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English self-deprecation - click opera
February 2010
 
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Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:11 am
English self-deprecation

Poll #584989 English Self-Deprecation

An Englishman says "I'm a bit crap at that." He really means:

That's a bit crap, and I'm too good for it.
23(11.9%)
Love me for who I am, not what I do.
28(14.4%)
I don't intend to learn, compete, or improve.
69(35.6%)
I leave that sort of thing to women and foreigners.
33(17.0%)
I will have mastered that skill by 6am tomorrow.
41(21.1%)




In Venice I interviewed a highly successful illustrator. He also happened to be an Englishman. In the course of our interview he told me three highly self-deprecating things:

1. His life wasn't glamourous at all.
2. He couldn't draw.
3. He understood nothing about the world.

But when I actually went back and listened more carefully, I realised that his self-deprecation concealed some rather different messages:

1. His life wasn't glamourous. He ought to be paid more to appear at conferences, stay in the best hotels, and fly first class.
2. He couldn't draw. His brain moved so quickly that his hand couldn't keep up with the stream of ideas.
3. He didn't understand the world. The world had gone mad.

I did a Google search on "English self-deprecation".

First of all I found Minette Marin saying (in the Daily Telegraph, in 1999):

"To me, as an American on my father's side, one of the most unattractive aspects of Englishness has always been false modesty. It's called self-deprecation, but springs from a deep sense of superiority (not unjustified, and all the more annoying for that) and it was traditionally both a ruse to placate inferiors and a game to tease equals - a national form of self-aggrandisement and exclusion. These days the self-deprecation with which the English accept their marginalisation in their own country may not be quite in the grand old English manner. But it is deeply insincere for all that. Those contemporary English liberals and intellectuals who cry stinking fish in their own backyard, and celebrate every ethnic identity but their own, do so out of the same deep sense of superiority as their forebears, but it is today a superiority which they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge to themselves; that would be racism, and indeed it is. And that is why the hypocrisy of English self-deprecation is greater than ever before, and why it is accompanied by a new bad faith and a new subliminal guilt. It is dishonest and patronising; respect to others depends on truth to oneself. I believe it may be this which has distorted contemporary discussions of ethnicity, race and identity. It is understandable that these questions should provoke so much anxiety and confusion; they are painful and intractable subjects. But no good purpose can be served by dangerous and dishonest self-deprecation, which others will take only too literally, with disastrous results; that is one aspect of Englishness, at least, that the English must renounce, at the end of the 20th century."

This is clearly an attack on self-deprecation from the right, a call for the masters to remain masters and to rule unashamedly, rather than cede, be marginalised in their own homeland (presumably by Johnny Foreigner), or celebrate the Other.

This relationship between self-deprecation and appreciation of the Other appeared in the next thing I looked at, a piece about travel journalism by Elaine Wolff. She compares Joseph Rosendo, American producer and host of Travelscope, with Cash Peters, a British travel journalist:

"There's a little Marco Polo in all of us, and [American] Rosendo views his programs and eponymous publication as a way to encourage conscientous travel. "Try to impact the destination as little as possible," he says. "Try to get into where these people are coming from; try to mirror them instead of imposing your views of what this society should be like on them."

"Oh, my gosh. I wish I were so virtuous," [Englishman] Cash Peters says, laughing, in the heavy English accent (Ringo Starr-like in its heavy nasality and muddled vowels) familiar to fans of NPR's Marketplace and the Savvy Traveler. While filming his new Travel Channel series, Stranded with Cash Peters, the host spent time tempting the confirmed Luddites of the South Pacific's Tanna Island with radio and other wonders of Western civilization. "I tried several times: 'Wouldn't you just like to sit in a car?'" he recalls. "I couldn't understand why they wouldn't wear trousers. It really was the most phenomenal experience. There are people in the world that genuinely don't share your enthusiasm for progress."

"That charming English self-deprecation aside, Peters' curiosity about other people - about "the other" in all its forms - drives the show," Wolff assures us. But here Cash Peters' "self-deprecation" is in fact a statement that he refuses to meet 'the Other' on its own terms, and considers his own civilisation more advanced. In other words, he's using self-deprecation in quite the opposite way than the one described by Minette Marin, with the opposite result on his relationship with 'the Other'. She would presumably approve of his refusal to embrace Rosendo's wishy-washy left-wing relativism. Self-deprecation here is clearly a way of saying "I'm better, and I won't change". The statement "I wish I were so virtuous" actually means "I have no intention of being a Goody Twoshoes like Rosendo". Click radio buttons 1,3 and 4 above.

