Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Draft Email to Geoff Dyer

Many thanks for your article

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/books/review/Dyer-t.html

As an American living in Cambridge I feel so very vindicated by your article. I have had a truly inconceivably difficult time interacting with people in the British culture over the last eight years, as chronicled in a somewhat unfortunate manner on this blog.

And you seem supremely observant of this culture clash so please I have a question for you.

You write that the working assumption underlying interaction in the UK between people is that people have a "barely contained loathing" of each other.

Is the assumption correct? That is what I am dying to know.

On one hand, the British culture created the Daleks. Creatures popular and evil whose defining characteristic is an unreasoned violent hatred of mankind. One does wonder.

On the other hand, this is the culture that created Dr. Who, a 906-year-old superhero so wonderful and good that he makes the American Jesus look, well, the tiniest bit like the Southpark Jesus. Your ideas of goodness with regard to basic human decency are much better developed than ours, you know, more war skeptical, less nationalistic, more basic human rights, the death penalty.

So underneath everything, do Brits barely conceal loathing for each other, or do Brits just assume that everyone else loathes them while they love everyone else?

Could anyone from either culture make sense of the previous sentence with its many cowardly pronoun choices?

But when people are drunk and confiding in me in Britain, it amazes me that the story closest to their hearts that they want to tell in those lovely moments is so often a story of shame, of stinging regret and embarassment lived over and over again, the memory of some stupid words spoken. You - They - The Brits - are so truly horrified by causing offense. Shame is a nasty thing to have pinging around your system, its toxic, and I fear people in this culture have way too much.

And could you please comment on which way does the clear Brit superiority in actor training cut? I mean, maybe people from the British culture are exceptionally good at acting just because their daily ordeal of interaction with humans and concealing loathing works as kind of a Pilates reformer on their emotional muscles. It would explain a lot of how I feel I am treated in this culture.

But maybe they are good at acting because underneath everything they are so tender-hearted and want love so badly, and feel love so strongly that they are superhumanly observant of the human condition.

I note that the pronoun slaughter is still bloodying your computer screen and for that I apologiz(s)e.

The latter explanation would account for the Beatles and all the great Irish plays and Shakespeare and the existence of Dr. Who.

Please let me know as soon as possible.

Kind regards

RM

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