Mittwoch, 23. Februar 2011

The Travelogue, Part II - England: Proud Eccentrics

National Value Eccentricity 
- or be anything but boring

"Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character had abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and courage which it contained."
- John Stuart Mill

One thing I love about England is that it values being different. Being a freak is seen as a sign of having a rich and interesting personality. Whereas in Germany you'd better not stand out too much, over here a modicum of weirdness is almost required to be considered a normal person. This eccentricity will take various forms, from trendy Shoreditch hipsters and tacky hen night girls to trainspotters; everyone here seems to have their little perks they carry outward.
There's a whole set of famous eccentrics that are well loved and often referenced. Take the example of Jeremy Bentham, founding father of the philosophical school of Utilitarianism, who had his corpse preserved for display at the University College of London. For anniversary college council meetings he is marked in protocol as 'present, but not voting'. Or how about the 5th Duke of Portland, who disliked the company of other humans so much he created an 12 acre underground complex to live in – painted entirely in pink. For more recent specimen, scout for some Adam Ant, Russell Brand or John McCririck.
I also assure you that the most competitions of bizarre nature take place in Britain. Want examples?

How about Conkers Championships

 Chap Olympics?

Or maybe the Gurning Competition?


If you now find yourself wanting explanation for all this, I have heard many theories about why the English are just more weird than other peoples. One of my (British) friends argues that because the English are not particularly good looking, they have to carry their personalities outward just a notch more. My french flatmate argued it stems from the the persistent reluctance to get invaded by culturally superior people. An article I once read suggested that Britain's rapid colonisation of the world and ensuing influx of money and cultural multitude allowed the British gentry to be carefree and extravagant.

I'd personally like to think that it's not its territorial expansion as an Empire, but simply this acceptance (or even encouragement) of quirky characters that has made British music, fashion, art and humour world famous.

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