Next I found an interesting passage about D.H. Lawrence, an old hero of mine. Ryan McCarthy wrote:

"What runs through Lawrence's body of work like a vein of thought is his sense that England stands at the edge of demise. Scott's rhetorical question burns through him: "Breathes there a man with soul so dead?" Lawrence's perception drives him to answer in the affirmative, on behalf of every man in England — the land of the "darkness that doesn't speak" (II 250). He feels the "strange germ" (253) of the English way closing in around him. Yet he is undeniably an Englishman. Where does that place him among the sugar-sprinklers of complacency, those men he derides so vehemently? A better question might be to ask where it places us. This presents a complicated dilemma, since Lawrence's conclusions seem so sudden and arbitrary. In the case of "On Coming Home," his imagery brings us the scene. We are to imagine an "absentness," a "soft, vague . . . curious stillness" that makes everything seem "dead, muffled" (252). Lawrence compares the feeling to that of being placed in the smallest of many boxes that fit inside each other-a "shut-in-edness" (253). Those of us who do not share Lawrence's acute power of perception gain its result when the language drives our minds to a claustrophobic state. What he hopes we see, despite the English ego that he observes, is a fear in his kinsmen, a sad way of self-deprecation. They are self-contained and self-protecting, and the land to which Scott refers becomes for the Englishmen a "crystal bubble" of isolation (252). Lawrence concludes "On Coming Home" condemning the half-hidden English self-deprecation, saying, "Men have no business on their knees"."

This made me think about another of my English heroes, David Bowie, and his relationship with self-deprecation. Listen to this short clip of a Bowie interview from the 70s, for instance, and then listen to comedian John Shuttleworth's put-down, and the audience's reaction:

David Bowie clip (mp3 file)

It seems that Bowie is being fairly realistic in his balanced self-assessment. "I'm not very reliable as an artist. Sometimes I'm bloody awful... and sometimes I'm incredible." So why does that make him "a pretentious git"? Is there a "fuck you" hidden in the too-easy confession of unreliability, as if he's dismissing reliability as boring and unartistic? There's certainly no earnest promise to improve the consistency of his quality control. This is an apology without an apology, like so much self-deprecation. But I suspect that if Bowie had limited his statement to the two negatives, the bits I think are most arrogant;

a) I'm not very reliable.
b) Sometimes I'm bloody awful.

nobody English would have complained. It's these bits they don't like:

c) I'm an artist.
d) Sometimes I'm incredible.

It's interesting that Bowie went to live in America shortly after giving this interview, and has never returned. Attitudes to self are very different in America. There, it's not only acceptable to hype and trumpet yourself, it's expected. People who don't do it are shooting themselves in the foot.

One thing I've noticed about my own life is that in England I "couldn't get ahead". To this day, when I get offers to write books, stage art shows, teach, write journalism and so on, they come from Japan and America, not Britain. It still rankles that I was never offered a Peel session when I was working in the UK—which meant that I basically couldn't get onto the map of indie there, let alone the map of the mainstream—while someone like Dave Gedge seemed to live at Maida Vale, his life an endless BBC session. What did Dave Gedge have that I didn't? Talent... or self-deprecation?

I look up Amazon customer reviews for Gedge compilations and there, sure enough, the term is quick to appear. Twice in the same paragraph, in fact:

"David Gedge writes romantic songs. Not Barry-White-silk-sheets romantic, nor Jacques-Brel-gauloise romantic, and definitely not boy-band-xmas-single romantic. Gedge's songs are a kind of realistic romanticism - he can turn a one-night stand into a self-deprecating tale of regret and recrimination (Interstate 5), he can capture that story of a relationship which never really takes off, but does just enough to survive until someone calls time (I'm from Further North than You). He has a very English self-deprecation (even though many of the tracks on this album are tales from America, where it was recorded), and he is fascinated with the mundane but telling exchanges which more often mark a relationship than the big bust-ups and make-ups."

The most self-deprecating blogger I know—and someone who did, I believe, play a Peel session—is Rhodri Marsden. rhodri and I read each other's blogs with a sort of fascinated horror. We've agreed to incarnate each other's utter opposites, although we share some readers who somehow find it in themselves to love us both. As Rhodri's hilarious anecdotes of self-deprecation (tales of how he was beaten up by little girls at Piccadilly Circus tube station and so on) accumulated, I formed a picture in my mind of someone as ineffectual as his LJ icon, a plump, balding clown holding up a placard that says "I give up!" But when I finally met Rhodri, at a gig we played together at Bush Hall, I found him rather brusque and burly, a bit of a bruiser. He gave me the lion's share of the concert fees, but seemed curiously keen that his act rather than mine should top the bill. Rhodri had a bit of a secret rock star ego, and having a rock star ego, it seemed, was far from incompatible with telling humiliating stories about yourself.

I wondered if my "couldn't get ahead" problem with England was due to the fact that I don't do this self-deprecation thing. Am I a boast? To find out, I went back to my very first UK music press interviews. What kind of impression had I made on the writers?

The adjective used most frequently about me is "quiet". Others are well-spoken, nervous, earnest, enthusiastic, optimistic, modest. I'm described as "talking with the slightly gauche, self-mocking air of the academic, quoting proudly, fidgeting constantly". I seem ill-at-ease with the idea of being interviewed at all: "'The language one explains things in is disgusting,' he spits. 'It's self-indulgence.'" Re-reading those interviews, I can see quite clearly why I failed in Britain. It's because (like everybody in my family) I'm a teacher. Britain has always underpaid teachers.

Well, since I'm really an academic, perhaps it's appropriate that my final stop on the journey towards understanding the enigma of self-deprecation should be a piece of research into Cultural Psychology, Beyond Self-Presentation: Evidence for Self-Criticism Among Japanese by Heine, Takata and Lehman. They report their finding that "whereas Canadians were reluctant to conclude that they had performed worse than their average classmate, Japanese were hesitant to conclude that they had performed better... The present findings are important because past self-enhancement studies were conducted via questionnaire, and the possibility remained that the greater self-enhancement exhibited by North Americans was due to false bravado, and, likewise, the greater self-criticism exhibited by Japanese was owing to feigned modesty... This study provides further evidence that Japanese tend to search for their weaknesses and shortcomings in an apparent effort to correct them. Self-enhancing motivations, routinely found within North American research, are elusive within a Japanese context. In contrast to motivations to find out what is good about themselves, Japanese appear more motivated to discover where they are not doing good enough. This cultural practice of self-criticism appears to serve Japanese in their quest to achieve connection and interpersonal harmony with others."

So next time you hear an English person doing the self-deprecation thing, ask yourself whether he's "searching for weaknesses and shortcomings in an apparent effort to correct them"... or doing that weirdly static, invertedly arrogant thing: boasting about inadequacies. If he's a potential lover or husband, remember that his winning annoucement that he's "a bit crap in bed, actually" means that you may never have another orgasm during intercourse, and that he won't be taking notes when you try to tell him how.

66CommentReplyShare

mo_no_chrome
mo_no_chrome
mo_no_chrome
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:39 am (UTC)

Does this work on an assumption that an admission of weakness should also go hand in hand with a promise of effort to correct that weakness? After all, given lifespan there are many areas in which one might want to improve (that is, one doesn't devalue the skill in question) but it has to be deprioritised (if you'll excuse the managerial vocabulary).

Is it even possible to make a truly self-deprecatory statement, or is the very form always a veiled boast? If one were truly humble, after all, one might not draw attention to oneself in such a way - in the same sense as Borges story in which Judas is the true Jesus, having taken on the heavier task (of course, it might be a question of practical importance in which an admission would be necessary - 'I'm a bit crap at making seatbelts, actually').
So in that sense, at least in some cases, the boast is inherent in the form because it makes a virtue of necessity. I may not be happy that I actually am crap at X, something which I value but which I truly believe I'm incompetent at, either because I have other priorities, or (the more interesting possibility) because I know so much about X that I understand my own limitations much better than someone who knows less; but given the fact that I am, what are my possibilities?

