4 February, 2012
10 December, 2011
One of the curious things about being in East Berlin while the EU staggers to financial collapse is to watch the various manifestations of European tribalism at work. Small countries; small minds. Now It’s England’s turn, with Dave the Prat telling the rest of Europe to get stuffed, and thereby feeding a frenzy of that old anti-continental spite. But what is weird about all this is the way the English pundits speak of ‘Europe’ as something apart from themselves. It’s ‘Europe’s’ problem, they say, and we want nothing to do with it. But since when is England not part of Europe? Is it the massive body of water separating that small island from the rest of Europe? Then you’d have to include Cyprus and substantial parts of Denmark. Is it the case that the Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman invasions were not really European? Or that the English language has no relation to its Germanic base? Or is it yet another version of European tribalism, now manifested as English exceptionalism? Maybe it’s none of this and Dave the Prat is really an unwitting agent of the Chinese waiting for the Euro to collapse.
6 March, 2011
In the universities, at least. I hear of whole departments, whether academic or administrative, in which every member is seeking work elsewhere and in which no position is filled should someone go.
Reminds me of Engels’s observation almost 160 years ago, in 1842:
England is by nature a poor country which, apart from its geographical position, her iron and coal mines and some lush pasture-land, has no fertility or other natural riches (MECW 2: 371).
The iron and coal mines are pretty much closed, and the last vestige of the fertility of ideas is draining away. As someone put it, during the time of the empire the ruling class perfected the art of fucking up a whole spate of other cultures and societies, so it was only a matter of time before that class, with no-one else to do over, turned in on England itself – like a parasite that runs out of hosts and begins feeding on itself.
7 December, 2010
This question has almightily puzzled me for many a long year and it is always enhanced when I visit that strange little country. Don’t get me wrong; I have for some strange reason an increasing number of English friends whom I love dearly, but in this case the parts are definitely more appealing than the whole. Most recently, it came up once again with the snow that has fallen there. A few snowflakes appear and the roads are closed, trains cease running, airports come to a standstill, people can hardly get to work, the government ponders an inquiry into dealing with that fluffy white stuff … WTF! In Oslo, I left in early November during a snowstorm. No worries: snow ploughs were out, planes were de-iced, runways cleared, winter tyres were on, cross-country skis came out, people enjoyed a crisp turn – in short, life went on as normal. So too in Canada when I was there a couple of decades ago. But England; no, complete chaos with the hint of cold weather and a little snow. So did they ever manage to run an empire?
11 October, 2010
What makes a place sensual? Is it topless bars or erotic dancing? Is it a dubious reputation, like Paris or Rio? Is it golden sunsets, beaches and fine wine – the sort you see only on tourist advertisements? Is it, as Annie Sprinkle once opined concerning porn and erotica, the whole chicken or a feather?
For me the criteria are very subtle, concerned above all the carriage of the body. Learned through a long, supple and largely sub-conscious apprenticeship by children and teenagers, the way we carry your body involves posture, shape and movement. For example, it concerns the way one stands, turns or tilts one’s head, holds one’s shoulders just so, positions one’s body in relation to others, interacts on the street, uses eyes and mouth, or moves one’s hands – in short, the way we are present in and with our bodies.
Reading such bodies requires a little intuition and much patience, but it’s deeply satisfying. So what are the most sensual places on earth?
Top of the list must be Ukraine. Ukraine!? Through a mix of fortunate genetics and excellent upbringing, Ukrainian women and men would have to be among the most sensuous on the planet. The way they amble among a crowd, the unconscious ability to move a thigh or slide perfectly shaped buttocks in a long stride is simply amazing. As is the turn-and-look movement while talking, the carriage of the head and the inquisitive eyes.
Russia is comparable to Ukraine, since they were part of the same country for many years, but some subtle differences soon show up. Ukrainians are more up front in their assessment of you, but not Russians, at least the ones I have met. Walk down a street and none of the Russian beauties looks at you. Or at least it seems as though they don’t look at you. No matter how surreptitiously you try to glance at someone passing, you never catch any one so much as flicking a look in your direction. And yet you get the distinct feeling that you are constantly being checked, surveyed, and assessed in the most sensuous manner possible.
Serbia wins a spot here since it is the historical point where many ethnic groups have fought, razed the city and then rebuilt. The result is a mongrel people, and mongrels are by far the strongest, healthiest and have the most positive outlook on life. As a result, Belgrade women have the smoothest, olive skin, taking every opportunity to show off as much of it as they can (at least in summer), long dark hair, lithe flowing bodies and the challenge of a direct and sustained look.
I can’t leave Denmark off the list, especially Copenhagen. The key here is the blending of bicycles and people. Flowing hair, long thighs descending into high-heeled boots, baskets overflowing with beer or bread or clothes, all moving in a slow, sensuous rhythm along every city street.
Greenland: an unexpected entry on this list, but Greenlandic people are stunning. Meet a tall, well-endowed Greenlander on the street, with jet-black hair and the tough eyes of one who has seen far more than you will ever hope to see, and you will be smitten.
Last for now is China, although this is a very subtle one. Initially I simply didn’t get it: Chinese people in China were, it seemed to me, as missing in sensuality as the many I had met in Australia. The men wore their pants impossibly high (amazingly avoiding the squeak I constantly expected) and the women were reserved, if not withdrawn. But then, after some time in China, the subtlety began to dawn on me: a fold of clothing at a metro stop, a surreptitious glance on the street, a careful move of a hip.
I can’t leave this discussion without pondering the most un-sensual places on earth.
USA: sorry, but you just don’t have it. Brash and awkward and botox ain’t sensual.
England: ditto, but worse. Everything doesn’t work here – posture, movement, carriage. A turn-off.
Germany: Big, clumsy and rough. For some, that may mean sensual, but not for me.
Latvia: curious one here, since the military-like precision of their manner may do it for some. Not me.
Norway: sorry about this Norway, but you are slick, glossy and a little obscene. Too much money and simply no sensuality; even in high-heels, you look awkward and ungainly. Go to Ukraine to find out how to do it. And running or riding about town in yet another expensive sports outfit is not sexy.
France gets a thumbs-down as well. I know many will be surprised at this, but France is just too self-absorbed, too convinced of its own sensuality that it’s like one great wank. Not much fun for anyone else.