Perspective from Oxford (1)
I’ll be posting some comments and observations occasionally while teaching in the GT Oxford program. I’m in England with 160 Tech students (including Ian Yamomoto and Graham Goldberg from PUBP), teaching “Government of the US” (and UK) and “Science, Technology, and Human Values,” enjoying the cool English summer, and not enjoying the hordes of tourists that coach over from London for a day-trip escape.
After a few days of settling in and beginning courses, it’s time to reconnect to the world at home. Watching American politics from England is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Events that once loomed large — the debt ceiling debate, the squabbles among the commentariat, the bland predictability of the television news, and the joy of Jon Stewart — are visible but remote. (In the case of The Daily Show, because Channel Four here has stopped carrying it online, and Viacom blocks it from England [but not, as I found earlier this year, from New Zealand, so, as they say, WTF?])
In some ways it’s reassuring, as schadenfreude, to see that the Brits have their own teacup tempests. In some cases, actually, not teacup-sized, as in the phone-hacking story that may be to the case of a murdered 13-year-old here what the Casey Anthony trial was in the US — or perhaps, eventually, Watergate. Regarding the murder case, it’s interesting that what has been lead-story “news” (actually, titillation) for weeks in the US doesn’t merit even a back-page mention over here. Probably says much about our distinct political cultures.
There were some major work stoppages here last week just before we arrived, largely over pension issues related to the drastic austerity regime that the Tory/LibDem coalition has created, and we won’t be surprised to find out during our stay that the Tech delegation is being horribly inconvenienced by a uniquely European phenomenon. How bad would things need to get in the US before masses took to the streets in protest to a public policy decision? I’m not sure the Glen Beck “I have a dream, too” re-enactment last year was protest as much as political theatre. In any case, the Jackets here would learn something about different versions of political voice.