Tag Archives: The UK – Le Royaume-Uni

The long read: Brexit – After thoughts

Overall.

It’s a “I want to divorce!” not just thrown in the face of the European Union, about whom it is difficult to say how much the people do care, but also, and most importantly for them, from the UK to the UK itself. So of course, there are the usual steps of copying: surprise, anger, denial, inner fighting and inner questioning. However, when there could be a way to find peace and solutions, all I see is bitterness and even greater divide.

The Remainers.

They are the divorcee but the ones I blamed the most. They did not fight enough: arrogance? hubris? taking results granted? “Even a simpleton would see it’s bad to leave”, one said to me. They are the ones who thought they had the upper-hand on all aspects of the marriage, felt threatened towards the end but as they never thought they’d have to try and convince anyone, it was too late. They failed and never managed to convince its disgruntled other half to go along with what they think is the best for both.

Of course they are sore losers. Who wouldn’t? They genuinely believe that their vision is the way forward, not just for themselves but for everyone: old and young, poor and rich, natives and migrants, here or there, alive or to be born.

So, yes, they are sore and hurting. As a European in heart and mind, I understand it goes far beyond saying “yes” or “no” to some what kind of food we want to import or tax rates. It’s about their future falling apart. For them everything is gone by now. Hopes and dreams they never bothered to communicate have been replaced by fear their leaders played on. It backfired, they are the ones to be dreading and angry, not the opposite side.

What I don’t understand is the violence with which they are now attacking the Brexiters who are all dismissed as daft peasants whose racism and xenophobia equal their inability to see what’s good for them. They are good for nothing, they know nothing. Just check..everywhere! “Old”, “without a degree”, “poor”, “illiterate”, “easily fooled”, “intolerant”…

Who are you to talk about tolerance when you are happy to dismiss the choice of a majority and/or demand to be heard again because you have convinced yourself that only you know better?

For me, London encompasses what Remainers are sadly becoming. They could change their old ways of disdain for others whilst contemplating their own achievements and start to listen so they could find empathy and try to find solutions. They could stop looking down on whoever thinks differently and insult everyone who has different views because this is actually part of what lead the second city of the country to vote “Leave”.

The Remainers could try to accept and rebuild under their own terms, if they are so powerful and clever. No, instead, they are dismissing the choice of 52% of voters because it’s not their own, they are wishing the worse on them all the while pushing for a referendum that, this time, will be binding because they are convinced the results will satisfy them, they are pushing their beloved self-appointed beacon of civilisation (London) to part ways with the rest of that “stupid, outdated, backward-looking, good-for-nothing and racist’ country. Not a good way to rebuild and be strong as one.

I might be the harshest on them because I expect better from my peers. And I also know they will manage to get the better out of this situation because they do have the intellectual, economic and political means so instead of punishing the other half, be a better person and try to mend your ways.

 

The Brexiters

The divorcer. They want out, they are fed up, they want their country back, whatever that means.

It’s difficult to picture a Brexiter because I know many and none of them are the same person and I can’t help but feeling that they are going to be the worst affected by this decision and I do have pity for them before anger.

They are the  xenophobes, the ones who unforgivably blame their own failure on foreigners, but they are also foreigners themselves. I know people from outside the EU who say they voted “Leave” because it’s not changing anything as far as they are concerned, but also because they have grown fed up of being told they were stealing British jobs. “Make the continentals go and see if those lazy Brits will actually accept to do their job…That should shake the rust off their racist back!”

The first ones believed Nigel Farage, the seconds bought happily to the Tory rhetoric of skiver vs strivers. They watch Benefit Street populated by lazy white people living the good life on benefits while they are working 15hrs/day to barely make a living and be able to diligently pay their taxes.

I am fascinated by Brexiters as I am trying to understand the scale of their wilful self-harm. A self-harm that comes with a smile and cheer. Why? For months, I have read and watched a lot about them, I have listened to them a lot and there is complete blindness and simplistic thinking in desperation.

There is foolishness too and a gob-smacking amount of narrow-mindness, especially within the older generation, the same who voted “IN” in 1970s and who refuses see the world for what it really is. I am not talking about accepting neo-capitalism and its jungle-like fight for survival for they are the first to champion these views. I am talking about this bovine refusal to leave a time that is not anymore.

When you hear them chanting “Great Britain will be great again”, you see the colonial past behind it where England was dominating everything: if not the world, at least the British Isles. They want to go back to a time before Brussels came in and forced London, not only to cough up the cash, but mostly to consider the other nations of the UK and devote them some power.

Today, they are happy. England is still at the wheel. Scotland said IN, they said OUT…It’s OUT then. Brilliant, we are still in control and will forever be now. Everybody’s happy.

But beyond the nostalgia of the ones who love to rewrite history they never bothered to learn because they “lived it”, there is the desperation of the ones who believed what they were told, did everything they were told to do and got nothing in return. Because they had nothing and still have nothing, they firstly did not buy to the Cassandras in the Remain Camp predicting economic Armageddon. For them, it’s a reality, not an oracle. Nothing has been, is and will be going to be better for them, nor their children and that’s they cannot see that the UK is what it is because of its own politicians, not because of Europe.

Yes, I do feel pity for these ones because they were, once again, used and abused by the ones fighting for power.

