cool in America either.
Pledging? Hazing? Oh bugger off…
Also: Calling female students “co-eds” is just plain weird. You may as well have a cheery banner over their dorms saying “we didn’t really want you here in the first place!”
Watch this clip of Alex Jones giving Piers Morgan what for on CNN. Something in the way he has chosen to debate his particular topic suggests that he believes that the best way to make his point is by using only two weapons: VOLUME and ANGER (and not stopping to breathe). I’ve no idea how this comes across in America, where passion and, y’know, really really wanting things is given a fairly positive spin, but in the UK, a display like this is called a tantrum.
It’s what you do when you have no other weapons left in your argument arsenal and you’re just trying to delay the part when you lose. British people watch that clip and think “how is it possible that someone can deliberately choose to be the most unpleasant person in a room that contains Piers Morgan? And look how much effort he has to put into it.”
And what’s worse, I guarantee not one person watching that clip had their mind changed by it. Remember Aesop’s fable of the Sun and the North Wind? Don’t blow hard, blowhards.
Fraser McAlpine is British. This explains a lot.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic