Sunday, June 27, 2010

20 June 2010 - London

I've never really understood royalty. For centuries people were oppressed by monarchies. This royalty stood in the way of progress. Yet many of today's most free democracies treat their royal families as divine leaders. Perhaps it is my American upbringing, but I will bow down to no person, especially if that person is in his or her position due to ancestry.

I have tried to understand the importance of royalty and have primarily heard two arguments. First, there is the rational, capitalistic reason that royal families bring in lots of tourist money. Next, there is the purely emotional argument--which I don't understand--that as my British friend so eloquently states, "I love the queen because she is my queen."

Today I tried to better understand this phenomenon by taking to the streets of London. I started with a walk to Buckingham Palace where thousands of tourists and some locals fought for the best spot to see the palace and the official band which was playing Abba's Dancing Queen. I wasn't as excited as the average onlooker. Perhaps I'm cynical, but I saw an obscenely large and gaudy house, flanked by old royal grounds financed by the sweat and the resources of serfs and colonies from around the world. It sure was great to oppress India so this family could have some gold cutlery and some more hunting ground.

After Buckingham, I headed towards 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister. I was excited to see this, but I firs passed by it, expecting more of a crowd. Instead, I proceeded on to a cavalry museum where hoards of tourists clamored to get their picture taken with a real live horse and soldier. Only after I realized my mistake did I notice the five or six people standing by the gate of Downing Street. Of this handful, only about three of us were tourists while the others were protesters. At least it showed some evidence of democracy. What happens if you protest about the queen?

I ended the day with no better idea on royalty than when I started. Fortunately, I have three months in this country to better understand. Britain, please be patient with me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1 June 2010

Roughly three years ago, my employer at the time sent a company wide email about the approaching summer. The company utilized the first half of the email to remind my fellow co-workers and I of the company dress policy which typically was abused in the summer. The second half of the email also served as a reminder, a reminder of the dangers of summer sports. I specifically remember one line which read, "...while soccer can be fun, it must always be played with caution and with a mouth guard."

This email made me livid as it represented what I hate about American culture: fear which causes people to become more and more closed to anyone or anything not certain. I quickly started to voice my displeasure with this email, but I was surprised to encounter much resistance. Apparently, most of my co-workers agreed with and appreciated the corporate communication. At that moment, I realized the prevalence of a disturbing new segment of the population, the 21st century parent.

The phenomena of the 21st century parent is highly correlated with the phenomena of a "soccer mom" except the 21CP is more extreme. While the soccer mom spends her days driving her kids from school to soccer practice and to all points in between, the 21CP will only permit her child to participate in these organized activities which she can control. Perhaps my childhood was a bit out-of-control, but I freely went hunting on private property, exploring in abandoned mines, and playing "unorganized" sports with whatever kid was at the park. The experience forced ingenuity and made me much more open to and comfortable with the world. Aligned with the thoughts of FDR, my only fear is that today's kids will grow up fearful of any activity not supervised by their parents.

Partly do to my aversion towards organized sports, I have not participated in any organized athletic activity (asides from being a spectator) since 2006. Just recently, however, I have decided to break this streak. No, I still hold a cavalier disregard towards marathons and will never run one again, but I have organized a soccer team which is playing its first game tomorrow.

My school is full of people from countries where soccer is king. After one year in the school, I realized it was more important to engage in the Spanish cultural phenomenon of football than to hold a grudge against sports. For this reason, I have composed a team of the worst futbolers in my school (sorry team). We have little or no experience and will be competing against the conditioned girls squad from my school. While I may be playing an organized game, you can be sure that I won't be wearing a mouth guard.