 

The politicians.

In a nutshell, when you play with fire you are going to get burnt.

First, Tories and Labour, forty years of blaming the EU for every single of your own unpopular policy is not going to be wiped out within two months of lukewarm campaigning. We like to say that people don’t listen to politicians anymore, it’s true. Most Brexiters think Farage and Johnson are as corrupted and deceiving as the leaders of the Remain camp. But in the long term, words do sink in. The 2010 and 2015 Tory victories were won on scaremongering about immigration, “EU diktats” and making Britain great again. Labour has found nothing better to do than join in or remain silent in fear of losing the votes.

The Brexiters did nothing except believe the endless Brussels bashing and finger-pointing London has been doing since the day it entered. Just look at the opinion of Europe since 1973 and it’s constantly going down, governments after governments. I think the only thing we can admire the Liberal Democrats for is to have always proudly advertised their pro-Europeans stance.

The Labour? Well, it should be ashamed to have let the Tories take control of the debate on the EU they actually endorse. Yes, their reputation is in tatters after they left their own voters behind, became aloof and ignoring of what people wanted (the No to the war in Iraq) but they went the easy way. They could have regained dignity breaking away with Blair and his murderous and corrupted cronies. Only Labour can be the link between the elite and the working class today, through unions mostly, so they could have educated their voters on the benefits of the EU everytime the Tories went on the attack since the 1970s. However, they made the mistake of leaving it to people to figure out the Conservatives were lying and when the damage was done, they became scared of alienating their few voters left further so they just joined the half-baked and outlandish scaremongering of the Tories. No hopes, just fears. That’s not what the Left should be selling.

Speaking of fears, Cameron eventually paid the price by wanting to ride the ones of the voters for political gain. I talked about it earlier but something did not add up during this frankly daft campaign. Europe went from the source of all evil in 2014 to the best thing that has ever happened to the UK in mid-2016. I know he was trying to straddle every Tory fences and have it both ways. We talked about him maybe being a political genius in managing such a feat. No, he became yet another victim of his own making by lighting the fire under a slow-cooker with no pressure valve called “Populism.”

Farage’s and Johnson’s reputations precede them but Cameron is now going to be the one who triggered the end of the United Kingdom and serves him right.

 

The media.

Two words: excruciatingly appalling. I am not talking about tabloids, they think publishing pictures of Xabi Alonso’s half-naked toddling daughters playing on the beach is in the public interest just because their faces are pixelated.

I am talking about the newspapers. Even the Guardian, my favourite. The analysis has been fantastic since the Leave vote but where were they before? Even the most serious newspapers threw proper journalistic investigation to the wind and became an open platform for both side’s dismal scaremongering. I got so fed up with the Guardian’s daily “Armageddon is coming with Leave” that I almost wrote to them to ask them if their columnists had been locked in the basement so no one could actually analyse what was behind the terrible forecasts they were made.

We had a couple of good analysis on how ridiculous it was for the Remain camp to bring in the big guns (Chiefs of IMF, Bank of England, NATO, EU…) to pile up the fear of voting Leave on the poor neighbourhoods of Northern England for the people, even Remainers, distrust these unelected elites and aloof institutions in the first place.

In the face of abysmally poor political debate, I was expecting the serious press to be there to inform us, to guide us and I truly believe the outcome of the vote would have been different had they done their job properly of informing and educating the adults. Instead, they set themselves as nothing but a relay for one or the other side.

The EU.

We’ll be fine. We’ll kick out the UK asap with harsh negotiations to ensure no one else is tempted to leave and regroup as 27. Notwithstanding, there is now only hope that the elite reflects (for more than 2 weeks before the holidays!) and understands that populism is nothing to be dismissed or used for political gain. It is a time bomb waiting to explode. People who are afraid are not all racists or xenophobes, people who hate are not all bad in essence and deserve to be ignored, people who rebel are not all a threat and the majority’s silence does not mean it agrees with you.

We say France is next. I would not be surprised. All above is exactly what is happening with a man who think his winning the majority of votes in 2012 gives him the right to discard his promises, betray his supporters, disregard his own people’s opinions, force laws through the parliament without debate and without even consulting his own rebelling party, and drag everyone who dares fight in the dirt, when not hitting them directly.

This Leave vote is first and foremost a shout to the aloof, down-looking, self-righteous and dismissing elite so it is time people are listened to – which does not mean we have to agree with them. But we need to take time to know them, to educate and stop rushing through for our own greatness (every country wants its EU presidency to remembered) and in the name of “superseding considerations people would not understand”. We will understand, just explain. Yes, it takes time but it will eventually prevent such vote that brings down 40 years of hard work.

 

The UK

Right now, there is healing to be done in the UK. They will never amount to anything if they can’t manage to find a way to be one again. I don’t hold on too many hopes, though.

Firstly because I am convinced Scotland and Northern Ireland are going to break away. When the Tories were elected in 2015, I said it would open a fascinating time as a historian for Scotland and NI would not put up with London’s overbearing unique voice anymore, not with Brussels acting as a shield. Putting up with Tory governments and ministers they have no elected is one thing, being forced out of the EU they want to keep because it made them the proud nations they are today is another and one they will never accept.

