I always suspected that my outlook on life would alter radically from that of a benefit-dependant child in a single-parent urban immigrant family to something more bourgeois once I had a mortgage. That is, once I had a material stake in society.
I may have been an apologist for the Soviets for a while and spellbound by Rousseau and Marx, but Trotsky’s permanent revolution never did it for me, while Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot merely confirmed my misgivings.
I was always on the right of the Labour Party — New Labour if you will, with strong views on law & order, equality of opportunity rather than equality of income, universal health care and national advancement. But this is different. Some is happening to me, politically. I’m getting nostalgic.
Just the other day I was chatting to a Bengali colleague. He was telling me about New Delhi and how it was changing fast: “You can still see cows on the streets. I kind of like that though.” I knew exactly what he meant.
Globalisation brings modernity, economic development, lifts standards of living, brings us into greater contact with each other. But it also makes the world a less diverse, and by extension, less interesting place.
If it was a straight choice between filling people’s bellies or celebrating the diversity of human life, then the socialist and humanist in me would always choose the former. But it never is that black and white.
If I go to a market in northern France I might see a few Normandy cheeses and cider but I also expect to see a lot of tat. Question is, does it have to be exactly the same faux exotic or twee tat I see in London markets?
Similarly, they could do a lot to improve TV in Spain but I would be disappointed if I didn’t get a chance to grimace at the odd televised bullfight. I also despise the thousands of coastal restaurants that do a roaring trade in Spain selling egg and chips or bratwurst and sauerkraut to foreign tourists.
Which brings me to Blighty and to something I never imagined would matter to me: what exactly is wrong with the pint, stone and mile?
Don’t get me wrong: I liked the move to decimals — much easier. I’m also a celsius and centimetre man. But enough is enough. So there is some global corporate logic to making everything the same. And? So what? I would wager that foreigners deep down probably like the fact that we serve our beer in pints, drive on the wrong side of the road and travel distances in miles.
I know, I know — tradition is a central pillar of Conservatism, the type expounded by Edmund Burke as opposed to Lady Thatcher. And preserving the status quo is usually about looking after priviliged interests.
For example, subsidising traditional family-owned French farms in order to preserve the link between the land and food we eat also shuts out theoretically poorer Third World farmers. But then respecting other people’s traditions in the name of multiculturalism can also trample on hard-fought home-grown rights considered universal.
So is tradition always the enemy of progressive politics?
Article from El Cid’s blog at zones2and3
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Filed in: Culture,The World