FFor years I have been living with a chronic condition that I have finally been able to diagnose as Privileged Immigrant Disorder Syndrome (PIDS). Let me explain: more than a decade ago I left my native Great Britain to go to work in New York. He wasn’t fleeing persecution, poverty, or life in a failed state; I just wanted to live in the US There were more opportunities, I didn’t have to navigate the suffocating class system, and most importantly, my English accent gave me a competitive edge. The women swooned at the sounds of my vowels (I’m not making this up: they swooned…OK, I promise at least one woman swooned) and they all assumed I was on terms of drinking tea with the Queen.
Anyway, that’s the PI bit of PIDS. Part D is this: When you spend a lot of time outside of your home country, it’s easy to build a romantic version of yourself in your head. I became a cheerleader for all things British; I even bought a pair of Union Jack wellies and proudly wore them whenever it rained. As my long-suffering American wife can attest, I took every opportunity to say how much better things were in Blighty than in America. We had a superior health system; Weren’t we crazy about guns? our infrastructure was better; our political system was not so drenched in money and less corrupt. Even our rain was better. I talked over and over about how the UK was infinitely superior to the US.
Then Brexit happened. Suddenly, the US media (and the rest of the world) began to look at the UK with more skeptical eyes. Britain’s global reputation began to plummet, as did the value of my accent. Still, it wasn’t as if the US could feel superior for long: Shortly after Brexit, it elected a reality TV star president. Since then, both countries have embarked on a race to the bottom. Even with an acute case of PIDS, it’s hard to deny that Britain is a rubbish dump burning out of control; whenever I think things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they do. The other day there were reports that Boris Johnson had come up with a strategy called Operation Save Big Dog to protect him from the fallout of “partygate.” GB News has just announced that, in dictatorship style, it will begin broadcasting the national anthem daily at the start of its live programming. Today, I read a headline about Prince Andrew’s alleged verbal abuse of his maids for rearranging her teddy bears. How the heck are these real headlines from a real country? On the other hand, it’s not that things are any better in America: after all, it’s been a little over a year since they’ve had an attempted insurrection.
In 2017, reeling from Brexit and Donald Trump, I did a very scientific study in this column, looking at whether the UK or the US was more dysfunctional. The United States narrowly won that round. Five years and endless scandals, that question is worth revisiting. I’m afraid that, due to the limitations of the word limit, I cannot dwell on the ins and outs of my highly methodological Global Shame Index™. If you want all the details, you’ll have to wait until it passes peer review (aka my wife takes a look). For now, we will only go to the conclusion. Which, drum roll please, is that both sides of the Atlantic are equally dysfunctional. To be sure, Johnson is more of a buffoon than Joe Biden, but at the end of the day, it’s not the blunders, hypocrisy, and ugly hair that matter: it’s the fact that both countries are moving dangerously fast toward authoritarianism. . In the UK, the Johnson government is pushing through oppressive measures to criminalize protest and arbitrarily deprive people of citizenship. In the US, certain states are busy banning books and the Biden administration is proving ineffective in the fight to protect voting rights. What is happening on both sides of the Atlantic may often be beyond parody, but believe me, the dissolution of democracy is no laughing matter.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism