Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.
– George Jean Nathan
So I’m English. From my point of view that means I’ve been born in a certain region. Nothing much more. I’ve always thought of myself as a person, and those from other countries are simply people too.
In the past I’ve been rather bemused when people from other countries are so proud of their origins, and when they presume that things from their culture or geographical region are good, or even superior, simply by virtue of a link with their country.
This view was adjusted somewhat when I went to Cuba. To see the limits on their freedom of expression, movement and politics, and their low standard of living, I understood just how lucky I was to be born in the UK.
Lucky, but not proud, not patriotic. Patriotism is define as “Love of and devotion to one’s country”; something that seems extreme to me.
I appreciate certain things about my island, namely the people I know, and the shared culture which means I can communicate more easily with my fellow Brits.
I grew up not even knowing the difference between England, Britain and the United Kingdom. The fact that my history education at school was non-existent may have influenced my attitude. Perhaps a sense of what has gone before would have given me a better feeling for the achievements of “Great” Britain and so engendered more of this sense of belonging that those from other countries seem to have. But when I stopped to think about it, calling our island ‘great’ seemed a bit big headed to me. I’ve heard it said that the education of kids in both America and France inculcates them into thinking of their countries as superior, though I’m not sure I would support that approach.
The only place I see a real patriotism in the English is supporting the country in sport, particularly in football. But football passed me by so I never really got into that.
This jingoistic attitude just doesn’t work for me. I enjoy watching tennis and I’ve never supported a person simply because they’re from this island. I cheer on a player because I enjoy their style of play and their on-court demeanour.
This is in direct contrast to other countries. When I went to Croatia their national pride was palpable. Perhaps because they’ve been through a recent struggle for independence they are more protective of their national identity. I’ve seen it argued that since the English have a recent history of world domination, both through the days of the Empire, and due to being key in winning two world wars, we have no need for such pride. Interestingly the prevailing attitude of Germans seems to be similar, but perhaps for slightly different reasons.
So, as a result of noticing this disparity, I’ve been doing a bit of reading around what it is to be English, and I’ll be posting some book reviews over the next few days.
Here are the reviews:
– The Progressive Patriot by Billy Bragg (1/5)
– Tickling The English by Dara O Briain (2/5)
– The English: A Portrait of a People by Jeremy Paxman (4/5)