Ducking Responsibility

One of the most liberating things about living abroad is the self-satisfaction you get from knowing the chaos and idiocy you encounter is not of your doing. Be it gangsters running Russian towns, Indonesian maids flogged in Dubai, or Lagos international airport, none of these things can be blamed on me. Living abroad I am a tourist, a mere observer of things around me.

This wouldn’t be the case if I lived in the UK. One of the reasons I find the attitude of the British police so contemptible, why I detest the jumped-up British jobsworth in the hi-viz vest, and why I can’t stand the juvenile posturing of the BBC is because I cannot distance myself from them. These are products of my culture, they are people much like me, and it is difficult to  shrug my shoulders and say “nothing to do with me”. The same is true for Britain’s awful roads, the rise of the nanny-state, and the whining, over-entitled middle-classes. These things start to affect you personally, which doesn’t happen when abroad. There, you can just look on with bemusement and declare these foreigners slightly mad.

I left the UK in 2003, at the height of the New Labour years. I knew when David Davies failed to gain the Tory leadership and Iain Duncan Smith was a complete flop with the voters that I was completely out of step with the rest of Britain. Not that I thought IDS was much good, but I thought him infinitely better than Blair. I was ploughing a lonely furrow with that one. David Davies I thought was pretty good, and still do: he’s the only politician that makes the right noises regarding civil liberties, and for that alone he’d get my vote. But most people think him a deranged right-winger.

I’d not say that the state of British politics was the main reason I left the UK – adventure, better money, and house prices accounted for most of it – but it certainly made it easier knowing I was leaving a place where few agreed with me politically. Now it’s true that few agree with me politically in France either, but here it doesn’t matter: it’s not my problem, I’m a tourist. My French colleagues, however, are fully invested in the nation’s issues, unable to stop caring. Nigerians speak about little other than the state of their nation and where it’s headed. I saw the same in Russia where people took to heart intractable problems that have plagued the country for a century; it didn’t look good for one’s health. By contrast, I wake up not giving a damn.

I suppose in some ways I’ve sloped my shoulders, run away from the responsibility of participating in a modern society.

Well yeah, I have. So what?

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12 thoughts on “Ducking Responsibility

  1. David Goodhart’s ‘Road to Somewhere’ … a citizen of nowhere. As you say: “So what?”

  2. Part of my fascination with Russia has always been that it’s screwed up worse than the U.S. I got a sense of relief from it. I don’t consider that noble, but it made for a very entertaining 5 years. Now that I’ve been home, I brood over our problems constantly. I’d say just enjoy yourself.

  3. Tim, you’ve reach the state what Aaron Clarey puts in his book “Enjoy to the Decline”. When you realize that the world is going hell in a handbasket, might as well enjoy the ride down. He’s talking about my country, USA, but it’s applicable pretty much everywhere.

  4. All very well to slope off and ignore politics however there has to be somewhere you feel able to live for a long enough time. The trick must be to move from country to country surfing the liberal, in the traditional sense, wave that hopefully follows cycles of spending, authoritarianism, austerity and chaos.

    Alas it is not clear that there is anywhere worth settling anymore as movements are away from liberal ideals. Freedom is eroded, orthodox opinion enforced and the anti-hegemonic become the black uniformed fascists. The UK is desperately short of politicians who will tell the painful truth, that we are living beyond our means, and short of a population who would listen and want to take collective action. The nation state in Europe is dying

    As an aside heard Matthew Paris on R4 World at One announce Brexit is dying, and Remain’s arguments are getting stronger, this twice as fact with no challenge or counterbalance. If Brexit falls then the UK is over and you might as well walk away.

  5. Andrew, it’s not surprising that nobody on R4 challenged the claims of Matthew Parris because he was telling them what they wanted to hear.

    But let’s be clear what the cost of preventing Brexit would be. It wouldn’t just be the 17 million people who voted “Leave” who would be furious. Millions of “Remain” voters would be outraged to discover that their vote didn’t matter because the venal, lying political class never intended to honour the result if it didn’t go the way they wanted. Tens of millions of people, quite possibly a majority of the adult population, would decide that democracy in Britain was a sham. The price of stopping Brexit is a collapse of public confidence in the whole political system, and that would lead to far greater upheavals than merely leaving the EU could ever produce.

  6. ‘Deranged right winger’ it doesn’t take much to fall into that category nowadays which leaves many of us beyond the pale it seems.

  7. Owen Patterson has been pretty sound on liberty whenever I’ve heard him speak, likewise Steve Baker.

  8. You have no children (I assume) so you are at liberty to shrug it all off.

    Yes.

  9. Part of my fascination with Russia has always been that it’s screwed up worse than the U.S. I got a sense of relief from it. I don’t consider that noble, but it made for a very entertaining 5 years.

    Same here!

  10. ‘Deranged right winger’ it doesn’t take much to fall into that category nowadays which leaves many of us beyond the pale it seems.

    A short while ago, things which Clinton said while in office were nowadays seen as the preserve of the “extreme right”. Things have evolved so fast that even things Obama said in his first term are now seen as the preserve of the “extreme right”! Look at Obama’s stance on gay marriage in his first presidential campaign, for example.

  11. Owen Patterson has been pretty sound on liberty whenever I’ve heard him speak, likewise Steve Baker.

    Thanks, I’ll look out for them.

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