Reflections: Greeks bearing gifts


“These Americans represent the new Roman empire and we Britons, like the Greeks of old, must teach them how to make it go.” Harold Macmillan

“We, my dear Crossman, are Greeks in this American empire. You will find the Americans much as the Greeks found the Romans—great big, vulgar, bustling people, more vigorous than we are and also more idle, with more unspoiled virtues but also more corrupt. We must run AFHQ* as the Greek slaves ran the operations of the Emperor Claudius.”  Harold Macmillan in a letter to Richard Crossman

Macmillan, who like Churchill had an American socialite for a mother, often framed the Anglo-American relationship patronisingly as Britain playing the role of Athens to America’s Rome.  It could, as seen from Macmillan’s letter to Crossman, be both a highly paternalistic and highly cynical view of  how Britain’s superiority as perceived by Macmillan could be used to manipulate US administrations. While only the most deluded of Little Englanders would today feel that the UK government is capable of machiavellianly manipulating the US for its own ends, a feeling of superiority can still be found in some of my compatriots. Their reasoning often goes like this: While our political and economic influence has diminished, our cultural influence carries on.

And what is our real cultural influence over this new Roman Empire? Well tonight in homes across the new Roman Empire, the New Romans are able to wallow in their decline while watching the latest cultural offerings from the New Athenians. In the morning they can watch Jeremy Kyle, Reading’s finest, scream at young black men on his tabloid talk show. In the evening they can watch Simon Cowell laugh as Paula Abdul screams when a mentally disturbed man exposes his flabby self on stage while trying to sing a Lionel Ritchie song. Tomorrow they can watch Gordon Ramsey faux-vomit after eating a crab cake. Beware of the New Greeks bearing gifts – cos it’s bound to be shitty  TV.  


*Allied Forces Head Quarters


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