Now there is England and Wales plagued by infighting, anger, denial and hatred. Remainers want a new referendum. How can they be so sure people would vote like they want? Why would the second one be more biding than the first one which was an electoral promise kept and planned months in advance by the democratically elected Prime Minister? What if the result is indeed different? What would stop the Brexiters from launching another petition signed by millions for a third one? When will it stop ?

There is talk of forcing the Stay through the Parliament but Cameron was clear on that : the people has spoken. What best way is there to push people towards the extremes by, yet again, having Westminster ignoring the voice of the masses and doing whatever it likes because the outcomes is displeasing them?

Cameron has jumped the boat he stirred into the rocks, the Tories are already tearing each other to piece to get a new leader by October. The Lib Dems are dead silent. The Labour is in disarray as it is its voters in its heartlands that helped the Eurosceptic get what they always wanted. This vote was also a punishment on Tony Blair and his New Labour for it has embraced overbearing London and chummed up with the financial elite to the detriment of the working class. How can they reconnect now?

The Remain campaign said the country would sink if they left. Today, England and Wales need to prove all the forecasts wrong by being strong and united to get make the most of a bad situation. Instead, they are as weak and divided as ever, creating the perfect conditions for the planned Armageddon to happen.

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Something doesn’t add up…

When I left England in 2014, the Conservatives were campaigning on a scaremongering programme that struck me, a European citizen, as extremely anti-Europe. The message was that, on top of losing Scotland if Labour passed, voting for anyone but them would worsen the current situation where the UK had become a free pick and mix of assets for all Europeans to abuse and lay bare.

They talked about “Health Tourism” and its outlandish claim that the continentals were the biggest strain and threat to the NHS for it was very easy to take advantage of. Speeches after speeches described how we were all coming to the UK to get free treatment, all paid by the British taxpayers who could not do anything because it was a European requirement to staying in. UK had to go to be able to stop this abuse. Where has it gone?

As a Frenchman, I was told and was hearing, day in day out, that I was stealing British jobs. Please do find a British who would accept to work 12-14hrs/day in a school where they teach French, German, Spanish and Astrophysics. You haven’t since I left? Interesting…

Okay, maybe I was not stealing a job as such but I was still a liability to UK’s full employment because I was here living the life a British could be living and there was nothing Brits could do for letting me live in the Midlands was a requirement to belonging to the EU. The UK had to go to find full employment again. Where has it gone?

They talked about immigrations in the wider terms, a “true invasion” that was threatening the British culture and putting a costly and unnecessary strain on schools, and other institutions, that not only had to teach British children with close to no funding, but take extra time to teach immigrants’ kids what it takes to be British. UK had to go to be able to control its borders for belonging to the EU was forcing them to accept people they did not want and were too high-maintenance. Where has it gone?

They were criminals too, that was the problem, the government said. Brains are fine…ish, money’s always welcome but it’s poor criminals who were flooding the shores of Albion and the UK not being able to deal with them the way it actually wanted to because it had to conform to some European convention on Human Rights. Rapists, paedophiles, child-killers, abusers, wife-beaters, drug dealers…Multiple times criminals that UK was forced to set free or treat fancily at great costs of money and lives. UK had to go in order to regain control on its own policing – presumably to accommodate rich dictators and despots in London empty luxury flats. Where has it gone?

Being British, money needs to be at the centre of anything: we heard about billions of pounds given to European technocrats who would then use it to spoil lazy French farmers or undeserving Greek struggling public servants. UK had to go to regain control of its finance, stop this robbery in plain sight and ensure the money it was making would stay within its borders and used as it wishes. Everyone was suffering: from the worldwide British banks to the house prices of everyday people. Where has it gone?

Weeks, months, years of tension building up between London and Brussels with Westminster throwing around accusations and thriving for independence in a copycat way Edinburgh did a year before with London.

Where on Earth has it all gone?! The continentals sucking up the NHS dry, the freed paedos and their Human Rights, the immigrants stealing jobs driving wages down and house prices up, the billions unfairly fed to Brussels…Are all these problems the Conversatives mentioned in 2014 really solved? Where is 2014’s plucky Britainia who stood up to Hitler and would again rise to save and inspire the world in resisting European invasion in all its forms?

In a desperate campaign where both sides are akin to Jehovah Witnesses (We are all going to die! Do join us if you want to…who knows?), the Conservatives are suddenly listing all the benefits of the EU: security, money, power. If the UK goes, it’s the WWIII at once, billions lost, taxes up, years of the worst economic downturn ever predicted – by experts who did not even see the economic crisis coming in the first place.

In a nutshell, from the worst thing that has ever happened to the UK, EU is now the best.

What happened? Something doesn’t add up. Were they lying at the time or are they lying now?

I go for both.

The European Union: what about democracy?

I love Europe. I am a deep Europhile. I made the decision when I was about 12 to not be a French person born in the region of Versailles, rather a European born in the country of France. There are many things I strongly disagree with when it comes to how the European Union is evolving and whence it is going but I do believe in the union.

But right now, it is facing a test that could well undermine my faith in it and its future altogether: Greece. It’s the test of how much actual democracy the European Union is willing to embrace, how much the machine is willing to listen what its citizens aspire to.

