This article is a spoof on a terribly poor piece of journalism published by the Daily Telegraph here
London notebook: Vomit, bare feet and cosmetic dentistry – there’s a side to England you don’t often hear about.
It wasn’t even 9pm and already the crowd had given itself to wild abandon. Slaloming through the patches of vomit all over the pavement, pasty chubby girls in mini skirts clutched their high heels as they walked barefoot, struggling not to get groped by an endless stream of drunken men offering to take them home.
Having spent up to three hours working on their makeup – in addition to hours of tanning salon for the elite and a dozen showers of spray tan for the working class – the ladies strived to maintain a noble figure, as the humidity in the overcrowded pubs inevitably lead to excessive sweating.
But when they’re not able to beat the heat, the girls of London make up for it by showing off their legs and cleavage. In the upper echelons of British society, the most important thing is to see and be seen. Which reminded me of home because that’s also the way it is in the upper echelons of Lebanese society. And then it hit me that it’s actually the case in the upper echelons of pretty much every country in the world, which made me realize how dumb the point I was trying to make was.
Beauty is paramount: newly designed and whitened teeth gleam on British Instagram accounts. Having grown tired of the Brits’ bad dental reputation around the world, the elite of London have taken it upon itself to never save a penny until their smiles were California-perfect. And together, they throw parties worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is also what pretty much all super rich people around the world do.
It is a lifestyle that few can realistically afford. So they rely on credit. It is said that most of the country’s big spenders sustain their lifestyles using bank loans they cannot obviously repay. But don’t ask me who told me that because I don’t really know, although I know it sounds stupid. But hey, that’s what I heard somewhere and well, I guess it could make sense if we explained that phenomenon by linking it to a major need to overcompensate the harsh times the Brits had to go through during World War I and World War II. By taking bank loans and buying cars and houses, they show the world that they have finally moved on.
(My room mate Betsy just told me that pretty much half of the world’s population lives on bank loans they cannot repay, but I don’t care. It’s MY article and fuck Betsy.)
Scratch below the surface, and it is clear that the gaping social wounds caused by centuries of colonisation and imperialism are far from resolved. In English classrooms, I don’t really know what happens because I’ve never been to one. However, I’m pretty sure that teachers manage to find ways to justify the Empire’s ruthless dominance, subordination and slavery over African and Eastern countries, and English kids grow up thinking everything happened for a good cause.
Society remains divided. Most Brits put origin before country. London is a patchwork of separate cantons (in white Chelsea, the men wear polos, while 15 minutes tube ride west, in the mostly Pakistani district of Newham, the prevailing fashion is the long beard and the turban.)
The communities rarely interact. Rushing through the city’s Irish quarter one night, on my way to the chic Kensington, I was stopped by an elderly redhead who warned me not to go on. “There are too many foockin Brits there,” he cautioned.
With the government thriving to impose a one dimensional version of past events, most children who are too smart to buy it (and who have internet access) turn to their relatives for information about the momentous and ruthless history of this country. But in so doing, they mostly hear a one-sided version.
The “us” and “them” of colonisation and immigration transfers to the next generation, and empathy, so critical for the fostering of true and lasting peace, falls by the wayside. (I’m very proud of that previous poetic sentence. Take that Betsy!)
A British businessman told me recently how he struggled to persuade a Lebanese colleague to come to London. For years she refused to visit, until it became a necessity for her work.
Convinced she was flying into a land of raves, techno and date rape drugs, her hands shook with fear as she checked in at the Rafic Hariri International Airport. On the plane she broke into floods of tears. And I’m hoping my Lebanese readers will start crying here too.
England’s vital signs – fish and chips, royal weddings and football – often yield news headlines that predict a country where everything is seemingly great. But the country has proven supremely more fucked up, and it remains, for the most part, a pretty racist place to be.
Sure, there’s 24/7 electricity and the summers are practically inexistant because of the shitty weather. But rather than hiding from daily unexpected showers and bumping into streetlights because of the fog, the biggest risk to non-white foreigners in England is to be a victim of prejudice, exoticism and xenophobia.
For now, sadly, even the royal family is moving out of Buckingham Palace for tax reasons. A royal guard, dressed in a red military suit and a funny black hat, gazes into the distance and cries a little at the idea of potential unemployment.
The businessman’s friend may well have been the last customer at Burger King Soho this afternoon.