Boasting is rarely endearing, but given the choice I'd prefer mine veiled rather than open. But perhaps that's another manifestation of an English-originating concept of 'tastefulness' as opposed to 'vulgarity'.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:48 am (UTC)

Some excellent points there. And the makings of a nice joke:

An Englishman boards an English Airways jet, and buckles himself in. They take off, and the Captain comes on the PA. "Good afternoon, I'm your captain," he says, "and I'm a bit crap at flying, actually." Then the hostess comes down the aisle with snacks and drinks. "Do you want the ham or the cheese sandwich? They both a bit crap, to be honest," she says. The American sitting next to the Englishman leans over and says "The service on this plane is terrible, why don't you complain?" "Oh, I'm a bit crap at complaining," says the Englishman.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:40 am (UTC)

"Peters' curiosity about other people.."
Should be "Peters's..".


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 08:03 am (UTC)

I'm a bit crap at grammar. So I'm going to ignore your correction.


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shadowblue
Mike
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:50 am (UTC)

I might be reaching a bit, but I was earlier reading (and then listening, once I noticed the tiny audio file link) to Ambassador to the United States for Canada, Frank McKenna's, speech in Toronto from last week.

It seems, as the US becomes more and more self-absorbed, Canadian politicians and writers and citizens are realizing that we are really needing to realize how much we have right, instead of merely criticizing ourselves all over the place "in the grand old English manner."

It's an interesting listen for a Canadian in America, perhaps not so much for anyone without a bit of vested interest in Canada. Developing a national identity is like being an angsty teenager.

All that aside, it really seems that Angrael is turning into a great celebration of social stagnation and autoxenophobia (fear of others at home) and ... it's a bit sad. But hopefully it won't be too contagious.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 08:48 am (UTC)

Couldn't agree more, and as a psychiatric nurse I can't help thinking that the national tradition of 'doing ourselves down' has a large part to play in lowering self-esteem and fostering the kind of underachievement that can lead to if not a depressed state in the strictly clinical sense, certainly a sense of low key misery and ennui that precludes people from ever feeling fully fulfilled or satisfied.

I always think this self-deprecation thing is especially sad when its observed manifesting in children, who should be incredibly proud of their achievements and be able to take pleasure in what they can do. Sadly the evil demon flipside of 'self-deprecation' is 'being seen to be a dreadful show-off' - something which in Britain, it would appear, is seen as horribly crass and inappropriate and - dare I say it - a little bit 'too American'.


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nickink
nickink
Nick Ink
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:25 am (UTC)
Synchronicity II

In a bittersweet moment, my 2 year-old was joyously shouting out 'Look at me, daddy!' as I read your reply there. There's something so unspoilt and natural about that lookatmeness which somehow becomes undignified and shameful in later life.

I was also thinking about a discussion I had with 3 Korean colleagues today, about differences between (to over-generalise for a moment) the British (English?) and US mindset. I am now wondering whether I wasn't being inversely boastful when I attributed my compatriots tendency towards modesty to the very desire for social cohesion that Momus discusses above. I wanted it to be true, I suppose, as it's something I love about Korean society, but now I'm not so sure.


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grimgrim
grimgrim
Grimace (also Grymace or Grimache)
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:16 am (UTC)
A self-deprecator writes...

Oh, I don't know. Most people I know tell me I'm much too self-deprecatory which I honestly don't understand. I know what I'm good at, which is a few small, specialised areas to which I've given a lot of time developing my expertise -- and I am a meticulous judge of quality. If something isn't of truly excellent quality, then I will dismiss it in favour of something which is.

I'm bad at a few small things. I make a decent cup of tea, but I'm lost with the fruit teas and herbal infusions my partner and her friends seem to enjoy. Without milk even! With honey instead of sugar! I explain time and time again that the results will be some dreadful rainwater, yet still they insist, and yet again I end up tipping the things down the sink when they've left.

I can't judge the quality of them because I don't like them, and so I've no appreciation of what makes one better than some other. So I've no means of improving. Of course, I can improve by studying the feedback I'm given, but that is a pretty poor barometer compared to ones own innate sensibilities.

It sounds silly, doesn't it? - but I apply similar criteria to whatever task I'm undertaking.

"A bit crap in bed, actually?" -- well, far be it from me to blow my own trumpet, but...


