And pile all those history books, but don’t throw them away/They just might have a clue about what it really means/To be an Anglo hyphen Saxon in

Bloody interesting article by Rafael Behr in Today’s Guardian.

In it he discusses the nature of identity – specifically the fact that, in the anglo majority, the culture is your identity. Unlike an immigrant, for whom private and public personae are likely the norm and where the private identity, based upon your origin, functions existentially as a security blanket. We (the anglo majority; I’m not joining up with O’Reilly and Mad Man McCain or anything) do not have this. We are supposed to be, within our homes, that which we are outside our homes.

I would say I’m among the exceptions to this. Being Australian in the US, vegan, Buddhist (opinions differ), etc. adds me up to not-the-norm (I’m told often enough that I also hate America). Certainly in terms of the obesity question, which is that at which Behr is getting:

The result is a sort of cultural insecurity among the majority, non-immigrant British. If you are an immigrant and also a UK citizen, the chances are you have dual identity. Let’s say for the sake of argument you are Muslim and British. The split in your identity probably coincides with a split between public and private personae. At work, in the shops, in the street you are British. At home, around the dining table, you are Muslim. When the world outside your front door is a bewildering, insecure, chaotic global marketplace, your private cultural identity isn’t a luxury, it is an existential necessity. It keeps you sane.

If, however, you are part of the overwhelming majority of white, non-devout Christians, no such cultural safety net exists. Your culture is the mass culture, which is global consumer culture, which is no culture at all.

That matters in the fight against obesity. A cultureless society eats primitively, consuming the worst kind of foods, high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt. There is a reason mankind likes this sort of food. It is a legacy from our troglodyte ancestors for whom energy-yielding foods could guarantee survival in a hostile environment

The development of more sophisticated tastes is part of the process of civilisation. Millions of Britons now have an uncivilised approach to food. Go to any high street and count the people shovelling cakes in their mouths with feral urgency. We eat like cavemen.

I see this through a US lens – just yesterday I was impressed with the number of vendors hawking Father’s Day (that was yesterday in US – crazy, isn’t it? Everyone knows God made Father’s Day the 1st Sunday in September). This included wine-sellers (celebrate Father’s Day with wine-tasting? I just don’t see it). America loves a holiday, and every year I see not only Establishment Holidays (for want of a better word) getting bigger, but smaller holidays. Like Halloween in Britain, which Behr discusses, there is very obvious market interest in expanding holidays, particular ones with special consumer-behaviour attached (Halloweeen makes an excellent case in point. July 4th is a ‘day’ here, now a holiday, and one that seems to be evolving into a proper establishment holiday. I already hear “Happy July 4th”, and I expect cards and gifts can’t be far off?).

I don’t know what it’s like in Australia – we have so many public holidays there is probably overkill keeping the festival-ness of them down. Plus you get a day off, you stick an international cricket match in it. Everybody knows that’s the natural order of things. Our Australia Day is not and probably will never be celebrated like July 4th – it’s more like Columbus day, which Universities only call a ‘pacing break’, rather than offend.

Behr’s point about food and the manner in which we eat it is a good one, although I suspect he’s premature in the rescue of immigrant Britain. Non-immigrant Britain has fallen victim to the move of production from households to Tescos, but why it should stop there cannot be adequately presented. As sure as they work long hours, watch TV and want convenient food, so shall it be made for them, whoever ‘they’ are. If the pattern breaks because of greater awareness, all the better, but health-economic research in enough countries suggests it might not be enough.

Meanwhile, Brits, you will be pleased to know that your deep-fried pizzas are nothing.


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