Very Last Words on The Long Goodbye

In America, the involvement of uniformed police in execution-style shootings has received a lot of media attention. I was just reading about the shooting of Patrick Lyoya in Michigan, on April 4th. He was shot in the head while lying on the ground, apparently. With the development of high-quality phone cameras, more and more footage of these events has become available. 

A British audience, recognising the quintessentially modern British nature of the characters, and the suburban setting, in The Long Goodbye will instantly recognise it as depicting an event that has never actually occurred in this country. They will automatically understand this as a dystopian nightmare, a fear for the future and an expression of alienated anxiety. Not so an American audience. For them, the imagery must seem much more plausible and immediate. 

My daughter (a 16 year old political firebrand) was online, discussing Britain’s relatively high rates of inter-racial marriage (though lower than the U.S.) and her American inter-locutor said, “Yes, but you guys are still very racist. Look at The Long Goodbye.”

In fact, minorities in Britain seem, by and large, much more integrated than in the US, although this isn’t saying much. Most people don’t seem to have much trouble getting along with, and forming friendships with, people of other ethnic backgrounds. 

Of course, there are tensions and misunderstandings. Biased assumptions are made, but that’s not restricted to racial issues. After all, one of the great miracles of human intelligence and imagination is our ability to generalise from one experience, situation, or piece of information to another. It’s something A.I. is unable to replicate, so far. 

The greatest racial problem in Britain remains whole population unequalness, demonstrated statistically, rather than through the frequency of racist attacks most individuals experience. (off-line, at least. On-line trolls will use any insult they think will work.) This is, I think, usually a consequence of a xenophobic indigenous population hoarding their resources, rather than actual racial disdain. 

I can’t believe such talented and thoughtful film makers truly believe that their demonic Neo-Nazi death-squads represent the attitudes of the majority British population, so The Long Goodbye feels more like an appeal for reassurance than an outright attack, although that direct address to the camera and thus the viewer, at the end, does make you feel personally accused. That’s probably good for us, though. It makes us stop and think, “Am I complicit?” and, even if you conclude, in the end, that you are not, it’s an important check to make. 

My fear for this film is that it will now be picked up by American influencers as evidence that British society is as divided as American, perhaps more so. It is my belief that the division between self-identifying groups in Britain is being aggravated by American cultural imperialism, imported through the internet. People brought up on the internet assume that all culture and cultural tensions in their own countries are the same as those delivered to them online. But the internet is a dark, digital mirror of its creator-culture: America’s capitalist Silicon Valley, where racial tensions are much greater. 

Basing their campaigns on undeniable statistical imbalances, powering them with mass online support, social activists have encouraged tribes to pit themselves against each other, in pursuit of their rights. Ironically this has driven tribes into mutually hostile enclaves. 

Might this film not become an instrument of such division? 

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