Fair enough, I say. Any country is allowed to have an inferiority complex. And I know exactly how they feel. When I was at school I had Dead White European Males crammed down my syllabus until my fingernails turned pale. Shakespeare was one. Shakespeare was another. There was Chaucer. And Shakespeare. And Milton. And Racine and Corneille and Schiller and Pope and Shakespeare . . .
What we did not get stuffed down our gullets was Live American Males of Any Colour (Lamoacs). I was really into American writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and S J Perelman and Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso, and Philip Wylie and Allen Ginsberg, and even into a few Dead American Males Of Greyish Hue (Damoghs) such as Ernest Hemingway and Ambrose Bierce and H L Mencken, all of whom helped to shape me into the Half- Alive Blotchy Pink Anglo-Saxon (Habpas) that you see before you today . . .
All this American reading was extracurricular, of course, or - as we say in English - just for fun. It did not occur to me then, and it has not occurred to me till now, how odd it was that none of these or any American writers appeared on our English literature syllabus. The only way an American writer could ever sneak into the English syllabus was by coming over to Europe and staying here so long that everyone forgot he was American in the first place, such as Henry James or T S Eliot, and it was too late for him to go back.
But the reason why I felt hostile towards Dead White European Males was very different from the reason why so many Americans now get hot under the collar about Dead White European Males. It is because they are too frightened to criticise Live White European Males.
You see, live writers could sue them and, if there is one thing that all Americans are told at their mother's knee, it is that if you can sue someone successfully for malpractice or an inefficient appendectomy or anything, you can get so much money from them that you never have to work again. So their fury is directed entirely against dead writers, who cannot sue.
But why white? Why male?
Because Americans are afraid of offending women and black people, of course. It is all to do with their being imbued with the art of political correctness, which means being polite about everyone in public so you can slag them off to your heart's content in private. This does not leave many people you can criticise in public. In the old days you could froth at the mouth about Communists, and doing so made many Americans feel somewhat better, but now that there aren't any Communists any more, Americans have not got a lot of people to be rude about. That is why they are so thankful that Colonel Gadaffi and Fidel Castro are still alive.
(A hundred years ago it was all quite different. In America then they could not get enough of Dead White European Males. Several of them, such as Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope and Conan Doyle, were still Live White European Males and therefore available for lucrative lecture tours, and over they would go and make masses of money, and they were still doing it when Dylan Thomas finally pulled the curtain down on it all, and for all I know there may have been Americans then who shook their fists and cried for an end to the plague of Welts, or White European Lecturers on Tour . . .)
But why doesn't it happen the other way round? Why don't Europeans ever cry a plague on the Americans? Considering that the Americans have bequeathed to us such terrible things as telling people to have a nice day, and suing each other for allowing each other to be born, and letting Barbra Streisand have come-back concerts, and political correctness, and Burt Reynolds road movies, and McDonald's, then why on earth haven't we in Europe ever started a campaign against Living American Males (Lames)?
Well, we have. Finally we have voted with our feet against America. Yes, we have pulled the rug from under Euro Disney] I defy readers not directly concerned with it to deny that each time they read about Euro Disney going bust, they get a small frisson of pleasure and anticipation.
Tomorrow, unless a writ arrives from Disney's legal department overnight, I would like to indulge in a little more schadenfreude on this subject.Reuse content