North-Atlantic Drift

Written by William Chadwick. Posted in Culture, Opinion, Politics

Published on June 01, 2009 with 5 Comments


William Chadwick

By Will Chadwick

June 1, 2009

I moved to San Francisco from London almost two weeks ago, and have been surprised in that I have not had to do quite as much readjusting as I first thought. As an Englishman new to these parts of the world, I am fast discovering the differences, and similarities, between the US and the UK. For example, the embargo on alcoholic drinks after 2am in California, in stark contrast to our much-contested 24-hour licensing laws in the UK, prevent all-night binges for all but the most hardened and meticulous alcoholics.

However, having also just had my first taste of the clubbing scene here in San Francisco, it is clear from some of the faces and sustained energy levels that there are, just like in the UK, other factors at work when the alcohol stops flowing – but the music and the party carry on through the night. I would suggest that these two sides of the same coin are prevalent in any society that struggles with the opposing desires for both conservative control and laissez-faire liberalism.

Not many countries have been able to strike the right balance, yet. One factor which causes this rift, and is without doubt a worldwide pandemic (no, it’s not swine flu), is the increasing dissatisfaction with the younger generation to accept the world we are supposed to be inheriting from our predecessors. This is an issue that neither side of the Atlantic has yet tackled adequately.

Similarly, I am still trying to get my head around the infinitely more complex and Quixotic political system you have here, where the regional-federal (or nationwide) governmental divide is in much greater contrast than in the much smaller, though still highly bureaucratic, UK. I am pleased to see, however, that the recent media eruption back home over the sensitive issue of Members of Parliament abusing an outdated system of second-home allowances and expenses, with individuals often fraudulently claiming tens of thousands of pounds from the unassuming taxpayer, is beginning to translate over to this country too.

Recent evidence pointing to lawmakers in the US using public funds for such essentials as a new Lexus or a digital camera prove that, though this phenomenon is clearly not isolated to one party or country, the demand for greater transparency and honesty is suddenly becoming more apparent.

People on both sides of the Atlantic (and who knows where else?) are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the arrogance and carelessness displayed by the electeds they have supposedly voted into power. Perhaps it is right that politicians are allowed more concessions, perhaps it is not. One thing is for sure: the electorate is clearly incensed by the deliberately clandestine manner of these transactions. Normally it tends to be the rest of the world cottoning-on to American trends, but I think this time us Brits may have influenced you in wanting to dig up things that politicians have been keeping under wraps.

William Chadwick

William Chadwick

William Chadwick is a young English writer who has recently moved to San Francisco from London. He has worked on-and-off in journalism for almost ten years. He is passionate about the theater, and has directed and written several plays. He is currently trying his hand at teaching English.

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  • Jerry Schwartz

    Hi Will, couple of comments for you

    Is this your first time out of England?

    Linking the party scene similarities in UK and San Francisco as “prevalent in any society that struggles with the opposing desires for both conservative control and laissez-faire liberalism.” Is silly. This party culture exists from Berlin to Bagdad. You need to travel a lot more matey.

    Your comment “increasing dissatisfaction with the younger generation to accept the world we are supposed to be inheriting from our predecessors”

    What does that mean? Have you studied any other time period apart from the one you have lived? This generation, even in San Francisco, is more accepting of the world we are inheriting. This in fact is one of the problems with society.

    Your comment “People…are becoming more and more dissatisfied with the arrogance and carelessness displayed by the electeds they have supposedly voted into power.”

    Again completely inaccurate.

    There is more turnover in the Chinese politburo than in the US House and Senate.

    Your comment “us Brits may have influenced you in wanting to dig up things that politicians have been keeping under wraps.”

    Again untrue.

    What you Brits have provided the USA is a blue print on how to mess with other people’s sovereignty. The US model on invading Iraq etc is based on the British colonial approach. Which if we are honest, is one of the greatest tragedies of the last 300 years. The reason there is continued civil wars in Africa is due to the failure of colonialism and the quick attempts to impose country borders on tribal people thereby dividing existing tribal areas and grouping opposing tribes into one “state”

    You don’t have to go to Africa to see the pain inflicted on the world by Brits. Look at Ireland, where you were responsible for the Potato famine (yes, you did not directly infect the potato plant, however you choose to ignore the plight of the starving Irish and continued to export food from Ireland, raised on property stolen from Irish people). What about the Bengali famine in the 1940s? Did they teach you that in school? How Churchill decided that the Brits (who ruled India) should not help.

    The acquiescence of Britain with the knowledge that Germany was attempting to exterminate the Jews in Europe is also astonishing.

    I could go on, but wanted you to be aware that your observations of our country are both naïve and inaccurate. Before you start judging our country spend some time (a lot of time) examining your own country and its detrimental impact on the world.

    From a writing perspective, please accept the following advice: avoid using terms like “both sides of the same coin” and “quixotic”. They are lazy terms. I would doubt you know a great deal about Don Quixote other than the standard tilting at windmills nonsense.

    Will, welcome to San Francisco. We hope you enjoy your stay here. But please be respectful.

    And before you write again ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Why should people be exposed to my opinion?
    2. Is my point relevant and accurate?
    3. Have I got better things to do with my life that to subject other people to my sleepy approach to writing
    4. Did I use the spelling/grammer check?
    5. Should I get another job?
    6. Will Jerry Schwartz like my writing?
    7. If I am friends with Luke Thomas, will I get to write some more for FCJ?

    I believe the current answers to those questions are
    1. They should not
    2. No
    3. I hope so
    4. No (example “us Brits”)
    5. Yes definitely!
    6. No
    7. Yes probably

  • Will, welcome to San Francisco!

  • Will,

    I’m certain that under your guidance we colonials will soon stop dragging our knuckles.

    h.

  • Francis Moranz

    Dear Will Chadwick,

    You made some interesting observations in your article about politics, drinking and how problems are dealt with on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s especially unique because you’re also dealing with America’s West Coast and San Francisco specifically.

    I’d love to get your perspective on San Francisco’s mid-Market Street, 8th Street — 5th Street.
    I wonder if such a problem exists in downtown London, where businesses on the city’s main thoroughfare are boarded up for blocks and blocks.
    It’s been this way for at least two decades.

    With the social network of blogs, the internet and email in general, the harsh, overbearing reaction one gets to even the mildest of written observations is quite unsettling at times.

    So, don’t get discouraged. Keep on writing.

  • alternative johnny

    Dear Will,

    Greetings from a shit-kicking hill billy. I”ve been doing some wiki- reading. Seems you Brits learnt about colonialism first from the Romans (those successful Italians), then the Germans, well the Saxons (at it again) and then those Normans (not really French, sort of Vikings). You then sought revenge on those who would oppress you and had the audacity to invade the continent of America, be defeated by Washington and left us chosen ones commit genocide (yep) against those injuns. We also fought real hard to keep those Africans in the cotton fields. Actually Lincoln didn”t give a rats ass about ”em, all political expediency.

    Will, my boy, call me naive, but big fish gobble up little fish. It ain’t history that repeats itself, it’s human nature. You better be careful, we got supervisors in SF and they do a lot of supervising.

    Peace and love.
    AJ