Friday, June 20, 2008

In response to "Heaven knows we’re miserable now" by Tom Harris MP

First read this British Government Minister's blog and the BBC's coverage

You're right, we are a miserable bunch. We've lost our joie de vivre.

I moved to Seattle from Manchester two years ago and I must say that the locals here are a lot happier generally. In fact, I've married a local girl and have taken her to visit the UK a couple of times now - she enjoys it, but has noticed that everyone seems miserable.

I must admit that she first mentioned it when we were in a service station off the M6, so probably not the most enjoyable place to be, but it's definitely noticeable wherever you go.

I can't put it down to consumerism, the US has got to be more consumeristic. Not only that, but also the gap between the rich and the poor is undoubtedly greater here. I can't put it down to Iraq or politics in general, Seattle is definitely as unhappy about the policies of President Bush as the UK, probably more-so, as we've got to put up with his domestic policies too.

People do seem to be stuck in a rut. There is a sense of hopelessness, that there's nothing you as an individual can do to make things better. I used to work with people who'd complain about their jobs every day, but would never look for a new job. I'm pretty sure the job market wasn't that bad at the time.

I also think that the British malaise is catching - if you work or live with people who are miserable, then you're likely to become miserable yourself. On the plus side, if you work or live with happy people, you're much more likely to be happy, so it can be overcome.

I don't really have an answer for "why? though. Looking at the comments, the miserable people complaining don't even have much to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Over 40 million people in the US don't have health insurance, for example. Petrol in the US may be cheaper than the UK, but it has increased in cost at a much quicker rate than in the UK. Also, you have to remember that the US is a big place - the average commute is more than double the UK's average commute and there's not a lot of public transport to use instead.

So, perhaps the British people have lost their sense of perspective. Everybody is doing okay, there's no "well, at least we've better than those people". I suggest you compulsory send the entire population of the UK to various different countries around the world to live for a year, to see if they want to come back. I bet nearly all will, with a renewed sense of optimism. Just don't send them to Seattle, I left to avoid that bunch of miserable whiners!


Blogger Rob said...

I actually find the tone of your last sentence quite offensive. Lucky you for having a well paid job that enabled you to spread your wings and take your talent off around the world.

There's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of British cynicism. Perhaps its stems from the fact that I am, as I write, sat looking at the pissing rain in the middle of 'summer'. At some point this weekend, I'll fill my car up with fuel that has rocketed in price (and don't give me some crap about US fuel prices going up - about bloody time). I'm lucky in that I live near work, I won't have to get on an overcrowded, dirty, antiquated, late train and potter to work, whereupon I can begin working hard to compensate for the abolition of the 10% tax band. House prices have been unsustainably high, meaning I couldn't afford one, now they're coming down, which is shafting those that have stretched themselves to buy one. Oh, and I still can't afford to buy one.

You can't put it down to consumerism or Iraq - agreed. The average Joe couldn't give a shit about George Bush (why would we - we don't live in America), Iraq, the environment - these are the things that the more well off members of the fourth estate think that we should be spending our time worrying about. People care about their taxes (up), the value of the pound in their pocket (down), the cost of living (up), the lateness of their train (late) and the business of their roads (busy). We sit on our island surrounded by countries where things work that don't work here, and we wonder why things can't be better here. I'm sure if we popped over to Harare or Kandahar for a month we might think we were better of at home - and so we should be. We pay through the nose to live in supposedly one of the world's more advanced countries, and I think we're entitled to expect to be dealt a better hand.

Don't get me wrong, I like the chirpiness of most Americans. I like being told to have a nice day; I like being told that I'm welcome when I say thanks for something. Perhaps the happiness stems from a certain naivety that comes from being told that all things in America are great, and that anyone who doesn't think so can sod off. I know that sounds like a generalisation, but what do you expect from a nation of whiners?

5:24 am  

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