Hégémonie culturelle

To say that the US are culturally hegemonic in today’s world is both a very banal thing to say and something that astonishingly many people think is not true. Hans Erik Naess belongs to the latter—and is entirely wrong. According to his logic (which makes him conclude that Hollywood is not American but “transnational” because of how many people from different parts of the globe work there), Barbie dolls are Chinese and Microsoft is Indian.

The American cultural hegemony is not a resentful invention of frustrated Europeans; for me, it’s a rather annoying everyday reality. When I was a child growing up in a small village in a distant land, I had no idea about what life was like in the neighbouring countries, be it to the West or to the East; but when watching TV, I was expecting people to speak through their noses and drink milk straight from cartons just taken from the fridge. It was both completely surreal—no-one around me ever did anything like that—and perfectly normal. 

Nothing’s changed since then. Everyone here knows the story of Britney Spears and watches Friends. Why should we? It’s not our reality—it really isn’t, even though we’re so used to “cops from LA” or lesbians from NYC. It’s not even particularly interesting: the US is, surprisingly enough, a culturally poor country. We’ve got so much more to discover around the block, with our close neighbours from who we’re all too often insulated for no good reason. I can quote more American cities than Spanish, German and Irish together—isn’t it sad that my own part of the world is more exotic than the US? The problem with American cultural hegemony is the fact that we’re experts in the grotesque American “culture”  but the fact that suddenly we don’t have the time and the energy to know anything else.

The UK is to my knowledge the worst offender. My friend Jon, an Oxford PPE graduate who regularly discusses US political issues, recently told me: “You know that in Belgium, that small country over there, they’ve been without government for 150 days!? Who knew!!” (He had seen an article in the Guardian—the first article in the Guardian about the Belgian community crisis—the day before.) Another time, I was talking to a certain Charlie about how crap the London transport system is (you’ll have noticed it’s one of my favourite topics of all time) and he went, “But if you look at other world cities, it’s actually one of the best!” All of my experience of other cities, be it Paris or Tokyo or Berlin, is that transports are incredibly better than London’s; yet Charlie, a very intelligent person, could only ever compare London in his head to New York, and, following a very English custom, he assumed that UK+US together exhaust “the world”. 

In England, people don’t even know how Americanised they are. In France, they do and whinge about it all the time. If only they did it for the right reasons. In France, people whinge not because they’d like to know more about other people than Americans, but because they’d like other people to admire France more. They spend a lot of money promoting French culture abroad; but if you want to counter American hegemony, you should start with your own brain. Every time you read the Spiegel instead of turning on the telly, you’re making the world better.


I’m not alone!

I hate Heathrow, not only as a place, but also as a concept. It epitomises what I dislike about the UK: the country’s parochial worldview, arrogant self-satisfaction and inability to learn from others. I’m not alone.  

Qui a inventé les toilettes dans les bâtiments publics !?

I have been spending some time in different toilets in public buildings around England recently, and there is something I find rather difficult to understand. Why are toilets the most run-down, shabby rooms in splendid office buildings? Surely toilets are precisely the place where you need most comfort, privacy, sound isolation and cleanliness; and yet someone somewhere decided that even in places where you have crystal chandeliers hanging from ceilings and where thousands of pounds are invested into inviting reception space, it is still fine to have toilet cabins separated by cardboard walls which don’t even go down to the floor and up to the ceiling, where you can hear and smell and see the shadow of everything your neighbour is doing.

What irks me even more is that the unsavoury character of the place, putatively inherent to its functions, is construed as an excuse to create the only public space left in civilised countries where sexes are strictly separated. As if it was any better to smell male shit when you’re male. Non mais.