I understand that the European Union is first and foremost an economic union. It was built after WWII to make the countries depend to each other to such an extent that none could not break away easily and declare war to get its way. The vision, mainly pushed by the French and the Germans, was that if you force a country to need a neighbour, problems will have to be discussed with words and patience rather than fought with guns and tanks, which is what we did for millenniums. And what we are trying to avoid again in Ukraine. Yes it takes a lot of time and it’s not “news-worthy” but it’s saving millions of lives.

From the 1950s, we first made sure we had to rely on each other for coal, iron, steel, oil, crops then we extended it to the rest of the economy and together, despite the economic crisis, we are still the strongest economy in the world, whether bankers and investors, Tories and Republicans like it or not.

There is now a will for a political union because it is true that it would make things easier. I am very divided and dithering on this issue for I see pluses and minuses in both cases. Although this political union doesn’t exist yet, what does exist throughout the EU, what is written in all founding treaties, what is a key criterion to enter is to respect democracy, to promote it, to protect it, to defend it at all costs.

Now, the Greeks have decided to vote for a left-wing party. It was not rigged, they just went to the polls and actually voted in the true spirit of all democratic elections. It is actually quite amazing of them because in times likes this, people easily stop voting or/and put the blame on everything foreign then have this middle-class reflex of going conservative and choosing right-wing, racist and xenophobic parties. Hence, the rise of Front National, UKIP and all far-right parties in the rest of Europe, including Greece with the Golden Dawn. This is not something new, it happened all across Europe in the crisis-ridden 1930s and whereas France just managed to save its democracy in 1932, nor Italy neither Germany and Spain could.

Nevertheless, the Greeks pulled a French 1936 and went with hope and change. They chose people who were offering something new, they believed in people whose argument was not to go back to some supposedly better times where “foreigners, Muslims and Jews were not here” but to try yet another way, a way that would embrace all the positive values the West is ever-boasting. Everyone in Europe was only talking about the Golden Dawn but they did not win. Greece did not choose fascism, they chose democracy. They chose to put hope and positive change before anything else. And this is why they are now testing the EU. If you listen to what our leaders say to the world, what the Greeks did is the essence of Europe so in the face of such an election, Europe should be proud to be yet again a beacon of hope.

However, I hear nothing but condemnation and scaremongering. Now, I am not surprised that people such as the Tories in England are the first one on the soap box saying that Greece’s vote is threatening the future of Europe. Frankly, no one across their shores take them seriously anymore. Their euroscepticism and desperate alliances with extreme far-right, Nazi-loving, Holocaust-denying parties have rendered them the biggest threat to the UE and no one except for Britain’s electorate is fooled by their Cassandra song.

What I am shocked with is the reaction of the other leaders who jumped to say that the election was not going to change anything. What is that supposed to mean? I know right-wing leaders in Southern Europe are trying to contain what they call “contagion”, as if voting for the Left was some kind of new plague following its usual  path of destruction from the East of the Mediterranean sea to the arctic shores of Norway. I guess for the Right, it is.

However, the reactions from leaders, mainly across Northern Europe, basically means that the voice of the people is irrelevant in the face of economic matters. It doesn’t matter what the people of Greece says, it doesn’t matter how they vote, how we all vote, our fate is sealed: the investors want their money back and they are going to get it. End of! It’s not just patronising, it is plain dictatorial but made acceptable by economic circumstances and definitely not what the EU was built for.

You cannot go and dismiss millions of people democratically voting for a change in their everyday life, for wanting their suffering to stop, just because it disagrees with your way to deal with problems. And if you do, don’t come and complain that people are not voting anymore. The message various leaders have sent for the past three weeks, not just to the Greeks but to their own citizens is: your vote, puny people of Europe, is irrelevant in the face of the economic machine.

Worst still. They try to justify it by saying that the Greeks need to “take responsibility” for the mistakes their leaders made in the past. Greece spent decades having very little to choose from when it came to politicians with a big corrupted clan on the Right and a big corrupted clan on the Left but they voted anyway so now, we don’t want hear anything. You were stupid enough to believe them, you will pay for it. It doesn’t matter if you decided to go for a change, you will still pay for it. Even if it means, you can’t feed your kids.

This is where my faith turned out to be resting on sand for me. I understood Europe as a beacon for democracy and it turns out to be nothing but yet another tool for carnivorous, extreme capitalism where millions of innocent people who are trying to just live their lives, feed themselves and their kids must be sacrificed to protect the assets of a few and allow them to seek and exert revenge. The EU is now accomplice to making its own entire countries, millions of its own people suffer, starve and cry from babies to dying people regardless just because a few want a proper return on their investment.

Now they are even some talks of pushing Greece out. The implications are huge: for Greece itself who will have to suddenly be fending for itself after 30 years in a deeply integrated, continent-size economy, it means having to go back to its own currency after 15 years using the Euro, it means having to rewrite all the treaties…For the EU, it means that a country that has not gone with fascism but chose democracy is being kicked out just and only for not agreeing with right-wing, economic orthodoxy.

Personally, I am baffled by such threats. Not just because they are a million miles away from what the everyday Europeans want but also because other countries have never faced anything like that despite flirting with fascism or threatening the very existence of the EU.

