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10 August 2011


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Cato the Censor

Frank Harris who was the editor of the Saturday Review in London in the 1890's had some very similar comments to yours about English society in his autobiography. It shows how little things have changed after well over a hundred years.


Col: " You can make money in England, but god help you if you try to join a really good club. In England, you are, in the end, who your parents were."

So painfully true. That is why I have never regreted leaving the Old Country. The greatness of America is our mockery of those pretentious among us. I hope we we never lose that.


"In (hidebound stratification of an) England, you are, in the end, who your parents were."

Reminds me of several antiquated territories them Brits once had in hand, with their many class divisions & ethnic differences based on religious caste.

Paradoxical how the tail is now wagging the dog (for want of a more politically correct idiom or phrase).

Col. sir,

Were we not discussing something along similar strands the year before?

William R. Cumming

"FLASH MOBBING" is not new but the ARAB SPRING gave evidence of its power. The British riots according to Juan Cole and his posts on INFORMED COMMENT has little or nothing to do with ISLAM. Largely driven by lack of opportunity in Britain.

But hey this phenomenon is something else and watch out USA IMO!


Col. Lang:

I’m not sure what Cameron means by “fightback.” I sure hope he didn’t mean the riots. That would, however, be consistent with the British ruling class hubris implied in your post.

The Telegraph has a fascinating article on the riots; good writing, reporting and analysis. Nothing like we get in our MSM. Unfortunately the parallel between what’s going on the UK and in the US is startling. Although the author rejects a purely racial basis for the riots, focussing instead on a crumbling economy and political indifference, a racial trigger is there in the killing of a black man by police and the images I’ve seen in our media remind me of nothing less than the Watts riots of 1965 where similar economic and political dynamics were presumed to be in play.


Patrick Lang


I do not agree with the analogy to the Watts riots. people in Watts were trapped in the underclass through inability to adapt. People in England arer trapped by the nature of the society. pl


It's not my "old country". Maybe it's time for another 'dutchman' to invade and conquer them with 20,000 troops, like William of Orange did.


England is the land of my birth, America is my home. I am a dual national, and as such I consider myself bilingual.

My view is that we are closer in the US to the UK than many care to imagine when it comes to social issues. To me the problem is a rapidly growing gulf between the super rich and everyone else coupled with an educational approach that dismisses discipline and focuses on self-esteem and unearned reward (everyone gets a prize).

There was a time the class system in the UK was as rigid as suggested here, but I do not believe that is true now. There is still an obsession with class but it is not controlling. Look at star soccer players. Is there a club David Beckham could not join that he would want to? Or in business, is there a club the Mittals could not join that they would want to?


While the country I grew up in no longer exists, and I have chosen to be an American (wholeheartedly, unapologetically, and unreservedly) I will always love the land of my birth, a place that still has an unrivaled sense of humor (humour).



I'd say, looking at the pictures, that about 85% of the rioters are black.

Col. Lang is quite wrong about UK society. It's the same rules as the US: Play by the rules, and you are accepted. Get an education, get a job. And if you make enough money, you'll eventually be upper class.

British Indians have found that out. British Muslims -- not so much. British blacks -- ?


I am glad you keep talking about England. We in Scotland have been riot free. The English are a peculiarly bigoted, arrogant and and ignorant race. The Scots are superior in education and culture. It was we who gave you the founder of the US Navy - John Paul Jones, and several of your founding fathers - Hamilton? I believe, Colonel, that when you refer to your ancestors from this island, you are referring to your Caledonian forebears, driven out by the rapacious English no doubt. Between the US and Scotland there should be only friendship and mutual respect.

Medicine Man

What is striking is how unprepared the British government was for this. It is not like they don't know how to prevent/break-up riots, what with all the practice they've had cracking the heads of soccer hooligans.

The UK government just got finished enacting a comprehensive austerity program, including cuts to services, military, and civil servants. It is interesting to see PM Cameron returning home from a vacation in Tuscany to find all those screws he tightened popping loose.

Jonathan Wright

Social mobility in the United States is about the same as in Britain - both far below the level in most of western Europe, especially Scandinavia of course(http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/10/oecd-uk-worst-social-mobility). The idea of American social mobility (commonly known as the American dream) is a myth created by the elite to maintain their privileges, and they have certainly succeeded.


Where is Robin of Locksley when the you need him? Not much has changed, Tony Blair went on a 'crusade' while bankrupting his country with onerous taxes - on the poor, when he should have stayed home to take care of them as his duty required. Cameron is following suit. Like their ancestors they won't retake Jerusalem, either.


Colonel, I would agree with you that money in England does not buy entry into society.

You mentioned Richmond. Much the same can be said of New Orleans. In the mid-seventies during the oil boom years, there were many "outsiders" who came to town and made it big.