Demain, j’irai voir mon GP à 9h du matin et je lui dirai ça :

“So about a year ago I went to see my dermatologist– You see, in France we consume a lot of drugs and see our doctors a lot. So I went to see my dermatologist, her name was Docteur Renucci MST, there’s a story behind the MST, never mind. So I went to see Dr Renucci, she’s really great, so funny! And sometimes a guy answers her phone (she’s got a private practice, we only have private doctors in France you know) and his voice makes your stomach rumble. Anyway– so I went to see Dr Renucci and I said, Dear Dr Renucci MST, I think I’m balding–you know, male pattern baldness. She looked at my head and said, oui you are indeed, that’s male pattern baldness all right; let me put you on minoxidil for a year and if that doesn’t help, we’ll try finasteride which is a bit more hardcore but more exciting as well. So you see, 18 months have passed and I’m still balding–male pattern baldness, you know. Can I now have my finasteride prescription please. Pretty pretty please with a kiwi on top. Very hairy kiwi.”

Part of this will be a shameless lie. But no, minoxidil doesn’t work, and yes, the guy’s voice is amazing. And I don’t feel like buying my finasteride from a C/\N/\DI/\N ONLIN€ PH/|RMAÇY.

After the City

“Tout est bien qui finit bien” !


(I didn’t actually use that font. BTW – that’s likely the most bland letter I’ve ever written)

To celebrate my return to the world of the living, I will be resuscitating both this excuse for a blog and my social life in the coming days–stay tuned.

Hojohoho! – Richard Wagner.

A Technical post

Just a couple of things I wanted to blog about before I forget.

  • I think there is a big huge opportunity for a future great economist to write about the reason why there are still enormous queues in front of the horrendous place called the London Dungeon. As every person who has been there knows, and supposedly all the people queuing to get in there for hours do not, London Dungeon sucks. Terribly. It’s so boring and cringy you wouldn’t like to admit you’ve ever been there. And yet, this information somehow doesn’t filter through to the masses of tourists outside that place. I’m sure the world would be a better place if people stopped going there.
  • Call me crazy, but I now use this. It took me about two weeks of pain and another two weeks of practice to switch but I’m not looking back, and the fact that no one else is now able to type on my keyboard amuses me greatly.
  • I’m moving up to N1 in about two weeks. There might or might not be a party of sorts to mark the occurrence; you will hear about it if there is.
  • I know I’ve been particularly irresponsive to attempts at contacting me over the last, what? 3 or 4 weeks. A post will follow on the reasons for that (maybe); in the meantime, please accept my very sincere apologies and rest assured that I haven’t forgotten anyone and have just fallen into my typical cyclical phase of losing control over my life.

January 2007 has been

probably the shortest month in my life. Someone has explored, and I know very well who did but won’t say as it would show that I’ve only read one book in my life, the links between habit and the perceived speed of the flow of time, and I must say they were (ok: he was, it was a man, of sorts) damn right. I’m now very well settled into my City life and those who are interested (according to blog stats, approx. 3.2 people) can now read this fascinating update on what it means.

Well, first of all, it doesn’t really mean much. The overall impression is of a lot of emptiness, which some might say is paradoxical, but it in fact isn’t that much, being a direct result of spending most of your time in a cubicle in front of MS Word (if you’re lucky, otherwise it’s Excel or–eek–Powerpoint, which in banking is the ultimate machine to strip you off your brain). Nothing to get sentimental about–which for me, an instrinsically sentimental little brat, is a startling realisation. How can you get sentimental about Lotus Notes 6.5.4? Whoever invented it should be forced to use it til the end of their days.

Walking to work is interesting. I had never realised what the City becomes between 8 and 9: this mass of people emerging from underground and silently marching, like penguins, to their respective workplaces. The sound of hundreds of feet, Happy Feet while we’re at it, in unison, is most peculiar.

The Gym is my new aim in life. I think a very famous painter should once paint a series (!) of paintings entitled “In the Gym”. (Or: “Super Size Me”. Or: “The High Cost of Low Fat”. You get the idea.) I think the sort of expressions people make there, and the sort of things you can read in their eyes, are an artistic universe as yet unexplored. Pain, longing, hope, emptiness, pride–but all in new, fancy dress, or rather in the unfancy shorts and t-shirts, interestingly contemporary as it shows our (mine, at least!) disquieting obsession with the body. All of which is rather sad and melancholy, which I believe would be the ultimate expression of the hypothetical paintings, and this despite the exhilarating music.