If you take the UK, for instance. The Tory government has spent the last five years claiming high and proud how much they hated the EU, how willing they were to get out of it, launching insults after insults on anything European. Today barely 30% of the UK want to stay in the EU. Their politicians have joined forces with people even the Front National would not consider, they have been vetoing major treaties and decisions that could have saved us time and hassle dealing with the crisis just because “in exchange” they are demanding all the treaties to be revised. They even want to get rid of one of the first fundamental rules of the EU: the right to free movement.

You’d think that such a country would be on the verge of being kicked out. Well, no. Everyone o the continent I have been talking to is willing to have it kicked out. We, continentals, are all fed up with the UK and its school-playground behaviour when it comes to working as a team but all our leaders are bending over backwards, spending hours in pointless negotiations, millions of Euros in specialised lawyers to maybe tweak the treaties so we can us all, 27 countries, find a way to accommodate one of us, who has clearly said he would not work with us. And why? Because the UK doesn’t just agree with the right-wing, capitalist orthodoxy, it created it, it’s promoting it world-wide. The UK is the biggest advocate for the policies the EU is using “to punish” the people of Southern Europe.

Today Greece is on the verge of being kicked out of Europe for choosing democracy over fascism, for putting the suffering of its people first, for daring to ask for a change, for having opened a door to an alternative. Europe must find the strength to remember that this is why it was created in the first place. Forsaking Greece is forsaking every single European citizens, it’s denying that their voice matter when it comes to be, work and live together, it is saying that Europe is not democratic, it is proving our enemies right, it is burning democracy in the altar of the economy. It’s making the 1930s again.

There might be a will in our leaders for Greece to get out but when you talk to the people, they don’t feel the same way. People have empathy before calculation, it doesn’t make them irrelevant or worthless. For me, denying the choice the Greeks have made is indeed the death of the European Union as a democracy but despite what the powerful people say today, History will judge and show that it’s not because of Greece rather because of our elected leaders have betrayed us by making the conscious decision to listen to the people only after serving the interests of capitalist agents.

If they do want to save the EU, they have to put democracy first and listen to the people. Not ignore the economy but understand that it’s supposed to serve us, the people, first. If they did listen, they would find out that there is one way for Greece: to stay and to be carefully listened to. That’s what we, the people, want.

Seasons greetings from sharks. Oh joy!

I am, at the moment, experiencing of the joy of British life, even though I left England six months ago: the debt collectors.

As a Frenchman who has always paid every single of his bills the second they arrived, I heard of it but I never knew what they were. Also, the companies who put themselves willingly in debt to blindly chase you later are strictly forbidden in France and many countries on the continent.

My issues? The usual with companies in England. Everyone has a story like this.

I called my mobile company in July to say I was moving back to France…forever! – They tried to put my account in sleep or offer me an international deal. Well I am leaving England forever, that’s for sure and I told them it had to be closed before I was closing my UK bank account on September 26th. The agent said okay, he had done it. I thought that was quick but frankly I was more used to deal with HSBC who have excellent customer service so I did not see anything into it. He told me I would get an email and a letter. I realised months later than I got none of it.

So one day, on late October, I get some news from my former landlord in England saying that they got a letter from Orange: I owed them more than £100 and something about debt collection which I knew nothing about. I called them, they say they have no record of the cancellation. Of course, they don’t. It went smoothly with BT, the gym, the RSPCA, the British Humanist Association, the GALA…I was stupid to believe everything would go fine, wasn’t I?

For this is quite a common practice with Internet and mobile companies, especially from the agents on the customer service who are disposable, even more so when they are cancelling contracts. I told them that they say they are recording phone calls so they find it back and they will have confirmation And Orange tells me they are not responsible for the mistake their agents are doing. And that I should have double-checked. Come again?! My job was teaching, not double-checking if Orange’s agents are working well. That’s the job of Orange’s management.

Then I am dropped out of nowhere into payment services where they ask for an account in England. I told them I don’t live there anymore , it’s like talking to a hole in the ground. At some point, she even asks me if I can just give a friend’s bank details and give them the money back. Are you fucking mad?!

I even go to an Orange boutique in France (Orange is what used to be France Télécomes) to ask for help and they tell me it might be the same name but it is not the same entity. I also discover that Orange actually disappeared when they merged with T-mobile into EE. Whatever…

So nothing. They ain’t gehin’ nofin’ from me!

Then in mid-December, a letter again in England from Buchanan Clark and Wells – or something, there are some loose Ns and Ss I don’t know where to put – and I discover the debt collectors. For those on the continent who don’t know, these people are the opposite of the debts collectors we have here who are buying the debts of people in difficulty to banks, merge them and come up with a relief payment plan. They help people. Not in England.

In the UK, these companies are willingly buying the debts from “struggling” companies to chase the everyday people. So that Buckman Church and Wollop thingy got a call from EE, they gave EE the money and now I actually don’t EE anything but I owe it to Butt Cleft and Waffles.

That’s a fantastic move from EE – completely supported by the government – because if they dealt with it directly, I would have a valid claim. The Internet is filled with lazy, dishonest people yes, but also people like me who have never missed a payment, never been overdraft in their entire life, who are doing everything right, in time, following proper procedures but suddenly find themselves forced to pay some money they don’t owe and don’t have because it turns the companies are useless at best.

