Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Travel Logs: Londontown

Today in London, people are in the streets burning shit. This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon these days, rioting being the preferred method to make a political or cultural statement. It seems like widespread hooliganism to me and I can only begin to comprehend the impetus for it, since I don't know the first thing about being an underprivileged immigrant.

But I'm not on here to write political commentary...the last time I did that I got crucified for being un-American (God help us, that's the last thing we can be). You see, I was just in London, I left ten days ago, and everything seemed so perfectly fine there. I was struck by how international and culturally diverse a city it is: New York has nothing on London. In fact, I noted that the percentage of white British-looking citizens was rather low compared to people of Middle/Far Eastern and African descent. London was absolutely bursting with life and color and seemed the model of peaceful diversity. People will complain about the immigration issue and say Britain has lost her britishness...but has she?

At ever monument, museum or historical site we visited, there were tons of people who were clearly Indian. And I noted how attached they seemed to the history and significance of each site, how much they identified with it, how deeply intertwined they are with all things royal and imperial. If you have studied British colonialism as I have, this makes perfect sense, for Indian people were taught for over a century to love the Queen and speak the Queen's English. Some African nations have a similar history, as do some Caribbean islands, and some Middle and Far Eastern nations. Britain once ruled the world, and in the end rulers pay a forcing out the conquered people's culture, and pressing their own values on that people, they create a situation where the conquered people's grandchildren identify more with the imperialists' culture. They naturally gravitate to the motherland as a touchstone for all things prosperous and hope-filled. But when she disappoints, when she does not open her arms, and offer her riches to them, the resentment inevitably grows.

Enough socio-political commentary from me...I await my excoriation.

If, after reading the news, you still want to take a trip to London, I highly recommend it. London is one of the most delicious shopping experiences I have ever had, and treated me to some of the most memorable sights of my life. I saw the Rosetta Stone, the mummies, and the Assyrian sculptures at the British Museum. I visited the Tower of London, saw the place where Anne Boleyn had her head forever severed from her body. I visited Shakespeare's oh-so-original Globe Theater, and had the deep pleasure of standing at the foot of the stage for three hours as a "grunt" while watching a fabulous play. We walked all over that city, and took the tube, and rode the double-decker red bus, to Bloomsbury and the British Library where some of my favorite authors and poets lived and wrote, and even down to the rocky shore of the Thames where Virginia Woolf drowned herself. We took very short trips through the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, which hold very fine collections. I saw the gravesites of some of the most famous men and women of all time at Westminster Abbey. And I had tea, of course, and it was perfect.

Going to London was important to me because it told me things about myself, from whence I came. I identify with that nation, and so do many people all over the globe. England is as British as she ever was, and what she does about the immigration "problem," only time will tell.