‘Working class pupils ‘perform better in Slovenia than in UK‘ is the headline of an astonishingly crass article in today’s Telegraph. I can’t be bothered to regurgitate all the reasons it’s stupid, since I already had to do this last year when the Daily Mail’s headline news was that Slovenian live longer than women in the UK (see my rant A geography lesson for Mail-readers). If Telegraph readers knew what a great country Slovenia was, they’d probably be sending their kids to school there.
Feeling just a bit odd today, as had it not been for commitments in London, I would be at the England-Slovenia match, having won a five-day trip to SA and a ticket to the match in a competition.
I hope Slovenia win, and that’s not out of any anti-English sentiment, it’s because I want them to teach the Daily Mail and their readers a lesson (see previous rant ‘A Geography Lesson for Mail Readers). Since the Mail first published that ridiculous article (which began ‘Healthcare in England is so poor that women live longer in the former Communist state of Slovenia’), there have been 261 corrective comments (mostly by Slovenians in perfect English) which are food for the soul. So if you want to blame anyone for my lack of support for England today, don’t blame me, blame the Mail.
It’s probably wrong to punish the readers, though – it would be hard for them to be as vacuous as the journalists that write that stuff, or who make TV ‘news’ reports. A friend told me a story about her nephew and his friend who went to a West Ham match and were approached by a TV crew, hoping to get some footage of ‘stupid’ English football fans. The presenters handed the boys a map of Europe, and asked them to point out Slovenia. Since they were both pretty bright anyway, and one had a Slovenian grandmother , that wasn’t difficult. They then proceeded to answer all the questions about Slovenia correctly, at which point the TV crew asked if the boys would mind retaking the interview, but faking wrong answers so they could get the story they wanted.
And for this you think we deserve to live longer?
What a week it’s been. Not just cult blog post of the week status today, but on Tuesday I celebrated what my dear half-Slovenian friend informs me the Slovenians call an ‘Abraham’, and on the same day, won first prize in a competition run by the Slovenian Tourist Board (see earlier post), which was a 5-day all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to sightsee a bit and see the England-Slovenia match. Sadly, I couldn’t take it up for family reasons, but the Slovenes still consider me the winner so are sending me something nice as a consolation. I hope the lucky other winner has a wonderful time.
I thought I was maybe being a bit rude about people who don’t know where Slovenia is in my recent Slovenia post (A Geography Lesson for Mail-Readers), but I feel happier now that I know that even the Slovene tourist board are offering a free trip to the World Cup if you can answer a few basic questions about the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia in their fun-to-do online quiz.
Have you ever been to Slovenia? I have, four or five times. It’s a beautiful country. Ljubjlana is one of the quaintest, cleanest cities I know. My impression of Slovenians is of a self-assured, intelligent, well-educated, design-conscious nation, benefiting from a strong economy, an almost perfect location in Central Europe (beautiful, temperate, convenient), and a rich, honourable history. Even when it was part of Yugoslavia, it was the richest and most lightly-attached of all the republics, so much like Austria that you couldn’t really tell the difference, apart from the language. It gained independence in 1991, and is one of the strongest economies of the new EU member states (of all of those, it has the highest GDP per capita, and 91% of the EU average, according to the wikipedia entry on Slovenia’s economy).
So what on earth did the Mail mean by its headline news today “England, the sick woman of Europe: Our poor cancer detection and bad diet mean Slovenian women live longer“? I’m not even going to go into the bad or rather meaningless science, what really troubles me is that papers like the Mail still rely on its readers’ ignorance and arrogance to stoke up pointless disgust and disregard for nations just because they are not within commuting distance of Sevenoaks, or don’t have nuclear weapons. I really wonder if the Mail have any idea what or where Slovenia is? Mark Wallace certainly doesn’t:
Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said last night: ‘It is shocking that England is falling behind other European countries – and even more that we are falling behind a country like Slovenia. We spend a vast amount on healthcare but we don’t get the results that we should.
What does he mean, ‘a country like Slovenia’, given that there is every reason why Slovenians should enjoy a long and healthy life. On what grounds should we always be ahead of Slovenia? The picture of Slovenians, all (unusually, by the way) in national costume is compared to a fat (presumably English) woman eating KFC-like chicken from a box on a roadside bench. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to make of this: that the fat woman and her love of chicken is letting the side down, giving those Commie folk-dancers a head start? If it weren’t for her chicken-problem, she’d be running the country and writing books about Slavoj Žižek?
And if we were to suddenly beat Slovenia into 13th place, by ensuring their women died 2 months earlier than ours, would that be a cause for celebration? Do they deserve to die because they used to have a socialist government, or because they have funny accents over their letters? I’d like to suggest that the Mail reporters and Mr Wallace pay a trip to Slovenia to see how much further we have yet to go before we look even half as civilized. But it’s the absence of such pricks in that lovely country that makes it so pleasant to be in. So on second thoughts, just stay here, please.