A few would call up the Boston Club (the home of Rex) or the New Orleans Country Club and ask how much for a membership?

Well, of course, probably like Richmond, that did not work at all. In New Orleans, money was secondary to pedigree to the shock of many a nouveau-riche relocated Texan.

I would quibble a bit about social mobility in the the rest of the US. For the most part, money is the key to entree to society here regardless of background. If anything the rags-to-riches tale is the model.

On the other hand, among western countries, I believe I have read that social mobility in the US, contrary to assumed wisdom, ranks near the bottom, right alongside the UK.

I say that with full recognition of the different barriers in both nations--money v. pedigree.


A 2005 report by the London School of Economics notes that the UK has an awful record on social mobility. It also indicates that the USA's record is worse.

Rocks, Glass houses.

Patrick Lang


"the USA's record is worse" Rubbish. pl

Patrick Lang


Sadly, my wife this year discovered in her geneological obsession that a long ignored branch of my ancestry arrived in Massachusetts and Conecticutt from eastern england in 1620-1640. It is a burden i am trying to bear. The Langs, of course, in my family, are a sept of the Clan Donald from the west highlands. pl

Patrick Lang

Steve et al

Social stratification in England and the US are different things. In England, Richmond and New Orleans money "don't" necessarily buy you membership in "Rex" or the "Commonwealth Club" in Richmond. If you want that you had better have had the right grandmother, have gone to the right school or something like that. it helps to marry the right people. In the great majority of American locations, money will buy you just about everything including social position. England? Don't make me laugh so hard. I'll hurt myself. with money you can buy anything in England but you are still what you were. that Egyptian character who owned Harrod's couldn't even obtain UK citizenship. I know how wounding my opinion on this is to all you economic determinists. pl

Patrick Lang


"you'll eventually be upper class"

Sure, in a few generations. pl


Who the hell wants to be upper class? Let's hoist a drink to the salt of the earth.


Now you have got me started: Married to a Pom for 20 years, agree 100% with Col. Lang; in Britain, you are what your parents were, and the life and options available to you from the age of Two years old are severely constrained by your parents place in society.

JMS is plain wrong:"There was a time the class system in the UK was as rigid as suggested here, but I do not believe that is true now. There is still an obsession with class but it is not controlling. Look at star soccer players. Is there a club David Beckham could not join that he would want to? Or in business, is there a club the Mittals could not join that they would want to?"

I can assure you that there are plenty of London clubs where Beckham and Lakshmi Mittal would not be welcome - even as guests.

The behaviour of the British "upper classes" is venal, dishonest, racist and highly predictable, although it is often well disguised by reverse snobbery. The "Tottering By Gently" cartoons in the Hatchards catalogue are the image they try to project, but if you really look you can see the undertones:


One of the few consolations of being married to a Brit were the presentation of endless opportunities to subvert the paradigm:

- like suggesting that you shoot Foxes at night with a spotlight like we do.

- and seeing how many "chalet girls" a gold Rolex attracts.

Still have the green wellies and Barbour jacket.

As for the Scots and Irish, my son spent last summer working professionally in Europe including Edinburgh and Dublin. I had this phone call; "Dad, don't tell anyone, but the Scots and Irish really do hate the English, it isn't just a joke."

The problem for Britain is that the existence of a class system isn't just a bad joke. It isn't just a "Yes Minister" script.


The country and its businesses have been appallingly managed for One hundred and Ten years by "our sort of people" and they brook no opposition or criticism, certainly not from ignorant colonials like me.

I could go on.


Col. Lang:

"but it lacks the sense of hidebound stratification that the "old country" possesses. This does not seem to have changed since many of my ancestors left for New England in the 17th Century. "

I like a little hidebound stratification. Does being descended from the first child born in America on the Mayflower qualify?

William R. Cumming

Any affiliation between Clan Donald and Clan Cumming?

Please note that unlike Norway the British kept no money from the North Sea oil to fund a rainy day fund.

Suspect like Brazil the British will soon become enchanted with gated communities and private security services.

Patrick Lang


I had several relatives on "the boat." Perhaps we are distantly related. pl


We Scots suffered the suppression of our Gaelic tongue. Some of us are trying to re-establish it as the national language in place of the alien speech of the colonial power. Given your evident dislike of the English and your pride in the history of the 13 colonies having thrown off the shackles of sevitude to the English crown, I am surprtised you do not wor k for ridding the USA of the burden of the English language, the tongue of the colonial oppressor. Spanish is a far more mellifluous and musical language than the horrid staccato sounds of inelegant English. If Scotland is to throw off Westminster rule, surely the US could likewise rid itself of the last vestiges of Englishoppression?

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