Every day, as we walk back to our apartment along the South bank of the Thames we are amazed that there seem to be almost no Englishmen in London. We pass people speaking Russian, Persian, Italian, French, Chinese – any one of dozens of different languages. When we hear people speaking English – it is as likely to be American or South African English as the British variety.
It seems as if a new life form is taking hold in this city. One in three people in London were born overseas, according to the paper. Here in the centre of town, it could be more like one in one. These people are usually single, youngish, wealthy (relatively), and remarkably mobile. Talk to them and you find that they have lived in other major metropolises. They are in London because their jobs are there or because they like it. They are looking for opportunities; they’re open to new ideas. But they’re not English and never will be. They may hold a British passport and may spend most of their lives in England. They will contribute the culture and wealth of this great metropolis…but they will never share the values, attitudes, and prejudices of the native British peoples.
A lot of real Englishmen do not particularly like this situation. They remember when immigrants came to England and wanted to become as English as the people who welcomed them. Not these new Londoners. They are a new breed with no particular cultural attachment to Britain; it’s just a nice place to live and do business.
These new cosmopolitans are living where the living is good – not where they were born. They speak several languages. They earn high salaries and often own significant assets. They are likely to spend a few years in New York…then a while in Tokyo…then move to Vancouver.
They are transforming the world’s major metropolises too. Cities that attract these people are rich and expanding. Those that don’t are getting left behind.
But what does it mean when a substantial part of a capital city’s population is not connected to the culture or politics of the nation itself? And how does a government control and direct these new smart, well-educated, moneyed and footloose masses, these large groups of people with no real loyalty to the host country, who speak different languages and worship different gods?
We don’t know, but in London, as in America, two things seem to unite these worldly tribes – greed for making money…and the fear of terrorism.
Markets and Money