Friday, 13 April 2007

What's wrong with the UK (part 1)

I am fortunate enough to live near my place of employment, which is good since I can walk to work and I don't have to put up with the london undergoround service - I think disservice is a more appropriate term - each morning and evening (if you haven't yet heard it, check out the london underground song which neatly captures the locals loathing for the tube experience in a catchy little tune)... but I digress. This isn't a rant about public transport in the UK (all in good time).

As I walk to work each morning past Madame Tussaud's, with crowds of people queueing at 8am to spend a few hours gawping at wax likenesses of celebrities that are probably more realistic than the person it's modelled on, it strikes me that the people of this once great land are a touch obsessed with celebrities. I know that the people outside Tussaud's wax emporium are unlikely to be locals, but with all the 'personalities' who take up most of the column inches, news minutes and conversation topics over here, it's fair to say that Brits love their celebs.

I admit, we're not entirely innocent back home, what with all the stories about the latest movements of 'our Nicole', 'our Kylie', and 'their Russ', but at least they've achieved something. Sure, they haven't cured cancer, or helped society in any way, but they are at least very successful in their chosen professions.

A Brit celebrity, on the other hand, doesn't even need to have a profession.

When I first got here back in January, there was a race debate raging in the media. Nothing wrong with that, since it's an important issue: the UK has to open its borders to European workers, and people fear the cheap labour from the east... but that wasn't where it started. There are tensions based on religious and racial conflict being played out around the world and in UK towns in microcosm... but that wasn't where it started either.

Where it started was Celebrity Big Brother. I shit you not. Apparently, racist insults had been traded in the big brother house. Perhaps if Germaine Greer were still in there, and she'd been banging on in offensive terms, it might have gone unnoticed. But no. The racist taunts were uttered by people so important that the whole nation had to take notice. Jade 'I'm on celebrity big brother because I got famous on regular big brother, but have otherwise done nothing of note in my life' Goody and Danielle 'I'm famous for being the girlfriend of a fairly ordinary footballer, and am so unimportant Pat can't remember my surname' Somebody got into hot water for insulting Shilpa 'big in bollywood apparently' Shetty about being Indian.

Look, racist insults are unacceptable anywhere, but why does no one think about an issue until some no-talent 'celebrity' brings it into the spotlight? Until Jamie Oliver decided to tackle British kids' poor diets, everyone was happy feeding the tubby little things crisps all day. Until Bob Geldof decided to fight global poverty, no one realised that people in Africa weren't just on a severe diet to make it as a model. Until Peaches Geldof started mouthing off about Posh Spice and Charlotte Church, no one realised Bob had a daughter.

And why are the British celebs and heroes of today of such poor quality? These days, if a lad can half kick a football he's a national treasure, and if a girl gives a footballer a blowjob in the lav' of a Camden pub, she'll likely get on tv as one of the WAGs (wives and girlfriends - they have their own reality tv show, and they're less believable than the characters on the fictional Footballer's Wives).

Time was, British heroes were made of sterner stuff. You had to actually be pretty decent with a football, slay a dragon, or win a war. St George got famous off the back of his dragon kebab skewers. Footballers like Charlton and Best won titles. Churchill recognised his shortcomings as a footballer, couldn't find any mythological beasts, so set about winning a world war. Thatcher also recognised her shortcomings as a footballer, decided slaying herself would be a bit self defeating, and set about finding a war to win. Now the Brits look up to David Beckham (sure he can take a free kick, but when have you seen him do anything?), Jordan (Mrs. Peter Andre), and their cricket team (nuff said).

No wonder the youth of today are running around shooting and stabbing one another... they live in a world devoid of hope. All they can aspire to is becoming famous, and that's simply not based on ability or hard work. The person to really pity though has to be Tony Blair. Nearly a decade in power, he found a war but didn't really win it, and I don't fancy his chances on the pitch. Unless he gets on celebrity big brother, in a few years he'll simply be known as the former husband of Cherie...

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