With Buttocks, Cocks and Willies, EE would have to deal with the claim themselves and face the reality of their rogue practice. A common practice again. It happened to me with Virgin as well when I moved from London to Birmingham and they refused to change the name on the account. I called them two months in advance, twice then the landlady called them five times and everytime: “It’s okay, we’ve done it”. They never did and it took three extra months to finally get it done so I paid the phone and Internet for a place I was not living in anymore. I paid that time because I was afraid, just moved to England but swore to never deal with Virgin again and convinced countless friends to do the same.

This is time, no.

As far as EE is concerned, they literally gave the hot shit to someone else who was rogue enough to buy a debt. I called Bleak, Cancer and Wither to tell them that I was not living in England and explain why I did not owe that money but they cannot understand anything else that “What are you bank details?” and they don’t care, to be honest. All they see is that I owe them money. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know exactly what they did to get that negative balance, I do know that they couldn’t give a fuck about what happened. They just want the money and that’s an end of it.

EE did what all companies are doing in England, they flee their responsibility and liability by putting the fruits of their mistakes in the hands of others. When it comes to EE, they got the money they wanted, they got rid of the problem so they don’t have to be sharks and bastards, and they can keep their hands clean. Some company will do the job for them.

I would like to meet the people who found those debt collecting companies, to ask them lengthy questions about every aspect of their life, childhood and education. It must be a fantastic insight into the dark places of neo-capitalism.

In France, it is a forbidden. A company will have to be the bastard and go the justice system themselves. There is no being a coward and letting the bullies do your dirty work. They will have to get the bailiffs in themselves and they will have to sit and listen to their potential failings in risk of tarnishing their reputation.

Now I am waiting. I am anxious by nature so I am a bit worried sometimes. I think about it once/day but that’s what I do with money anyway. My family and friends do not seem fazed at all. They all told me to just let it go and ignore it. I didn’t and called various helplines and specialists in England and France but the maze of the justice system between countries, especially with the UK, has rendered them irrelevant. They don’t know what could happen. They know my landlords are protected because I don’t live there and it’s my name that is soiled, not theirs.

I left the UK months ago ensuring that when my bank account was closed, it was the end of everything, I could finally bring closure and it turns out UK’s rogue capitalism is like cancer, it comes back when you don’t expect it. Especially around Christmas.

PS: This is not a “Awww, please, commiserate!” post. I am  not that kind!

They see Nazis everywhere.

There is a quite interesting study showing that when an argument breaks up between two people who don’t know each other (well), there is about 70% chance one party will bring up Hitler to justify the validity of their argument against the other. Something on the lines of “Hitler thought the same as you so that proves you are wrong”. Usually, it tends to close the argument. For all the wrong reasons, obviously.

Interesting but I went to check on that years ago. I wish I had kept all the links of my research but that was not something I was doing at the time, unlike today. So I went to check this research and it turned out, when the researchers tried to broaden their findings into population whose first language was not English, the percentage of probability that Hitler pops up decreased dramatically. There is something there.

Back in 2008, when living in Blackpool, I was browsing Youtube for a good rendition of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” of the Queen of the Night and came accross the Tölzer Knachenbor. It’s a Bavarian choir of boys who sing famous opera pieces. This year, for instance, they performed for FC Bayern München at their Christmas dinner. One of their most famous boys is Robin Schlotz who was singing that Mozart aria. He was also singing Stimme des Waldvögels, a short aria in one of Wagner’s operas. I love that little interlude so I copied the lyrics and posted them on Facebook. Sigfried is mentioned in the lyrics so almost all my English friends told me I was “having a little Nazi nostalgia.”

I played dumb and I asked why they were saying such a thing. They replied that “it’s because Hitler was a friend of Wagner” – he wasn’t. Wagner’s operas are the essence of German romantism that came with the birth of Germany as a nation and the need they felt to find common roots after centuries of fratricidal wars and struggles. They, and Wagner too, went to find them in Germano-Scandivanian mythology along with Odin, Thor, the Valkyries and Sigfried as the half-god hero, a tracing paper-made Germanic Hercules.

The issue is that Hitler followed the same movement and the Nazism rely heavily on this symbolism of German romantism, therefore the mythology. The swatiska cross is the symbol of Thor, after all, whose nickname was Barbarossa (ginger beard), which was also the code name of the invasion of the USSR. So today, in England, any mention of these symbols or Wagner or any author, composer, writer, musician that inspired Hitler will make you more or less a Nazi. There is something there. Certainly no common sense.

Still looking for classical pieces on Youtube, I came across, in Mars this year, a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria sang by Maria Callas. The comments were littered with accusations and insults directed towards her: she was a Nazi, a Nazi-sympathiser, she was glorifying the Nazism…The name attached to these comments were all English-based. Mostly English names the likes of Sean, Billy, Bob, Britany, John…Once again, the fact that she was singing in German meant that she “was a Nazi”, she “was advertising Nazism” by speaking the language regardless of the fact that it’s a religious, catholic hymn to the Holy Virgin. They could not see behind the German language and, for them, everyone living in Germany before 1945 is a Nazi. Schubert, Göthe, Schiller, Beethoven, all of them. There is something there.

