On a recent trip through Oxford, I gazed unwittingly upon a sight that perhaps speaks far more profoundly than it intends – a former pub with the golden arches logo of McDonalds hanging from its erstwhile sign.
In a nation where everything American, from Super Tuesday to Black Friday, is obsessed over or imported, such a display of accidental symbolism is unlikely to cause much alarm.
We’ve been lapping up the cultural product of the United States here since the early 20th century, but in the age of the internet, the differences that both countries have always celebrated – well beyond the way we pronounce ‘zebra’ – are starting to wane. And we’ll all be much poorer for it.
Britain is certainly not alone when it comes to being swept in this wave of American cultural influence, and by no means is this objectionable in its entirety – they did give us The Simpsons, after all.
But there is certainly something far more deep-rooted in this desire to ape our friends ‘across the pond’. It seems driven by a desire to consolidate our position as the world’s former pre-eminent superpower by being subsumed the current one, and to further big business interests by annexing Britain into the wildly profitable American consumer base.
This bizarre mentality is no more obvious than in the current EU referendum debate, where both sides discuss the matter of ‘trading with Europe’ as if the British isles is located just off the continental Americas, and not 20 miles from the coast of France. It all serves as little more than a strange self denial of our own geography, remarked upon succinctly by Iowa-born Bill Bryson in Notes From A Small Island twenty years ago, and is the type of thinking that saw our own GCHQ spying on our continental allies on behalf of the NSA.
By losing our sense of self, we seem to be heading towards a fruitless goal of becoming a second-rate America. Britain should celebrate being Britain, a nation of rich history, pragmatic people, and an unrivalled sense of humour. And, by the same token, it should let America revel in its many merits.
But please, don’t force us into asking for a McPloughman’s.
Words by Benedict Tetzlaff – Deas