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sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:23 am (UTC)

You're right about David Gedge's occupancy of the BBC studio in Maida Vale. There was a dark Stalinist period there where I had to keep loathing of the Wedding Present to myself. If asked, "Do you like them?" "Well, they're alright, I suppose..." Whereas I think reaction to your name would have elicited murmurings about suspicious cosmopolitan elements, whether they'd actually heard you or not. It was suspected that you might actually be capable of speaking in a foreign language and that you didn't spend your time riding around Britain in a transit eating Ginster's pasties between gigs. John Peel's style as a DJ was very much self-deprecating (surely that was part of the charm), although I'm not sure how much this may have prevented your recording a session for the show.

I'm not sure that Rhodri's decision to be the final act might in part be because English audiences generally expect an evening in a music venue to end with a band rather than a solo performer. The poor souls get confused if you depart from this tradition.


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rhodri
rhodri
Rhodri Marsden
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:39 am (UTC)

I'm not sure that Rhodri's decision to be the final act might in part be because English audiences generally expect an evening in a music venue to end with a band rather than a solo performer.

Nick knows this, of course, but my consideration for English audiences doesn't fit in with the "rock star ego" thing, ha.

What happened in the event, of course, was that Momus was great and went down really well, and then we went on and played a bit of a damp squib. But hey, who could have predicted that?


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kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:26 am (UTC)

Well, if the English didn't have self-deprecation, they'd be Americans, and constantly crowing and beating their chests in a rather unbecoming fashion, wouldn't they? Or at least being cloyingly, schmaltzily earnest like some self-help book for salesmen. They might even start talking about God at every possible opportunity. Instead of saying "oh, I'm not very good at that", they'd say "I'm not very good at that, but I'm striving to improve, so help me God". Which wouldn't be much of a step up.

Btw, I recently saw an article that tied into this distinction, claiming that the key difference between England and America is that England has eccentrics where America has exhibitionists.


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rhodri
rhodri
Rhodri Marsden
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:37 am (UTC)

The regular criticism levelled at anyone or anything English on this blog makes you think you're playing games with my head, but I'll take up the bait... in the form of disjointed thoughts because I'm not good enough to structure them properly...

– The notion that the English are inherently self-depracating just isn't true. Inner city pubs on Friday and Saturday nights are not full of people standing at the bar saying "no, after you, really, no, I was here first but you look thirstier than me." There is misguided, swaggering bravado everywhere you look. I imagine that the majority of English people that imomus comes into contact with are the well-read, polite, considerate minority.

– There was an interesting exchange the other day on a friend's blog about how she, as an American, was taught throughout school that their nation is the best in the world. Any lessons that we had concerning our own country tending to focus on the fact that we used to be the best in the world.

– Self depracation, to my mind, isn't inherently a bad thing. Unless it ends up screwing up your life. But I don't think that I'm self depracating on my blog; all I do is choose to make public various incidents which make me look stupid, or erroneous of judgement. We all have these moments. Suppressing them is perfectly normal, but it seems that telling people about them is disarming. That doesn't mean that I don't think that I'm a great musician, or a great writer; I know that my destiny is to blast my talentless scumbag rivals out of the water. But when I don't know what someone is talking about, I'll say so. When someone uses a word I don't understand the meaning of, I ask them. Although I'm loath to make this a trawl through my own personality – how un-English would that be? – I'd say that my close friends probably like me because I'm prepared to admit my failures. Last night I stood outside a venue in Kings Cross, telling one of my friends about the bizarre anxiety I'm going through at the moment, a constant feeling of fear. We laughed about it. I like that. And in turn I'd much rather hang out with people who take a moment to reveal their own inadequacies, or perhaps consider whether someone else might deserve something before they do.

I found him rather brusque and burly, a bit of a bruiser.

Sorry about that, Nick. Doesn't sound like me. The burly I can understand. The brusque I might put down to me actually being quite shy, and you being quite unapproachable. The bruiser... you make it sound like we stood backstage, having an intense exchange about who would headline, with you cowering in the corner as my chubby shadow fell menacingly across your eyepatch. Of course, what actually happened was that we had a polite email exchange in February, which ended:

R: If you're happy playing after us, and you want to, I'm absolutely fine with that. Just tell me.

