Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I had a lovely day off today, though it doesn't feel as if I had a day off. It went blazingly quick.

Last night, I watched part of a show called Manor House. It's a British reality show, in which the participants are thrown back in time to turn of the 20th Century England. There's a lordly family, and all of the other folks on the show are their servants. Without modern amenities, the servants spend 16+ hours a day slaving away in the basement for "the family." In a Real Worldesque fashion, all of the participants have confessional moments with the camera.

While I'm not over fond of reality shows in general, I sort of like this one. It reminds me of the Stanford psychology experiment back in the 60's in which ordinary students were split up into groups of prisoners and guards. While they all started off as good friends, eventually they took on the roles of prisoners and keepers, and the guards began to mistreat desperate prisoners, who grew increasingly despondant. That experiment ended early because the situation became so bad. I can see this show turning that way.

The Butler is particularly touching. He seems like a terribly nice man. And he clearly tries hard. And no matter how close he gets to his master, though he may in fact be his very best friend in the world, the fact always remains that he is the servant and the master is the master. He said something to the effect last night, after the master was angry at him for something he couldn't control, and after they'd made up for it: "I have to remember that this could happen again. That I am the servant and he is the master. That I exist to serve the family; I am a servant."

The unmarried sister of the master's wife has gone mad already, and had to be shipped off the show for a while. The youngest son is having behavioral problems. The husband, being the patriarch, is having a jolly good time of himself, shooting animals and bossing folks around.

It's an interesting show. Though you can never recreate Edwardian England really, it's an interesting glimpse into hierarchical society. Or, at least, it's an interesting glimpse into obedience and conformity, and how well a generally egalitarian people can adjust to a rigidly structured societal order. I think the process works better in the UK than it would here in the US though. We're even more egalitarian than they, though of course, we have our pecking orders too. But I think it would be hard to find Americans willing to do so much to get on tv. Yes, hard to believe, I know, that there's something Americans won't do to get on tv. Hell, I'm sure you could find Americans willing to sign up, but I'm not sure how long they'd stay.

Anyway to return to less tv-tinged realities, mom's surgery went quite well today. I got to eat Greek food, and get some books on Europe. Jody called me to tell me that our rail passes are in already, which is damnedable joyous. I'm looking at tickets from Paris to London in July. I put a bid down on a backpack. I looked for new hiking boots in a real store. Life is good.