Sunday, December 03, 2006

Civilized London

Flying in to London from the Southern Med offers an instructive contrast in cultures.

Security at our departure airport was quite unaffected by the
silly rules the EU just adopted to placate Blair. So we both carried 2 bags on board unchallenged and nobody asked to see our toiletries. That's because the Southern Med states are all low-trust, which means people - cops included - ignore petty laws (and unpetty ones too). The downside is there's less community spirit.

London is the flip side - people are much more law abiding, no matter how daft the law, but also much more courteous and helpful. Here are 5 examples from our trip from Heathrow to our Central London flat
:

1. The ticket inspector on the Heathrow Express joked self-deprecatingly while checking our tickets.


2. A London Underground inspector, seeing me cursing my maxed-out electronic payment card, personally topped it up at an automatic payment machine.


3. A guy in the underground train gave up his seat to Mrs G.


4. Another guy jokingly offered me his seat.


5. Arriving at our flat we met the grocery delivery guy waiting in the rain, 2 minutes ahead of our delivery slot. He cheerfully carried up and checked the delivery for breakages.


These were all Londoners, but they hailed from:


1. France

2. West Indies
3. Pakistan
4. England
5. Poland

Londoners benefit hugely from their willingness to accept, accommodate, and integrate outsiders. And that acceptance is based on high-trust rules of courtesy and community that don't exist further south.


There's yet another flip side though. The cheerfulness, tolerance and fortitude of Londoners (and Brits) makes them incredibly slow to object to the sheer awfulness of their political elites.


So they now face a political consensus that's about tax their air travel to "reduce global warming"; tax peak-time road usage rather than build more roads (ditto); has built the biggest DNA database in the world - mostly from innocent citizens interviewed by cops but never charged; is setting up a database that tracks the life of every Brit from birth (to "prevent child abuse"); and will ban all smoking in pubs, restaurants and offices - even in specially constructed smoking rooms.

The good news - as the Germans found in WW2 - is that when the civilized Brits are provoked beyond endurance, they become implacable. So we may yet see the heads of Blair, Cameron and co in the Tower of London.