Observations on Las Malvinas

Jasper Cox 

Image © jjay69

I recently spent a month in Argentina volunteering at a local radio station. As a Briton, I was a bit anxious about going into a country where tensions over Las Malvinas are running high, particularly after seeing the warnings on the Foreign Office website. The legacy of the war and the sovereignty of islands about 1,500 km from Buenos Aires still ignite passions.

On arrival in Argentina, the most obvious sign is from the graffiti. In Argentina, street art is incredibly political. This extends to foreign affairs, i.e., about how Las Malvinas are Argentinean (I can’t envisage seeing ‘EU referendum now!’ scrawled on the side of a wall in the Home Counties). After a bit more time in Argentina you notice the government propaganda, for example a sign at the entrance to a town saying the islands are Argentinean, and the infamous London 2012 advert on television. When you tell someone you are English, you are likely to get asked about football (Argentineans like the Premiership and in particular Manchester City) and maybe afterwards about the Falklands. Most Argentineans unsurprisingly think the islands do not belong to us. I think I should say at this point that I never felt threatened or scared because of my nationality. Most awkward questions are not asked in total seriousness and can be deflected with a bit of humour. Clearly there is less interest in the issue in Britain.  This YouGov poll measured opinions between residents of both countries. When asked How important an issue, if at all, do you think the Falkland Islands are to the UK? 25% of British people answered that the islands are very important to the UK. When Argentines were asked the corresponding question about Argentina, 56% answered very important.

However, the issue is easily exploited for political gains on both sides of the Atlantic. Christine Kirchner knows that when she talks about the islands she can unite the nation behind her. Kirchner won convincingly in the last elections, but her relationship with the unions is cracking, whilst there are protests about the government’s attempts to reduce the use of US dollars. In this context especially, it is useful to paint a foreign country as the enemy. The same applies to some extent to our politicians. David Cameron looks strong when he appears to be standing up for Britain, even though the prospect of a direct war in the 21st century between two democratically elected governments which are both members of the UN is very small. However, scaremongering helps both the government and the military. When military people claim our army would no longer be able to defend the Falklands, it sounds to me like a plea for more funding.  Read more of this post

Trying to be a little less “British”

Andrew Calderwood

The North-South Divide is a topic of conversation that is often discussed within British society. The subject matter involved within these deliberations will generally focus on the lack of parity in respect of the levels of pay, variance in the standard of living, and inconsistent job opportunities between the two regions. A theme that is also examined, which may be deemed a more trivial matter, focuses on the perception that those from the Northern section of the divide are far more personable and hospitable than their Southern neighbours.

A case could be made in support of the formation of a sub-culture in the North, whereby striking up conversations with strangers is not unheard of and going out of ones way to offer a helping hand is graciously appreciated, rather than met with a view of caution. Unfortunately, the majority dwelling in the south do not appear to welcome the spontaneous acts of kindness and goodwill that those beyond the Watford gap adopt, often fearing the motives behind these actions.

One who is unfamiliar with customs in the south of England would be forgiven for thinking that its occupants have evolved an aversion to friendliness and have yet found a cure to what is not far short of a crippling disease. They appear inherently unable to embrace the versatility that liberal behaviour can provide and which in turn can help to break the often monotonous actions of everyday life. In the South it is noticeable that people are far colder towards one another and less likely to interact on a prolonged scale. People often give the impression that they are worried that any friendly actions will be deemed abnormal and somehow provoke a negative reaction. The old adage that a smile costs nothing, while embraced by the northern kin, is a preaching which, it could be said, generally appears lost on those in the south.

As I am currently experiencing, Canadians are more closely related to those residing in the north of the United Kingdom, habitually taking warm greetings to the next level and upholding an innate friendliness that appears to be adopted in unison from all sections of society. Everyday it is hard not to be caught off guard by the sea of smiles and chorus of pleasantries that greet your arrival. Whether it be a passerby on the street or the proprietor of a bar or restaurant, the depth of their amiability remains alien, no matter how hard one tries to embrace it. When originating from a society in which you are encouraged to focus your eyes on the floor in order to avoid impulsive social interaction, or to stick to a pre-determined script of brief pleasantries when forced to interact with others, becoming accustomed to progressive social attitudes can take time.

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