The Rainiest State of the USA

How an undying attachment to mediocrity leads the English inevitably to their doom

I grew up moving to a new country every two or three years throughout my childhood so I’ve always been an outsider, with no attachment to “the way we do things around here.”

After sixty-one years of living and working around the world, I’ve amassed a catalogue of “the way we do things around here” for a sizeable number of countries.

The dis-United Kingdom, for example, is a great case study. As a medium-sized economy that used to have an Empire, the English remain perpetually lost between misremembered past and uncertain future. Whereas the Scots and the Irish and the Welsh have a long history of submission to a dominant power (England), the English still have not adjusted to the loss of Empire.

Brexit was sold to the ignorant masses as a way for Brits to gain “independence” from Europe but as everyone else instantly realized, Brexit guarantees total UK subjection to the American superpower.

Which is condign, because for the last few decades the English have desperately been trying to become more American. US citizens are fat, and so are UK citizens. US citizens cling desperately to their jobs in a futile search for meaning; UK citizens are likewise working longer and harder for ever-greater job insecurity and larger wage disparities. US citizens gawp at their screens to consume endless McSlop for the brain, and UK citizens watch an astonishing amount of US-sourced “entertainment” that has altered the national vocabulary and knocked at least 10 IQ points off the national average.

In many ways therefore the UK has taken the very best of the USA so that Brits are now over-worked, over-fed, over-stimulated, and over-medicated with increasingly unaffordable housing and a lack of real human connection to family and friends.

In the USA, however, everything is about money and therefore everything is focused toward more and better ways to make money, but the British are terrified of failure and even more suspicious of and resentful towards success.

Trapped between these two polarities they live in perpetual mediocrity.

A trivial example: a fast-food franchisee in the USA will monitor daily sales to see what menu items are doing well and which are doing poorly. Fast-selling items will be restocked quickly to maximize revenues. But in the UK, things are done differently, as the following anecdote illustrates:

Many years ago I had to commute between Lancaster and Cambridge each week, which entailed driving up and down the UK’s motorway system (akin to freeways in the USA). As the journey took hours (UK motorways being notoriously congested and permanently in a state of ongoing repair) I’d stop to refuel and look for something to eat. At each motorway service area a number of UK franchises would offer their wares: fish & chips (French fries), egg & chips, sausage & chips, chips & chips, sandwiches & chips, burgers & chips, sodas, and milk shakes.

On one refueling stop I overheard the following conversation between a customer and an employee:

Customer: “Can I have a chocolate milkshake, please?”

Employee: “Sorry, we’re out of chocolate. We’ve got strawberry or banana.”
Customer: “No, I don’t like those.”

Employee: “Well, that’s all we have left.”

Over the coming weeks I heard the same conversation over and over again. One day I went up to the counter myself:

Me: “Is it true you’re always out of chocolate flavor for the milk shakes?”

Employee: “I suppose so, yes.”

Me: “Why?”

Employee: “Well, we get the delivery on Sunday and everyone likes chocolate. So we run out on Monday and we don’t get another delivery until the next Sunday.”

Me: “Why not order more chocolate flavor, so you could sell more milk shakes?”

Employee: “Dunno. We just get the same amount of each flavor.”

Me: “Do you think it might be a good idea to order more chocolate flavor?”
Employee: “Dunno. We just get the same amount of each flavor.”

Many years later I had a near-identical conversation while driving from Newcastle to London. Nothing had changed.

Another anecdote: when I was a student I lived in an old Victorian house. One winter I flew to Boston and although the snow was many feet deep, life went on as normal and everything functioned adequately. On my return to the UK, which had ground to a halt due to one inch of snowfall (it’s always “the wrong kind” of snow) I reached the old Victorian house to find Morris the live-in janitor using a blowtorch to attempt to unfreeze the water that was blocking the external pipes.

Me: “Morris, what are you doing?”
Morris: “Unfreezing the pipes.”

Me: “Won’t that damage them?”
Morris: “You got a better idea, then?”

Me: “Well, maybe it would be better to run the pipes inside the house, with insulation around them, so they wouldn’t freeze in the first place?”

Morris: “That’s stupid. If the pipes were inside the house, how would I get the blowtorch onto them?”

I call this “being Britained.” Whenever one experiences an unnecessary frustration because of tradition, whenever one cannot get what one needs because of systemic absurdity, one has “been Britained.”

It’s this deeply ingrained commitment to mediocrity coupled to ignorant delusions of greatness that ended up delivering Brexit. And Brexit in turn means the UK will rapidly become nothing more than a totally subservient lapdog, served up on a platter for US interests. And that means that the UK, or rather England (because the UK will fall apart post-Brexit) will to all intents and purposes become the wettest and gloomiest State of the USA, albeit with none of the legal recognition and modest advantages that accrue therefrom.

It’s an amusing irony of history that the nation that used to have the largest Empire the world has ever seen will end its days as a neglected sub-colony of today’s fading Empire.

At least the English will be able to console themselves by cramming endless McSlop into their throats, delivered by franchises run by American overlords dedicated to ensuring that there will in fact be chocolate milkshakes available on demand, unlike the failing UK companies that are still restocking the same old quantities every Sunday just as they’ve always done.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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