Last August, I found a picture of the European monarchs together at Queen Victoria’s funerals and I posted the pictures on Tumblr. I really liked the picture, some of them, like the King of Belgium, were bloody handsome. Yum! And as a tag I made the mistake of saying what I thought: “Loving the boots!” For the rest of the week, it was a torrent of abuse from various anons accusing me of being a Nazi. For some, you see the bad English but mainly the endless diatribes accusing of wanting Jews to be killed were in very good English. Same kind of reaction from some friends when I asked them if one could find such horsemen boots nowadays and all, expect one, of my English friends told me: “Yes, in a Nazi shop.”  There are boots worn by European kings of all nationalities at the beginning of the 20th century because they rode horses! What the fuck does it have to do with the Nazis? “They wore the same kind of boots”. Yeah, they also were all wearing military outfits, does that mean that all soldiers are Nazis?

And why is Word forcing me to put a bloody capital letter to that dreadful n-word?!

The only way I can explain this obsession with finding, seeing Nazis everywhere is, what I mentioned earlier, the fact that they still cannot get over their victory over them 69 years ago.

In the UK, and especially England, “the War” is mentioned constantly to such an extent that even the German ambassador got fed up with it. Only to be called a “sore loser” and a “kill-joy”. That’s English international diplomacy for you.

Every year, “the War” is the first thing the boys in the school I used to teach use to taunt the German students when we went to German and when they came to England. Boys who were as young 11, 12 years old were stopping what they were doing, purposely going to see German students in the playground to ask them “How does it feels to lose the War?”. In present tense. Not in the past. It’s still happening right now.

You have to go more than three generations in their family for anyone to have actually experienced WWII but still the kids in the playgrounds of England find nothing better to do that asking young Germans about their country’s defeat in 1945. The same kids who asked me what USSR was.

The second question is: How many people are Nazis in your family? (present tense again!)

The third: How many Jews did you kill?

And parents never understood why we never managed to convince German parents to do an exchange with our grammar school. The school had to satisfy with a visit. It’s a common problem with boys all over England.

In the media, if you mention Germany to say they are in some way “worst” than the UK, everything will be fine because in their minds, this is how it should be. The winner takes it all and the loser has to forever suffer. Where it cracks is that the reality is different and it annoys the English. When Germany reinvented itself, made amends, has been fighting its demons for 70 years which allowed the Germans to move on, to find the confidence to be strong again, to use their qualities for the good, the English have not. There are still stuck in 1946. Stuck in a world where they set the tone.

It looks impossible for them to move on because this victory is everything. It finally lead England, its lesser partners in the UK, its former colonies, its colonies and dominions to be the ones who were going to rule the world. Before London and Washington were just another player along with Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo but with France and the Netherlands humiliated and irrelevant, Germany and Japan in smoking ruins, and Canberra raising from the ashes of Indonesia, they took the reins on what would become the Western World. The world order we are living in today is the one of Yalta where “the winners of the war” decided on what would become of the future. And the winners were solely London, Washington and Moscow. With Moscow “defeated” in 1991, today’s crackling world is what English-speaking London and Washington created between 1945 and 1960 politically, economically, sociologically. Moving on from 1945 would mean moving on from this order, moving on from their dominance towards a fairer leadership.

In England, Churchill is still everywhere.  Politicians of all beliefs are using and abusing his spirits. He doesn’t matter how much he drank, how many cigars he smoked, how horrendously sexist and cheap as a man he was, he’s the victor. He’s the man every mean should aspire to, every woman should want to serve and marry. When Scotland was about to vote on independence, one of Westminster’s main arguments was “We defeated the Germans together, we can’t let our little differences tear us apart”. The victory still serves as a gathering call for the English and the like-spoken world.

When it comes to the Germans, the English have this schizophrenic attitude towards them. They admire them, they envy them, their work ethic, the stability of their political system. They envy their comfort, their way of life, and German high-skilled manufactured products are a sign of wealth in a country that advertised de-industrialisation as a way forward. For the upper middle-class whose imperative is to show its status, buying a German car is the door to acceptance: they are expensive, they are stylish, they are luxury cars the poor cannot afford but they don’t have this old-fashioned, old farty geezer or cheap footballer feeling about them like Jaguar or Aston Martin. And they remain affordable for them, unlike Rolls Royce, which is owned by BMW anyway.

The English also try to relate to them by all means now that they are the powerful. Every week, you will hear that their monarchy is German because they are descending from the House of Hannover. They are as German as the Tudors were French but they share something. When it turned out Angela Merkel was nothing like the “silly minger” the English tabloids were depicting her as, the English jumped to remind the world that they too had a “strong woman Prime Minister who changed their country and the world for the better”. Oh dear…

Now, try talking about how well Germany is doing right now and you will see the discussion end quite quickly with an annoyed: “Yeah, we kicked their arse and we will do it again if we have to!” or “Hey, they lost and we won so…”

So what?

“Well, we got Hitler at the end.”

There we are…

The bottom line is that next year, it will be 70 years since WWII – or the War. People who can talk about the realities of “the War” will have to have been born in the early 1920’s so that about…no one. And still, mentioning German culture makes you a Nazi in the UK.

“Without freedom from the past, things can only get worse.”

