Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Being British

English Bulldog If you're looking for a symbol of Britishness, this dog's expression, I think, says an awful lot! It's an oldie and it changes slightly each time I read it, but as the Telegraph reprints (sent in by a reader from Bournemouth):

"Being British is about driving a German car to an Irish pub where we imbibe copious amounts of Belgian or eastern European beer, then on the way home stopping to pick up an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab to consume as we sit on our Swedish furniture watching American shows on Japanese TVs."

"But above all, being British is our suspicion of anything foreign."

Yet we don't think we are "foreign", even when we live abroad.

And, despite eating the Indian curry, Turkish kebab and every other nationality of food at home, the moment a Brit goes on holiday, their diet becomes limited to "English Breakfast" and fish & chips. Someone please tell me why!

No wonder the Spanish think we're eccentric

Seriously though, I'd not realized that I'm of one of the "British opinion-forming classes" (actually, I just thought I was opinionated), but I do find the "whole concept of national identity either sinister or risible". Well, both, in fact.

Like most Brits, I find it weird, but it's not that I see "flag-waving US patriotism" as "childlike and naive" (well, that too), but mostly I see this as a predominantly right-wing nationalistic activity and decidedly unhealthy. Yet, either through flattering imitation or other means, Britain seems still hell bent on wooing its former possession, yet at the same time, stubbornly harbouring even longer-held grudges and skepticism against its European neighbours.

The idea of a "unified British identity" though seems to be an oxymoron to start with, because we always were a bunch of mongrels and the situation today, with all of the so-called "diverse" groups does not appear to be any different.

Perhaps "unification" was not always smooth and peaceful, but Angles, Saxons and Vikings didn't have Brown or Straw (or even a Cameron) to draw them up "A list of bland aspirations with a presumptuous and irritating "Bill of Rights" attached." Thanks goodness. Nothing could be so false and artificial.

There was King John and his Magna Carta (or "Great Charter of Freedoms") and maybe that worked then and in the American situation 200 odd years ago. Maybe the relevance does need questioning now (I don't mean it deserves to be run roughshod over), because the idea of a Brit demanding their rights under the Magna Carta (or even its new equivalent) just seems entirely ridiculous. And today in Britain, all the fat-chewing and politically-correcting that would go into attempting to come up with something that would suit everyone and offend none, would be far more likely to evolve into a "Great Charter of Limitations" and - naturally - have the exact opposite effect to the one intended.

Then again, I'm sure my thoughts here are wasted, because we seem totally incapable of remembering history or of preventing it from repeating.

We don't need to define Britishness

Photo: © Jenny Rollo

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