M: Given all that you've said, I don't mind playing first, actually, so I get people's ears while they're still fresh.


– As to not getting ahead... the only people who do get ahead over here – and anywhere – are the pushy ones, the ones who are willing to barge their way through, to scam their way into opportunities. Perhaps you didn't make it over here because you were younger, you talked the talk, but you didn't have anything to back it up. Now, you've worn people down, you've assembed a big catalogue of great work, you're reaping the rewards. I think that's a far better way to achieve success, don't you?


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 09:52 am (UTC)

No, I'm sorry rhodri, from now on I'll always imagine you as a huge, hulking nightclub bouncer, glowering menacingly and wielding your "I Give Up" sign like a weapon ;-)


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)

chimneys make good flowerpots. you can't beat the view from the roof.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 11:23 am (UTC)

This post reminds me of Carrie from "The sex and the City". Of course, someone would have to replace the word "sex" with some other.

http://beautifulposes.blogspot.com


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)

Well, I am "the Carrie Bradshaw of postmodern sophistry" who (according to someone called Ben Platt, although someone might want to replace the word "platt" with some other) "attracts the imbeciles he deserves".

He who has never seen "The sex and the City" is condemned to repeat it, obviously.


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charleston
charleston
Bonham C
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 11:41 am (UTC)
poll

I would say it's a mixture of 2, 4 and 5. Check boxes?


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e4q
e4q
Elaine Axten
Wed, Oct. 12th, 2005 09:54 am (UTC)
Re: poll

yeah, the radio buttons don't allow you to check *all* (and more)


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23doves
23doves
23doves
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)

An incredibly interesting post, this one. I can't help but feel that David Gedge was something of a poor example, though. He stems from that bizarre period in British indie-pop history where bands wanted to be seen as "breaking down the barriers between themselves and the audience" (see also - Wonder Stuff, Carter USM, Senseless Things, etc). Therefore, ordinariness and self-deprecation were badges that were proudly worn as proof of authenticity. To me, this entire construct was always ridiculous - as soon as somebody steps on a stage to address an audience, they're automatically revealing that they suspect they are superior (in some way) to most (if not all) other people in the room. It's very difficult to honestly claim that you're "just like anyone else, really", because you're patently not living life in the same way. I'm sure even Gedge's life has little resemblance to that of a call centre worker. Being "down" with "kids" who actually openly worship you is a rather bizarre self-defeating approach, I feel.

I have to say, though, overall I agree with Rhodri. Most people in British workplaces do not get ahead through being self-deprecating- hard nosed self-promotion is the order of the day. Since when did the average wallflower get their work noticed?


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auto_appendix
Jason Weaver
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 03:23 pm (UTC)

Until you realise that bands are earning less than you and feel just like they're doing a job half the time. In fact many many people in bands also have a job AND play in bands just like the rest of us. I saw Broadcast last week and they made a heartfelt plea to the audience to buy CDs because they are broke and owe Warp a lot of money... They are, in fact, JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE.


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eclipsedeyes
eclipsedeyes
hurricane frances
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 12:29 pm (UTC)

i'm fairly sure this is something australians have in common with the brits..


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23doves
23doves
23doves
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 12:41 pm (UTC)

The Australians have a lot more personal confidence than the English, though, don't they? They're naturally more open, friendly, and certainly (in my experience) aren't shy about being proud of their country's advantages and achievements, which an English person would hardly ever do.

Or maybe I've always been getting the wrong end of the stick...


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henryperri
henryperri
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 12:46 pm (UTC)

The Brits fairly recent shame regarding their imperialist history has led to a distrust of intellect and to the rise of relativism--which says that non-Western cultures and peoples are equal, if not superior.

Artists, more than anyone, have adopted this mode of thought. Being thoughtful looks bad if you're an artist. It reveals the possibility that you've made a conscious effort to craft a certain image. You threaten to lose your authenticity. Rock stars have been playing the idiot savante and loading themselves up with drugs since the 60s in an attempt to shed any appearance of self-consciousness behavior (i.e. Pete Doherty).

When that illustrator made all those disclaimers, he obviously wasn't being sincere, he was just following in the tradition laid out by the artists before him.


