Following on from yesterdays's post, here’s a snapshot of the UK in 2005.
Three bullet points summarize Brit culture: Creative Clubbing Warriors.
The recent Sod Off Swampy kerfuffle shows all three points. It happened at the International Petroleum Exchange, the world's second-largest energy market – in London not Saudi Arabia because some clever Brits created it there. The protagonists were two tight-knit clubs - Greenpeace and Traders. And it involved good old Brit violence.
Brit creativity starts with humor, which the Brits use in all possible circumstances:
Brit soldier hit by IED: “Sergeant, I’ve lost my leg!"
Sergeant “No you haven’t, son, it’s over here.”
Creativity starts at home. A typical nondescript line of row housing may include:
a) a front yard planted with a bizarre pattern of several thousand plants b) a yard carefully modeled around an enormous collection of garden gnomes c) a house with appliqué fake stonework d) another one with a complete set of Tudor beams meticulously bolted to its outside.
Brits publish as many books each year as 5-times-bigger population of the US.
The 1,000-student Cambridge college that Gandalf junior attended has won as many Nobel prizes as the whole of France. A Japanese buddy tells me their researches show that Brits have originated about 50% of all useful technical innovations since 1945 – recent examples are DNA fingerprinting, the WWW and cloning.
The clubbing currently enjoyed by Brit youth is but one tributary of an enormous cultural river.
The Brits love to form and join clubs - preferably with arcane rules, requiring much specialist knowledge and skills, addressing obscure interests, and involving lots of social interaction and politicking. Pubs are clubs - when you move to a new area, you find the local you like, and bingo, you’re integrated! Clubs cover everything - black powder target shooting, obscure battle reenactment, restoring old steam engines, growing particularly sickly species of orchid, birding (Brit birders said to be the largest voluntary organization on the planet).
If you’re baffled by a Brit institution – Parliament, the Royal Navy, the Monarchy, soccer hooligans, just think of it as a club.
Brits pretend to be gentle folks, but for 500 years have actually worshiped what they used to call “The God of Warr” – see Kevin Phillip’s excellent book on the three big Anglo Civil Wars. The Falklands War was typical – huge crowds (including bare-bosomed girlfriends!) waving the Fleet off to war, senior officers heroically dying leading their men in battle, weird Brit weapons whacking the opposition, improvisation and bloody-minded determination overcoming setbacks. Mrs. Thatcher led this, and it cheered the Brits up so much that they happily let her go on to dismantle 35 years of socialism.
The Brits are in Iraq not because they necessarily agree with the strategy (many don’t), but because a) it’s a War and b) the Yanks are in the Anglo Club.
Finally, the Brit football hooligans that wreck neat European towns are of course just War Clubs.
The UK has about 60 Million people - 20% of the US. It’s about the size of Oregon. Appropriate because Oregon is the only US state where it’s usually raining more when you arrive than it was when you left London.
It’s the fourth largest economy in the world & the second biggest in Europe after Germany. After WW2, it struggled under socialism and the costs of defeating the Germans. Then, starting in 1980 with Mrs T. at the helm, it grew 3.2% compound. Since 1998, it’s fallen back to 2.8% under Tony Blair’s socialists, but is still growing much faster than Germany & is set to overtake it within 5 years.
The UK, along with the US, is an Information Economy – think RFIDs and Demand Forecasting. All the other big European counties still have the old style Industrial Economies – think autos and TVs. The UK has many very good service companies – e.g. Vodafone. Brits returning from abroad (including the US!) breath sighs of relief at getting back to spiffy retailers, everything online 24*7, supermarkets with exactly what they want (5 varieties of potatoe!), friendly call centers etc. Manufacturing focuses on quality niches - most of the world’s auto engines are designed in the UK and most Formula 1 cars are built there.
Here's a good insight into how the UK works and lives.
It's articulated in urbanized clusters along the Motorways in office parks, university centers, and quasi-rural market towns, acting as nodes in a networked information production system thoroughly integrated into the global economy. It's middle class, cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, well educated, entrepreneurial, and meritocratic. It prefers to live in nuclear families, owner-occupied single-family dwellings with gardens, with individual automobile transport and access to open space, preferably in a rural second home.
The UK is full of foreigners. Walk through a London park and you’ll encounter scores of nationalities out playing soccer, cricket and baseball, walking kids & canoodling. Foreigners have been flooding to the UK to escape oppression for 400 years, so Brits are used to it. There are big groups of economic refugees from the EU (including 300,000 French people, building neat Hi Tech as well of course as improving the food). It’s the top European destination for investors and so is full of foreign companies.
Brits travel and move about a lot - many have 2nd (and even 3rd) homes in warmer climes. Virginian friends who bravely bought a house in a pretty village in darkest France found that many of their neighbors were Brits. In many French villages, Brits run the local council. Brit retirees use swathes of Spain, France and Portugal as their Florida.
The Brits are tied closely to the US. The UK is the largest holder of US assets and Brits form the largest number of visitors to the US. Brits quickly assimilate in the US – about 90% of all the single engineers who moved to the US to work in companies I’ve run have ended up marrying Americans. And the UK has a fair number of Americans married to Brits. Brit family networks cross the Anglo world, and at holiday times the phone wires are hot to the US (which has about 175 Million people who claim Brit-ancestry). (Which prompts the scary thought - is Michael Moore of Brit ancestry?). Plus there are about 2 Million Brits like me, who work in both countries & regard both as home.
The UK spends about 3% of its budget on its armed forces, about the same as the US. Barring France, the other NATO members spend about half this level. Brit forces are well trained but not as well equipped as the US, mainly because Euro-procurements inflate equipment costs. The Brit combat soldiers preformed well in Afghanistan and Iraq, although IMHO its officers need a good kick up the rear end.
A creepy Europhile Club lured the UK in to the EU. In the 1970s, Brits foolishly left their relationship with the EU in the hands of a group that shared the characteristics of Jimmy Carter and John Kerry. The folks in this Europhile Club were and are pessimistic about the future of the UK; they disdain its values, thinking other counties better; and they lack business and technical competence. In their worldview, the UK is headed downhill fast and its only hope is the weak CEO's Nostrum - Merger! The Club worked stealthily - here are the successive statements of the chief Kerry/Carter clone.
When Persuading the Brits to Join in 1972
"There is no question of eroding any national sovereignty; there is no blueprint for a federal Europe. There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears I need hardly say are completely unjustified"
After Mrs Thatcher Blew The Whistle in 1989 and 1990
"The aim was, and is... ever closer political union. The means... were and are economic"
"Of course, yes" In response to the question "Did you have in mind a United States of Europe in 1972?"
Mrs. T beat up on the EU through the 80s and by the end of that decade had put it back in its box. Then she was removed with help from the Europhiles. Her weak successor let them take over again. It got worse with Tony Blair's election in 1997 - he accelerated the move into Europe. Now four out of five Brit laws come direct from the EU.
The final battle has now commenced. Since the Brits are good at coming from behind, things should work out fine as long as the US does not hinder & even helps a bit.