Not wild youth, just sad old Brits

Britain is still a long way from being in a state where the rest of the world would welcome it
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The Independent Culture
YOUNG BRITS should be ashamed of themselves after the resignation of Michael Birkett, the British Vice-consul in Ibiza. Apparently our antics on that sunny Balearic island leave much to be desired in terms of social decorum, what with the drug consumption and live sex activity in some clubs.

But Birkett is wrong in thinking that the comportment of English people in such a clubber's heaven is an example of rugged Anglo oafishness. Instead, it's a typical example of the bland, consumerist conservatism of most young people today. Instead of making their own fun in sunny England or, perhaps, just settling down with the wireless and a nice book, people are willing to simply buy a sun-soaked dream holiday complete with chemical refreshment and the opportunity for some fraternisation with the opposite sex. It's no different from two weeks away in tacky Majorca - Ibiza is just the place of the moment for people wanting a lobster tan and a sangria hangover.

People may come back from the island talking about madness, nihilism and unhinged mass celebration every night until dawn, but in truth it's nothing more than a glorified package holiday. They are doing nothing that is not expected of twentysomethings and late teens: a bit of drinking, a bit of dancing, a few drugs. Nothing like, for instance, the mass riots of 1968, or political protests in favour of civil rights or against nuclear experimentation. Young people want an easy life, preferably with their own kind.

Ibiza is a modern day cultural version of Britain's favourite pet, the colony. A fabulous exchange rate, secure surroundings, the "hospitality" of the locals, a chance that the vast majority of people you're going to meet will be English - just like you.

Of course, the club trade could be said to form a large part of Ibizan locals' livelihood, but even without it they would certainly have found other means of employment which didn't create such an economically dependent and culturally demeaning relationship with Britain. Instead, locals spend the summer clubbing season ensuring everything is just dandy for the "hedonists". The Brits, in their turn, just want to have a good time with their mates, return home and tell everyone how they got drunk/laid/coked up all night long, every night.

Britain is still a long way from being in a state where the rest of the world would welcome its integration into the global scheme of things. Young Brits want holiday destinations where they can be sure of meeting only other Brits. They want to go to a foreign country, take advantage of the strong pound and indigenous willingness to please, then simply go home after they've had their fun.

An extension of Ibiza clubbing madness is the common practise of backpacking after school or university. Although there are some people who genuinely learn from the places they are visiting, all too often nothing is given back to those countries themselves. Again, moneyed-up "travellers" take advantage of ridiculous exchange rates to buy trinkets which they then proudly display back home, saying, "It cost me just 50p really, but that's enough to feed an entire family over there."

They simply do not understand (and make no effort to understand) the real workings of societies in other countries, especially the East. Their stories merely corroborate what small-minded Westerners always thought about the East. That, say, Calcutta is the place where amputees beg in the streets and people live in corrugated iron shacks; or that Patpong is the den of bargirls and ladyboys.

Even worse, though, are the woolly liberals who wear their good intentions on their sleeves, meaning to fully explore every avenue of "their" culture, "their" customs and the way "they" communicate with each other "over there". This is even better: a neat way to package and possess an entire country, its social history, its political background and ideological development, and then expound on it like a cultural connoisseur over your Hampstead dining table. "Oh no, you see, in their culture they do it very differently from us... It's all in their past, you know..."

This doesn't bother me so much any more, though, because the world is realising that the English aren't a very likeable set of people, and, more importantly, nowhere near as politically influential as they used to be. Culturally, Cool Britannia may be in full swing, but the old conservatism - regardless of which party is in government - and xenophobia are still charmingly intact. The English can't cause trouble any more - not even in football matches. They will be stopped. Events in Ibiza aren't a terrifying example of British thuggery, they're just a prime example of the recreational habits of a sad people.