Behind me is a generation of Australians that believes that “British is Best” , where a Prime Minster quoted poetry about Queen Elisabeth II and where it was considered that our other great ally, the USA, was a hulking, whoring illiterate. Get hold of some old radio tapes, you’d swear it was the BBC.
Ahead of me there is a generation that believes that Britain is a fusty old maid and the USA is the be-all and end-all. They affect the clothes, the mannerisms, the speech – and here’s something I’d like to see capital punishment return to stamp out – even the spelling.
So, I sit in the middle. I can appreciate the difference. I understand that my favourite TV British shows will have 6 superb episodes; my favourite US ones with have 25 reasonably good ones. I know that I can turn to Britain for history and pageantry, I can turn to the US for un-self-conscious show biz and joyous entrepreneurship.
Sometimes, when your friends bicker, you feel like you have to take sides. both of them are feeling a bit down at the moment, having been hard hit by the GFC, so I don’t want to upset anyone.
As a sideline, the minute I get a ‘Here’s your ticket, come and talk to us about tea” offer in either country, then that one’s my favourite. My affection can indeed be bought.
So, what got me thinking about this? Well, I uncovered a mild conspiracy.
As background, have I noticed that there’s a tendancy amongst US crime shows for anyone with a British accent to be guilty, or at least dodgy. Even the slimy CIA agent on NCIS is English. It’s the new wave of bad guys; after the Russians (pre 1980), the South Africans (a la one each of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard) in the 80’s, the Arabs (1990’s still popular) and another spate of Russians plus other sundry Slavs a few years back.
Other than the remarkable Tim Roth, if you have a British accent on US TV, you’re a criminal. The exact accent determines the level of both evil and IQ.
Of course there are hundreds of Australians on US TV, but other than Jesse Spencer on House, they like to pretend to be Americans. Simon Baker, Portia di Rossi, Alex O’Laughlin etc. But I digress…
So, why are my two friends fighting? Perhaps it goes back to the Boston Tea Party.
Ah, the Boston Tea Party. One of the most misunderstood, misquoted, misused events of all time.
Here’s a quick question for my US friends:
The change to the tax regime that lead to the Boston Tea Party REDUCED the price of tea: TRUE or FALSE.
Of course, it’s true.
The sad thing is that the world’s greatest beverage got caught up in all this. And I’m not even going to mention the current “Tea Party” except to say they are unmentionable.
This leads inexorably to the promised MILD CONSPIRACY in the title of this blog.
I’ve been reading a great book by Sarah Rose – “For All the Tea in China”. Excellent book with only one spelling mistake! (There I go again). I love the fact it is about one subject – Robert Fortune – but provides all the “before and after” you need for historical context.
So, here’s my copy:
You can see “FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA” and the tagline ” Espionage, Empire and the secret formula to the world’s favourite drink.” This copy was sourced from the UK, hence the correct spelling.
I have noticed, however, how the US version looks. It has a different tagline.
Specifically, it looks like this:
The tagline? “How England Stole the World’s Favorite [sic] Drink and Changed History”
My conclusion? The publishers are playing into the Anti-England sentiment around tea in the US, and playing it down in the UK version.
The book itself is very fair, and very good.
And the truth is, The East India Company (not strictly speaking “England” but “English”) hired Robert Fortune to steal tea from the Chinese.
The history is great. The tagline a simple pandering to ill-informed predjudice.
In fact, the only actual Government that hired Robert Fortune to steal tea was the US Government. And then, they stiffed him on his wages.
So, to all my friends on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m here for you all. I won’t take sides in this petty feud, which probably holds back tea in the US to this day.
Until those tickets arrive, of course.