Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Protest clashes and Immigration Issues

September 15th, 2009 · 5 Comments

I don’t know how many people have been keeping up with the London news, but I thought I’d share a bit of info because it seemed relevant to the class. Over the past week there has been an ever growing tenuous situation. Firstly, we narrowly missed a 24 strike from the RMT. But secondly, and more prevalently, on September 11th near a Mosque in Harrow there was a clash between the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and the Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE). The protest had been led by the SIOE and was meant to mark the 8th anniversary of the Twin Tower attacks. I would like to pause for a moment and ask how many Americans have ever shown a demonstration for the 7/7 attacks, let alone escalate to violence over it? The apathy of our nation comes in handy for once. 

Seven people were arrested on September 11th, and a week before, on September 5th, 90 people were arrested when a disturbance broke out in Birmingham. These clashes between anti-immigrants and Muslim/leftist groups have been going on as far back as May; however, they have had little in the way of collateral damage.

As mentioned above, America and UK handle protests and outbreaks very differently. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a hobby, England does have a tradition of riots and violent protests. They enjoy a good scuffle, and it seems to alleviatetension at least to some degree.  Our history with national conflict has been rather limited. The British on the other hand are amazingly efficient: they pack a protest with more police than protesters and basically encircle the people, an amazingly intimidating deterrent for your average protest. The majority of the 1.6 million Muslims in the UK are situated in England, and now with the rising conservative/anti-immigration tide approaching it will be interesting to see if small scale scuffles will be enough to satisfy the hunger of  protesters. This also brings into question the over-asked question of what is an englishman? When are you no longer an Immigrant. And more importantly does being a member of organizations like UAF automatically make you a target for anti-immigrant scorn? One thing that I did find interesting also was the idea of leftists and Muslims teaming up together, this idea leads me to believe it isn’t necessarily an immigration problem, but rather a non-immigrant one.  Guy Fox, IRA, SIOE: for a nation who preaches secularity, they sure love their religious fights.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Not gonna lie…

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

It seems appropriate to explain right off the bat that I slept through E.L.F in almost their entirety. I loved Phantasm, I thought the way the weaved in and out of pieces from phantom of the opera was incredible. Further, having played french horn since the fourth grade(stopping in college for lack of time and monetary excess), I absolutely love hearing one played.  He was probably the crispest played I have heard in a very long time outside of a philharmonic.  But yes, they were so amazing, they put me to sleep, which is something that happens with me around classical music–doesn’t matter where or who is judgingly starring.

Afterwards we went to the National Gallery where, as many others have noted, the only British people there were grumpy workers.  the art was neat though; especially one painting called A Girl at the Window, by Louis-Leopold Boilly.

A Girl at a Window

A Girl at a Window

  I really like how it played with illusion. The painting itself was meant to look like a mounted print. It is almost as if she has caught us spying on her, an intimately understanding, yet coy smile. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of art galleries. Now you’re saying to yourself: Andrew, you fall asleep in concerts and you don’t like art galleries; are you total rube? And I might be, but I must at least attempt to defend myself.  The art gallery was an interesting look into the distinction between American’s and the British.  Firstly, there were barely any British people in the National Gallery, despite it being free. This is quite the contrast from the Philadelphia Art Museum or the one in DC, which frequently has art students and locals visiting and checking it out. Even the British guards seemed unhappy to be there. This can very easily be chalked up to the fact that it was a week day and in the afternoon because it seems strange that a nation so entrenched in their history would not care for their renowned artists.  Further, I would wager that the National Gallery is far more maticulously organized. Comparing the websites(The American National Gallery and the National Gallery in London) shows this. The London National galleries website allows you to look up paintings by letter of artist’s name, period, and style– down to the exact painting. The latter gallery does not, instead only giving overviews. Everything was micro managed, down to the path you would need to take. Most galleries i have traversed have allowed for more free movement, and directional choice.

We left the gallery to peripatetically wander and instead came across an anti-zionist movement.  What I thought was amazing about this was how volatile it seemed–on both sides.  In America, for the most part, at least the cops remain calm (out of fear of being sued more than anything). Evidently the PM had returned from a vacation early.  I have liked in a college environment for a good many years, so politcal discussions are commen place, but I have heard people talk about how strange it is to see protests and then post-protest discussions.  People here just seem eager to debate, which I love. By that time Paul was in need of a Pasty, so we attempted to make our way back to tottenham court tube station (where it seems the best pasties can be found). While there, a brawl let out between an African fellow and an Indian fellow. They both seemed to speak english. There was evidently a problem with rolling over someone’s foot. It quickly escalated into a serious fight though. They tumbled into a carphone warehouse eventually. What was most interesting was the managers expression: he just seemed to annoyed by the going-ons rather than anything else. Like he was thinking ‘seriously? in my store?’ My two fellow travelers were thoroughly distressed by the situation, but it was startling how little anyone else seemed to care. In fact, the two fighting didn’t really seem to mind either. The Indian guy, hand on bleeding head, simply got up and walked away from the scene.

This post seems to be going a bit on the long side, so I won’t detail(and definitely should not) the clubing experience. But I will say it was interesting to watch the group dynamic, and our interaction with the Europeans, who seemed to not like dancing until American girls showed up.

There is no other way to describe Westminster Abbey other than ‘overwhelming,’ in every sense of the word.  But if anything, I would say Westminster Abbey is not really even a church at this point. It is more of a mausoleum at this point: both for dead face people and British power.  It has essentially become a 15 quid tour of the who is who of Britain passed, which is sad. It has very little to do with religion at all in fact. Don’t get me wrong, the building was glorious and unimaginably beautiful. Our tour guide was impecably brilliant and knowledgable. But I feel, the Abbey stands more in praise of England than in praise of God.  I was most intreged by the enormous amount of symbolism cramed into every ounce of work. Masterful wood and stone working laid out generation long stories about struggle and triumph. I would have loved to just sit at one of the memorials and break down eat of the images.  It also inspired me to pick up a life goal i had all but given up around the age of five: become a knight; we’ll see how that goes.

Afterwards we went to St. James park, which was full of tourists trying to feed bloated ducks. It even had an overpriced resturant in it. What was beautiful, howe

ver, were the flowers. They were exquisit. This is a very stark contrast from Hyde Park, which I had been to earlier in the week. Hyde park had much more local activity: children playing football, lovers and the homeless sleeping and runners running.  Evidently, people were being charged to sit in chairs at St. James park–honestly, what is that?

We had our own bout with swindly prices today though. We stopped at an italian place to eat, and I got to laugh as almost everyone fell for the old still-water trick. Of course the joke was on us all when we realized we were also being charged for the seats.  More and more I am realizing that pubs are the only safe place to eat or drink, everyone else just tries to screw you over.

Water Buyers


anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R