Thursday, 7 February 2008

Super Tuesday vs. London


I sometimes worry about whether the internet is really a good idea or not, but I never have those worries while I'm using it to listen to the BBC. Funny that.

Anyway, part of the fun of living in Japan is being able to listen to all the weird and wonderful nonsense that's on at 3am GMT while I'm having lunch; at the moment, for instance, I'm being filled in on the ins-and-outs of gyroscopic effects within cars and the life span of lead-acid batteries by a radio-phone in on Radio 5 live. (Apparently, our battery technology "still sucks". I know. I'm concerned too.)

Last night though, I was able to listen live to all the Super Tuesday results as they came in, with a whole host of illustrious analysts and experts commenting on it. Interesting stuff. I hate all that "leader of the free world" guff that always gets trotted out when American democracy comes under discussion, but the system certainly is more 'democratic' than the British one in that we don't get the chance to have anything other than a very indirect say in who will be our prime minister. Then again, I'm not sure that's a disadvantage; voting directly for an individual might just mean that the richest and/or most charismatic person becomes president, which isn't necessarily conducive for good policy.

One of Jeremy Vine's questions to his listeners yesterday was why Super Tuesday is such big news in the UK when a London Mayoral election is coming up soon; shouldn't the latter be occupying more news space? There was almost a tone of peevishness in his voice. Well, the answer, for me personally, is that I don't give a shit what happens in London because I've never lived there and hate the place, whereas who becomes president of the US is of at least some importance in my life. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of British democracy, one thing I can say is that a major disadvantage to life in the UK is that London is so dominant a media and cultural centre that Londoners seem to look on the rest of the country as an extension of its suburbs; they find it difficult to comprehend that somebody living in, say, Manchester, has as much interest in the London Mayoral election as they do in the life span of lead-acid batteries.

But the President of the US can start a nuclear war if he wants to. That means I have at least some level of vested interest in who he (or she) is.

5 comments:

zero_zero_one said...

Well, of course, Jeremy Vine was talking to the 95% of his audience who live in London - most of the rest of the UK still makes do with pigeons and smoke signals for mass media, and stands around the upright every evening to sing some songs...

Being in London for a couple of hours the other day reminded me why I like to visit London but would never want to live there.

Bilbo said...

Your point is well-taken. Agnes always grouses that here in America we hear very little news about Germany, while in Germany there's a great deal about America on all the newscasts. One of the problems we here in the States have is that there's little attention paid to other places around the world which have a great potential impact on us. Twenty years ago, most Americans couldn't find Iraq on a map, much less know it was a country and not the same country as Iran. Oh, well. I've visited London and found it fascinating in a touristy, history-loving way, but I'd sure hate to live there.

mattiecore said...

To elaborate on what bilbo said:

A significant percentage of Americans still can't find Iraq on a map. Hell, some of them couldn't tell you who the current president is, a fact I verified for myself. In my high school American government class (some 5 years ago), we were given the assignment of finding someone in the hall that couldn't name the president. I was successful as of the 6th person.

I hate the "leader of the free world" talk.

I'd actually be really interested to learn about the life-spane of lead-acid batteries...

Caffeinated Librarian said...

Your description of London reminds me of a lot of what I hear out of New York, must be a big city thing.

I spend a good bit of time listening to the BBC at night (when it's carried on my local NPR station) and at work and I've been surprised by the amount of coverage of the US political process. Maybe I'm naive, but I didn't expect other countries to care that much this early in the game.

noisms said...

We care about it because it's so important. No matter how much Europe wishes it alone was important, the fact is that the President of the US is still probably the most powerful and influential person on earth. We'll all be affected by his or her decisions.