Tag Archives: Friends

“We care for our own kind.”

IsolationismWith a rise in nationalism worldwide, we have also seen a rise in isolationism from both the extreme right and extreme left. In my view, nationalism and isolationism are blood brothers, and will always go hand-in-hand. In fact, the only way in which an isolationist nationalist government would ever consider interacting with its neighbours would be either through coercion or full force of arms. This is the world that was seemingly far better known in a time now past, a time when it was far more likely for the likes of Germany, France, and Britain to go to war with each other rather than sit around the negotiating table and work out their differences peacefully. Today, in Western Europe and North America we have known this sort of negotiated peace since 1945. It is a peace that has led to my father and I never having had to go to war, unlike the generations before us.

While the political structure established in the wake of the Second World War and expanded with the fall of the communist states in Eastern Europe, has led to unforeseen stability, prosperity, and international goodwill amongst its participants, the trials of the 2000s and 2010s have shaken that stability to its core. From the War on Terror launched by the United States in response to the Attacks of September 11th to the Great Recession, faith in liberal democracy and in capitalism are at an all time low.

I can’t blame those who do not trust the current political and economic systems, after all at least economically capitalism is structured to benefit most those with the most capital, leaving the rest to try and catch up. But when catching up to the wealthy is increasingly nigh impossible, it is understandable that some would be left dissatisfied with the system.

There is one effect of all this pain and negativity being felt around the world that can only have disastrous consequences for us all. I was reminded recently of an old saying, “We take care of our own kind” that one might have heard in generations past. With this comes the idea that we should stick to the social, political, religious, and ethnic groups to which we belong, that I as a middle class Irish American Catholic Democrat should not have anything to do with anyone who is not like me.

This is isolationism in its purest form, isolationism not on a national level but on a local house-by-house level. It means that I should sever all ties with my best friends, who are from Bulgaria, Finland, Venezuela, and Ecuador. It means that my neighbourhood, which is pretty well mixed between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews ought to be sorted out, and that each of us be given our own couple of streets to live on. It means that as a Democrat I should stay as far away from any Republicans, and that we should keep to ourselves so as to ensure we do not step on each other’s toes and cause any trouble.

I’ll be frank; I can’t possibly do any of that. I respect, admire, and in a way love my friends too much to send them packing, and my neighbourhood is better off because of its religious diversity. Furthermore, having seen the divisiveness of the 2016 election, I know all to well that if we Democrats do not talk with our Republican relatives, friends, and neighbours that we will not be able to heal the wounds of division that have wrecked our country so horribly.

But considering those words, “We take care of our own kind,” I am left thinking even more; and you know what, I think I can actually agree with this. It’s best to only care for people like you; it’s best to only be friends with people like yourself. The most optimal way to live one’s life is to solely live it with likeminded people around. After all, that way there won’t be nearly as much conflict within social groups. So yes, I’ll take care of my own kind, after all I’m human, and it is my duty as a human to care for the rest of humanity.

Isolation, and its bedfellow nationalism, serve no real purpose, and in the end are self-cannibalising; because isolationists forget that we do share that one common bond, our humanity, through which we can never fully cast each other asunder. So, let’s take better care of each other and get over that idea that our differences are bigger than what brings us together.

Eschatology

Shoreditch, London – Well, the time has come. Just a wee bit less than a week ago I wrote about it being the dawn of the third week of my 2013 residency here in London, and the odd thing is that that little ferret called time just keeps slipping away. It’s like Tom and Jerry, no matter how far I chase after it, the mouse just slips from between my fingers.

Still, there are worse things in life, I mean it could really be the Eschaton, and then we’d all be in for it. But instead, it’s just the end of my time here in London with all these amazing new friends. And in some ways, it just doesn’t seem too terribly fair, more cruel in a way. To stick us all together for three weeks and then say, “Well, time’s up. Hope you all had a good time, and safe home.” It’s about as fair as the American education system is functional for setting up the next generation for a bright future (I’m looking at you, House Republicans…)

Of all the things that we have to go through in life, it’s the leave taking that’s the hardest for me. Perhaps that’s why I love history so much, and why I feel like my default grammatical tense is the past tense (yes, I’m a hopeless academic). Like one of my favourite fictional characters, the Doctor, I’m not very good at goodbyes. Still, sometimes they have to happen.

So, tonight is a farewell to all these new friends. True, we may have a reunion of sorts at some point, but at least for now it does seem quite terminal. Though at least we’re going out with a bang.

