18 September 2007

Home is where the hurt is

Two aspects of last night's Thinking through my fingers prompt me to reply: one on eye and camera, and one on perceived freedom or lack of it. On the first I'll muse for a while and write something later; the first I'll pursue now, since my response is a fairly short one.

I take it as a given, personally, that life is increasingly (and too much) surveyed, that personal freedom is increasingly (and too much) constrained, that the so called "war on terror" is just the latest excuse for both rather than in any way a reason for them. There more than an analogy, here, with the constraining of childhood exploration (physical and mental) which I deplored a few days ago.

It's interesting, though, that on both Anglophone sides of the Atlantic, people tend to feel that things are worse across the water.

Chris Bertram, author of the Crooked Timber piece which made Jim think, is actually a fellow Briton (in fact, he's literally just up the road from me) but, in general, putting him aside, ask a Briton and you'll generally find a broad perception that things are worse in the US while if you ask a USAmerican you'll get the view that things are worse in Britain.

I'm not immune to this. Ask me when I have my academic head on, and I'll reply that things are different in the US and UK, but that if you average out those differences there is not a lot to choose, overall, between the two. At a gut level, though, I feel that while things are bad and deteriorating here, they are worse over there.

This tendency doesn't seem to change according to whether or not people actually travel in each other's countries.

At the very least, this is interesting as a psychology ... it seems that we not only have a tendency to prefer the devil we know to the devil we don't, but also a tendency to love it more, and more willingly forgive its faults. Which is worrying, since it is to the devil we know, not the devil we don't, that we will most likely fall victim if things go wrong.

Footnote: I don't know where the title of my last post, Home is where you hang your head, originated (I believe it may have been with Groucho Marx) but it is certainly not my own. For my use of it, I am personally indebted to a USAmerican actor, resident in London, who would probably prefer that I not name him here - you know who you are: thank you, I belatedly acknowledge the debt.

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