Saturday, August 16, 2014


While certainly enlightened in many respects, Britain is facing some very big problems.

First off, the United Kingdom hasn't completely recovered from the economic typhoon that hit the world in 2008.  They followed our lead and bailed out the perpetrators of the whole mess, the banks, but Britain isn't as big and strong as the US and they were very over-extended through loans to other countries, like Iceland, whose economies also crashed; and then they got hit with a double whammy when the real estate bubble finally burst. 

So, while Britain's economy is definitely on the mend, it is still quite shaky.  Other than London, there is no construction boom to speak of.  For instance, we only saw about five high rise building cranes atop the skyline of Glasgow, and two in Edinburgh. 

To be painfully honest, the whole place looks a bit shabby and in need of a good power wash; general weeding, starting with the gutters and rooftops; and some fresh paint. 


So we need to recognize this real threat to their economic prosperity when we pressure the Brits into hitting the Russians with harsh economic sanctions over Ukraine.  They genuinely want to send a stern warning to Putin, but it will definitely hit them in their own pocket books, so that scares a lot of people in the UK.  And rightfully so.

These troubled times require clear and fast thinking, which is a bit of a problem for the Brits given their nasty habit of "binge drinking".  Recent studies indicate that 1 in 3 British men under the age of thirty still live with their parents because they can't afford to buy their own place and are perpetual binge drinkers.  It's like "Quadraphenia" on fast forward.  Equally troublesome, 1 in 4 young women are regularly liquored up and out of control. 
On weekends in most towns and cities, it often resembles a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  The streets are filled with loud packs of rough young men and tarted-up women, looking to pair up with an almost animal intensity.  And the later it gets, the wilder the atmosphere. 

Inna and I both agreed that the women seemed crazier than the men.  We found it best to avoid eye contact after 10 at night when walking a busy street.  It is safe to say that about a quarter of the young Brits are functional alcoholics, so getting the next generation to focus on important public policy issues can get a bit sketchy at times.

Another huge problem is immigration.   The country is awash in Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Africans, Jamaicans, Indians, and Arabs.  And as with most of Europe, the Chinese are absolutely taking over.  At the prestigious Glasgow University, it looked like most of the students were Chinese.  And while I don't want to get too down and dirty here, I have to say that they are uniformly oblivious toward anyone who is not Chinese.  They tend to travel in small groups, speaking their native language.  And they rarely mingle with the locals or even attempt to integrate at all with the British culture. 

As many Americans, especially where the influx of new arrivals is the greatest, are getting fed up with the endless wave of immigrants flooding our shores, it is really starting to get ugly in Britain.  There is the familiar refrain from the working class folks on the public dole that "they are taking all the jobs"; and I have no idea whether that is true or not, but I can tell you that we were in London for almost two days before we encountered a homegrown Englishman.  It was weird as hell.  And it is changing the face and national identity of Britain completely.

Which brings us to the "war on terrorism".  It is safe to say that after 9/11, the British way of life changed even more dramatically  and for the worse  throughout Britain  at least, in the larger cities  than in America where it is still essentially a minor inconvenience.   In Britain it permeates EVERYTHING.  Given the large numbers of Arabs, and Muslim people in general, living all over Britain, and the fact that the several terrorist bombings of the English subways were committed by Arabs who were British citizens, tight security is pervasive wherever you go.

The authorities have installed cameras on many buildings  even historic ones  visually covering almost every major street in places like London and Edinburgh.
Mobil green and white camera vans roam the streets and park in the pedestrian shopping areas filming everything that happens.  Yellow blast gates are positioned in front of most government buildings and national landmarks.   And friendly pairs of young officers wearing fluorescent green vests and goofy black caps stand on busy street corners and in front of transit stations, eyeing every passerby intently. 

Police vans park in strategic locations in the city centers waiting for an emergency call so they can storm into businesses  even fancy hotels like the Grand Central  at even the slightest threat. They rolled into our hotel like well-mannered storm troopers several times each day and we had no idea what they were after, but were too afraid to ask what was going on.  It was like the Keystone Cops piling out of their vans and rushing into a building  though in this case, orderly, professionally and quite courteously.  Being in the Land of Orwell, it was hard not to easily envision 1984 in 2014.

Let me give you two small and unrelated examples of the inconvenience and creepiness of this constant security vigilance. 

One morning in Glasgow, I went into the Grand Central Rail Station which was connected to our amazing hotel to get some fresh coffee for Inna.  I had a small bag of trash in my hand to throw away.  I walked around the whole spotless Victorian station in search of a trash can before I realized there were none.  Trash cans had been used by the IRA to plant bombs, so the British solution was to simply remove them all.  

But what really pissed me off was that Glasgow City Hall, the world's finest example of municipal governmental architecture, is no longer open to the public.  You used to be able to just walk right in and partake of the majestic splendor, like the matching framed, floor-to-ceiling Scottish marble panels along the grand staircase, and the plush red cathedral-like city hall chambers.  We are all diminished by the closing of this marvelous work of art where the Glasgow movers and shakers set forth the laws and pay the bills.

I don't know whether any of these elaborate security measures truly make the British people any safer, but it's safe to say that they have pretty much given up ALL of their liberty in order to be  or at least, FEEL  free of danger.  And that is a scary thought indeed.  And one which we Americans should consider very, very carefully as we stumble toward our own rather murky future.


And if all of this isn't crazy enough, the people of Scotland are voting in September on whether to "devolve" from Britain, and that can't be good.  Then again, who can say for sure?




  1. Terrific article; felt like I was there.. And the photos!! great job. Thank you for taking your time.

  2. So glad you enjoyed! It's a touchy subject.

  3. Have you been to the White House or U.S. Capitol lately? Since 9/11, the tours are a shadow of what they used to be. It's a sad reality for us too.-- Tanya