At 10.00, my friend Abby and I went to the British Library, which is near King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. There not only did we see the Magna Carta, but also handwritten notes of many great people, from Newton to John Lennon. There are some amazing works there, even an 11th Century copy (the oldest extant) of Beowulf, which thanks to a bit of study of Old English, I actually could read. One of the oldest manuscripts there was a Koine Greek codex edition of the Bible, which again thanks to Dr Stramara’s Intro to New Testament Greek, was also readable to my eye. However, sadly we couldn’t find the Babylonian cuineform copy of the Code of Hammurabi, which the Library does have in its collection, but wasn’t on display. To right this, both Abby and I got our very own British Library cards, but didn’t have enough time to use them. I was due at the British Museum, and she had business elsewhere to attend to as well.

I took the tube from King’s Cross to Holborn, and walked first to the O2 shop on High Holborn to sort out my mobile. It turns out that I actually bought the phone and the sim card, so they are now mine to keep. So, I guess I’ll just have two mobile numbers, one with a +1 and another with a +44 country codes.

After stopping off with my British telephone provider, don’t worry Dad I’m sticking with AT&T when in the States, I made the short walk through Bloomsbury, where someday I’d love to live, to the British Museum. My ticket for the Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum was timed for 13.50, so seeing as it was 12.00, I had some time to kill, in a truly Tom and Jerry fashion. This was done by strolling through the Ancient Near East, Classical, Egyptian, and Japanese galleries before making my way down the stairway along the outside of the Reading Room (where the Pompeii exhibit is currently housed), when a rather loud bell started to ring all around me. I began to wonder just what was happening, at first thinking it was an alert for the people going into Pompeii at 13.30, but when I saw the security guards rushing to and fro with whistles blowing in their mouths, waving people towards the main entrance, I knew that something was rather amiss. I evacuated the museum calmly, figuring that if there was a bomb and it was to go off at anytime I’d rather be quite close to it or quite far from it, only stopping once I was at the far side of the North Colonnade standing in the shade with a few other people. For a while there was no news of what was happening, until the Fire Brigade showed up and began to search the massive building. After about 20 minutes we were all free to return to our favourite mummies and statues of long dead Greeks.

I made it as quickly as possible to the Pompeii entrance, considering that it was now 13.55, and my ticket was for 13.50. Thankfully, they let me through and into the exhibit. For the sake of the exhibit, and to help the British Museum with sales, all I will say about Pompeii is this: it was quite well done, and quite thorough. I left that exhibit at around 14.40, and ran to the tube station to once again meet Abby outside our hall.

We had a planned excursion from Central London to the world of green leafy suburbs. Our first stop was a nice house, 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead. The house hadn’t changed all that much since its most famous owner and occupant had died in September 1939. That occupant, who died in the front room, where I did have a rather odd feeling, was a refugee from then Nazi controlled Austria. He and his family escaped to London via Paris, where they resettled, and where many of their descendants remain to this day. This fellow was none other than Dr Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. The house was quite nice, and it did feel like Abby and I were house guests, personal visitors of the Freud family. Though there was a good deal of humour in the air (they sold Freud ducks in the gift shop).

After leaving the Freud’s to their peace, we walked back to Finchley Road tube and headed two stops south to St John’s Wood, where many a music lover journeys to on pilgrimage. This stop was none other than the beginning of a walk that led to the most famous zebra crossing in music history. It’s a bane for drivers, but a bloody good time for Beatles fans to get their photo taken crossing the zebra crosswalk at Abbey Road Studios, but oddly enough it’s still a public street! Abby and I didn’t actually get our photo on the crosswalk, but we did go and sign the fence outside the studio.

We then got back onto the tube, and found our way down to Earl’s Court, where a police box was standing just outside the station. It took us a few times passing it to actually see it though. But a quite nice German couple took our photo with it. For those of you who think I’m mad at wanting my photo with a police box, just watch Doctor Who on the BBC, PBS, or  Netflix.

After a long tube journey, we at last made it back home. A sort of farewell dinner began soon there after, comprising of pizzas from the nearby Pakistani owned Great American Pizza restaurant, and a lot of good conversation. So now, it’s to bid you all ado, as I have much still to do if I’m going to be ready to be out by 7.30 tomorrow morning for the hour plus tube journey to Heathrow.

I’ve really enjoyed London, and will be back in two years. Yes, I’m looking at, and with prior advice from a CLC-mate, will be going to graduate school here in London.