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silenceinspades
silenceinspades
silence in spades
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)

i was going to reply to this but realized after reading the other comments that i'm slightly out of my intellectual league, being a middle class, white, american male.

i currently live in new jersey, a place i just realized is filled with people that are self depracating about their living situation. being in the shadow of nyc, new jersey is considered by it's residents as 'a good place to leave.' i think that might actually be written on the state crest. just yesterday i heard an old woman, who has lived here for 30 years say, 'nothing is going to be able to fix new jersey... well, except mabye napalm.'

i believe this attitude comes from the basic idea that new york is considered both a horrible and wonderful place. people here in jersey think new yorkers are pretentious snobs that look down at them or they see new york as a frightening place. they feel the need to put themselves down before the snobs do it for them.


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fireflesh
fireflesh
fireflesh
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 04:09 pm (UTC)

New Jersey, Florida and L.A. seem to be the most-hated parts of our country.


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC)

so not much going on in venice then? england is obviously repeating on you. i'm currently learning greek. i would never praise a place without learning the language first.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)

I'm back in Berlin now!


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC)

What about those academics? Can you call them pretentious?

Pretentious people are unpopular in sweden. They merely disappeared in the 90th's. Now people have no taste. Instead they are very much self-deprecating each other. I do it to. But only to my self, and yesterday during a photo session I was eager to make a photo of mine perfect. So i simply asked my teacher over and over. Because I am somewhat bad at telling whats missing in a black'n'white picture. Something I need to get better at.

Oh, let us talk about teachers. I would like to be one. But they are underpaid here.

Could it be connected to the disapperance of the pretentious people?

Gaaah, I guess I'm OVER....


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
Americans

WE'RE THE BEST, OH YEAHHHH


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
Our friends will sympathise with anything but...

I think the worst way in which this English attitude manifests itself is in the way people actually think it's a good thing that their friends don't let them 'get ideas above their station', but help them 'keep their feet on the ground', in other words trample all over their aspirations. That's what friends are for.

Unfortunately, I'm hopelessly English. It hurts.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Our friends will sympathise with anything but...

Thank goodness David "Dave" Bowie didn't have any friends in the 70s! Otherwise we might have seen a succession of albums called things like "Domestic Dogs", "Young British People", "Paddington Station", "Lowish", "Blokes" and "Roger".


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w_e_quimby
w_e_quimby
hobbes
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)

Momus QUIET? Funny, I've always had the immanent impression that in person, Momus would be quite talkative and lively. It might be the bright colours that he always wears.


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w_e_quimby
w_e_quimby
hobbes
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)

Also, I've wondered vaguely if the fact that someone else deigns to mock you is a sort of an inverse/perverse compliment to you..


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intergalactim
intergalactim
intergalactim
Fri, Oct. 7th, 2005 11:34 pm (UTC)
off topic, sorry

i wish the photos were better,

http://cgi.ebay.com/1809-CABINET-OF-MOMUS-A-CHOICE-SELECTION-HUMOROUS-POEMS_W0QQitemZ6567365344QQcategoryZ29223QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem#ebayphotohosting


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 8th, 2005 11:24 am (UTC)

What about John Peel's self-deprecation?


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heyfatass
heyfatass
Professional Winner
Sat, Oct. 8th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC)

My favorite thing about Lawrence is actually his English indignation, for who else could coin the term "censor-moron"?


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concrete_tiger
take things apart to see how they work
Sat, Oct. 8th, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC)

I have a fuzzy memory of part of a speech Tony Blair made a couple of years ago, from a segment aired on a U.S. cable news network, probably MSNBC. Blair appealed to the British through evocation of a glorious past that goes back some 600 years. It was as if to say British ought to feel good about themselves because Britain used to be great. Not that Britain is great, or will be great again, but rather that Britain retains some measure of greatness because Britain was on top of the world a long, long time ago. Perhaps this English self-deprecation is a another phase of the same phenomenon.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC)
ENGLISH SELF-DEPRECATION

Re the last paragraph: definitely the former.
You failed in Britain? Everyone I told that we'd met in Venice and what great company you were gasped and said 'Momus? You met Momus! He's wonderful' This is not failure. I thought this may be Scottish disingenuousness. I googled it and got 755. English self-deprecation, however, gets 74,200.
Well done, I think.
Paul.


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