Monday, February 14, 2005

Culture of Failure

Apparently a C4 exec's comments regarding Scotland are causing a bit of an uproar:

Scots, once regarded as the most innovative risk-takers in the world, have become an unimaginative, inward-looking people who like to celebrate failure and poverty, according to one of the country's leading broadcasters and cultural commentators.
In a controversial address to be delivered as part of the prestigious Edinburgh Lecture series, Stuart Cosgrove, Director of Nations and Regions at Channel 4, will condemn what he describes as the Scots' 'love and indulgence of the culture of poverty' which, he says, has become deeply embedded in the nation's collective psyche.

This story is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, I don't think Cosgrove is wrong, but this phenomenon is certainly not limited to Scotland. I see it in all of the UK and Ireland. They are obsessed with national failure and wallow in misery when the opportunity presents itself. Why do you think the English love Tim Henman? When Ellen MacArthur recently completed the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe by sail, did the country rejoice? No, there were stories about how she had complained too much during the trip and how it wasn't really possible to love her. As for Scotland and Ireland, there is certainly a lack of dimensionality in current arts and entertainment depicting these countries. For Scotland it's the Trainspotting effect I suppose. For Ireland, Angela's Ashes and a slew of others. There is a demand for these depictions, to be sure; Americans, for example, love their romantic image of dirt-poor, lousy Ireland.

The second interesting thing about this story relates not to the subject matter itself, but to the way the story is presented. In fact, this is typical of British newspapers. They have either an exclusive interview or a guest editorial in their comment/op-ed section, and then they run a front-page article about how said commentary is so controversial, as if that were hard news. Can you imagine the New York Times running a front-page article proclaiming "Krugman Criticizes Social Security Plan"?

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