Cultural shock: Dubai – The land-only British cruise.

The English are obsessed with Dubai and I never understood why. I know why but I don’t understand. Well…I do but that doesn’t mean I approve.

None of my friends coming from the continent actually understand why either. Most of our students are going there every year with their families, colleagues go there, friends go there, everyone in England seems to be going there or is talking about going there, planning to go there or dreaming of going there.

It suddenly came back to me this insane craving they have for Dubai as yet another pair of British Youtubers went there and posted their holiday vlogs for everyone to enjoy. I actually love watching these. First, because I watch British Youtubers if they are fit and handsome (Hello the Chapman twins!) but also I take a lot of pleasure looking down at them for they never do anything different in Dubai. The vlogs from there are all the same: they all go to the same hotel, the same beach, do the same activities, take the same pictures, eat the same food, watch the same shows and actually say the same things along with their “passion” for One Direction.

Living on the continent, especially in France, where we do have sunny beaches, Dubai is nothing. We never hear about it, expect to mention another one of the “my penis is much bigger than yours” buildings architects are allowed to build in the desert. For us, it’s just madness.

A huge city in the middle of the desert built on speculation and, literally, sand. A fallacy with no sanitation which forces garbage trucks to queue for up to 15 hours in the sand dunes, just a couple of miles away from the city centre. The working conditions of these drivers are such hell that they usually can’t stand waiting and end up dumping their load somewhere in the sand for it to rot under blistering sun. A city that does not treat its used water, rather dumps it in the sea “far enough”, they used to think, from the tourists. However, the city has grown and diseases are multiplying as people are now swimming in a decade of waste. An emirate that is not a democracy but a despotic monarchy where sharia law is more or less implemented.

That’s Dubai for us, on the continent. We are aware of its qualities but we are also very aware of its flaws. You will have people going there of course but nothing like the scale of the Brit invasion the emirate is happy to deal with.

In England, Dubai is everywhere. Footballers were the first to the rush, generously paid by the builders and architects to promote the city. Steven Gerrard has a tower named after him there. They all “bought” villas and mansions on the Palm Tree Island and have been the biggest advertising dummies for years. Politicians even go on holidays there now that England’s former Cuba, Egypt, has decided to take the matter of its politics in its own hand. No more free holiday from our dictatory friends. Sharm El Sheikh has lost its appeal. So we go to Dubai, the Emir is such a lovely man.

There is indeed a tradition coming from the English aristocracy to go on holidays closed rich ghettos away from the “exotic” poverty, like in India, and later to go sunbathing in the colonised remains of the Ottoman Empire. A custom envied by the middle class and that Dubai knew how to turn into profits with mastery. They present themselves as THE destination for the British because they offer what most of the Brits want on holiday: sun, heat and a place where they can stay without having to put up with the locals. A cruise without the boat.

It’s difficult when you go to France, Spain, Italy, Portugal or Greece nowadays because you have to go to a place where people live already. It’s difficult to find what you want and entertain yourself without having to deal with another language, with another culture, with people who might act, think and be differently on a daily basis. It’s fine for a cruise where you make an effort for an hour or two hours but for a whole week?! Are you mad?

And you cannot do whatever you want, it’s like these people are holding you back. What a drag!

In Dubai, it’s fantastic. You go to a huge hotel build in the middle of nowhere so there were no locals to begin with, but everything was carefully planned and is right there. The beach is private so no chance of having to put up with unfathomable foreign behaviour, even the sea belongs to the hotel so no chance of weird things happening because they guaranteed it is filtered on the edges. Restaurants, shopping centres, aquariums, karaoke, ball room, casino, a marina and a special taxi service with chauffeurs hired by the hotel that will drive you straight to Burj Khalifa and back. A real tourists-only town. No need for awkward meddling. Even most of the staff is from English-speaking countries.

If only Spain were built like that – customised around the wishes of British tourists.

Dubai is the British dream. Until it is not because sometimes, you have people who want to wander about and see a bit more than the same thing as their friends. So they will go in the actual town, in the local shopping centres, restaurants, beaches and the local sea. Where they would maybe hold hands, have a drink of alcohol or share a kiss just to be arrested for public indecency and breaking of the religious rules because you do not drink alcohol just like that in sharia-abiding countries.

And the prisons in Dubai are not the prisons we have here. You are not presumed innocent and you will not be offered a drink or a lawyer. And in Albion, no one understands suddenly. “Aw but…why? It’s just alcohol! We do it all the time! How dare they?!”

There are tears and pleas from the family, outrage from the tabloids, a quick intervention from the Prime Minister, because that’s obviously all he has to do (isn’t it, Daily Mail?!) and the matter is closed. A week passes and another ad with Wayne Rooney advertising the city will pop in the press. And they are going back to the ideal sight of Dubai – and now Doha – that will always offer the Brits the perfect holidays: Britain in the sun.

Maybe it’s because we don’t live on an island and actually we learnt to deal with each other but it’s definitely not something that attracts us like it appeals to them. Especially the French! I mean it took us for 400 years of endless wars against our neighbours to ensure that we would not have to go abroad for any kind of holiday: we pushed our countries boundaries to include snowy mountains, rainy plains, dry hills, cold beaches and the French Riviera. No risk of having to adapt to something else…