Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Flagging Pride

About a year ago outgoing Lord Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, publicly apologised for the Slave Trade. Which was big of him. I mean I had no idea it was his fault, but…

This gesture led to many thoughts about Britishness circling round in my head, wondering why for example, the Spanish were allowed to be proud of being Spanish, the Italians were allowed to be proud of being Italian and the French allowed to be proud of being French - while we Brits seemed to have been reduced to becoming apologists for ourselves, ashamed even to celebrate St George's Day, except via the medium of football, which seems to have hi-jacked the ‘Engerland’ flag, just like the worst examples of our nationhood seem to have hi-jacked the ‘beautiful game' in turn from the respectable working man it once belonged to.

Worse than this, the expression of any kind of nationalism or patriotism seems to mark one out as a paid-up member of the racist British Nationalist Party, notwithstanding the last four successive governments have left us with precious little to be nationally proud of, decimating our manufacturing industry, facilitating the national 'brain drain' and promoting the general degeneration of our society and its fabric in every which way it can for whatever unfathomable reason.

Which isn't to say Britain hasn't done some bloody awful things to other countries in the past. Of course we have. What nation hasn't? Some continue doing bloody awful things to this day. But how can we intellectually revisit what we have visited upon other cultures centuries ago, using today's retrospective PC morality to judge or apologise out of context, and what purpose could it possibly serve, except to detract from what we should have learned from past empirical dominance and mistakes - lessons we should be employing in today's leadership?

The train of thought added further carriages with John Taylor's new book 'Flying the Flag' in which he explores 'Britishness' through the lens of historic British battle victories over European neighbours, illustrating rather alarmingly that there were often higher standards and morality employed in deciding what battles were fought in Britain's interests centuries ago than there are today!

In addition he asks the telling question - how many of today's schoolchildren are taught the difference between patriotism and nationalism? To my shame, I had to Google it too! For the benefit of my fellow ignorami, a patriot is one who loves (his) country sentimentally and faithfully without great question, whereas a nationalist is an altogether more political creature who demonstrates (his) national loyalty by taking a pro-active stance and doing what he believes, rightly or wrongly, is in his country's interests. Nationalism can also indicate loyalty to state rather than crown, although as Mr Taylor points out, until recently, British State, Crown and indeed, Church were inextricably bound together in their own redoubtable trinity, and their forcible separation in the last few decades is having profound and unravelling effects on every aspect of British life.

He doesn't touch greatly on multi-culturalism, but my own thoughts are that any individual who chooses to adopt any country as their own (and I count British ex-pats moving abroad in this too) should be prepared to integrate, speak their chosen country's language, respect its culture, live by its laws and actually become a patriot to that adopted country. It's a bit like a relationship - it'll never work if you're not compatible or prepared to be compatible, and it's got to be a two-way street with giving as well as taking involved.

It's just now that Britain doesn't even respect its own culture, live by its own laws, stand up for itself as a primarily Christian country, or even know who/what the hell it is anymore that this becomes ever more impossible and hypocritical for Britain to demand these standards of immigrants. But this is not to be confused with multi-culturalism working. This is just one big embarrassing mess.

And I speak as a Patriot and a Nationalist, only in the spirit that I welcome all citizens who genuinely love this country to live here, become British/born-again British, and contribute to making Britain a better place to live (if not quite Great with an over-inflated G again!) I do think there is a happy medium between this little island having an Empire-sized ego or no self-esteem/pride at all. As for national identity, one of the joys of that is that we never used to need a card to tell us that we lived in a free and democratic country.

**Uncharitable rumour has it that our gene pool has never recovered from the slaughter of over 70% of our Officer class in World War I, and that is the reason the quality of Britain's modern political leadership is so poor... Discuss**


Rol Hirst said...

I would point you in the direction of Billy Bragg's book The Progressive Patriot, which deals with many of the issues you raise here... I would, but I still haven't read it. Must get around to it, as I'm sure it'll be excellent.

(Reviewing books you've not read is the new black, apparently.)

Rol Hirst said...

Erm... I meant "reviewing books *the reviewer* hasn't read"... if you see what I mean.

Steve said...

"He doesn't touch greatly on multi-culturalism, but my own thoughts are that any individual who chooses to adopt any country as their own (and I count British ex-pats moving abroad in this too) should be prepared to integrate, speak their chosen country's language, respect its culture, live by its laws and actually become a patriot to that adopted country"

- too bloody true. I must admit to a sneaking admiration of the Australian ethos: worship whatever God you like, when you like, but you obey the laws of the country. England - as opposed to Britain or Britishness - is a confused, shapeless mass of neuroses. The country needs to undergo a series of counselling sessions and then emerged with a new, realistic view of itself and its potential and its place in the world. We are not "Great" Britain anymore and are probably scoffed at secretly by our European cousins. Why? Our attitude is anachronistic and outdated. We need to wake up and smell the coffee. And I speak of someone who loves England. There are a lot of positives but we don't seem to sell them to ourselves or to anybody else.

I guess we need to start by asking ourselves: what exactly is England and Englishness?

Anonymous said...

My eldest son was born on St George's Day and whenever I say this to English people, their response is "when's that?". If he had been born on St David's Day every Welsh person on the planet would have known exactly when his birthday was.

I try so hard to say positive things about this country but this is a nation of moaners and whiners. When I am in Germany it is accepted that we speak proudly of Germany - my German relatives would be shocked if I made negative comments. It just isn't done. It's the same in Wales. There is pride in the language and the culture and a sense of belonging to something good. Criticisms are saved for the foreigners!

And it is true what Steve says about people scoffing at the English. But the behaviour of the English abroad does not help.

The Troll said...

You're a superlative writer. Or you edit your posts. A song you can find on the inner-nets that is the source of the term Jingoism.

" We do not want to fight. But, by Jingo, if we do, we've got the men, we've got the ships and got the money too. Little Nicky (czar nicholas) will soon regret having woke the British Lion".

It was originally written when the Brits were contemplating fighting the Russkies. Thus "if we do".

They lyrics were changed for World War One with "if we do" becoming "now we do" and Little Nicky replaced by Little Willie (kaiser wilhem).

The Troll who knows weird stuff.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Yep Steve we could do worse than look to other countries to cherry pick the elements that work best! Rol, yes I should explore BB's work more. RB, the behaviour of Brits abroad is an utter disgrace and leaves no room for pride either. Thanks Troll, I shall look up the Jingo song - not least as I wrote a poem on that subject a while ago that I might post. By the way you're now on my blogroll as I enjoy your blog too.