Being British in the USA: A lesson from the Enlightenment

3 Sep

The story below will be about "cross-cultural relations", where people from a certain area study people from another with interest. You can even mention the dialogic concept in the relationship between "I-You", "I-It", when "I" is either afraid or ready to communicate with "You", or when "It" becomes closer, namely "You" . Clothes, manner of dialogue, facial features, culture of gestures - all this is interesting. A similar type of relationship is studied in sociology and dialectics, you can buy cheap articles and read about the main provisions and reasons for various spectrums of attitudes towards people.

Seeing through another late night reading session in the Thomas Cooper library tonight, I came across a passage of writing from 1721 that struck a chord of affinity with my present situation.
In the period of intellectual and social change known as the ‘Enlightenment’, French author Montesquieu wrote his novel ‘Persian Letters’, documenting the travels of two Persian noblemen as they embarked upon the quest for knowledge and Truth across eighteenth-century Europe.
In letter 30, our traveller Rica describes how it felt to be an Iranian travelling through Paris, as passers-by stopped and stared at his every move.
It immediately struck me that some of his experiences share similarities with how if feels to be British in the deep South. Accepting that the passage was indeed fictional- and I’m not Iranian, on the quest for Truth, a nobleman, or a pioneer of travelling itself- I’ve adapted the passage to (satirically) reflect my new found celebrity status at the University of South Carolina.

The inhabitants of South Carolina carry their curiosity almost to excess. When I arrived, they looked at me as though I had been sent from Buckingham Palace itself: old men and young, women and children, they all wanted to see me. If I went out, everyone stood at the windows; if I was in the student union, I immediately became the centre of a circle; they surrounded me like a rainbow composed of a thousand colours. If I was at a football game, I would see hundreds of sunglasses focused on my face straight away. In a word, never was a student seen as much as the Brits were. It made me smile sometimes, to hear people who had hardly ever been out of Columbia saying to each other, ‘You’ve got to admit, she really sounds like Harry Potter’ It was incredible: people take pictures with me everywhere; so greatly did people fear that they had not had a good enough look at me.

To receive such honour as this is bound to become burdensome. I didn’t believe myself to be so curious and unusual a person, and, although I have a very good opinion of myself, I would never have imagined that I was likely to create a disturbance in a great city where nobody knew me at all. This made me decide to give up my fashion sense and dress like an American in Nike shorts, to see if there way anything still remarkable about my countenance. The experiment made me realize what I was really worth. Free of all sense of style, I found myself assessed more exactly. Sometimes I would spend an hour in company without anyone looking at me, or giving me the opportunity to open my mouth. But, if someone happened to tell the company that I was British, I would immediately hear a buzz around me: ‘Oh my God you’re from England? That’s adorable! Do you know the Queen?’

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