English have forgotten what it is to be English? Calling themselves British for decades doesn’t help. Those who strive for a romantic Englishness by ditching anything European, demanding bowler hats back in fashion, are unable to find an agreeable definition that fits all types. Standing back to observe what is English today, English have traded their best qualities for the worst in human nature.
What happened to the famed English sense of fair play, reasonableness, decency, chivalry, and an unmatched aptitude for good manners? I’d grown to believe those attributes ingrained in the English character. Was it all a myth, sniffy etiquette only ever seen in Agatha Christie novels?
To Scots, and I have to believe English who live in Scotland, England has become a mutant society, another planet, so base is its politics and bigotry.
Where are we now?
English of a certain boorish authoritarian disposition have reached the stage where Boris Johnson can describe Africans as “piccaninnies”, comparing François Hollande to a Nazi prison guard, and still be appointed UK Foreign Secretary.
Panellists on the lightning rod of British public mood, BBC’s Question Time, dismissed his bigotry as an over-reaction by “silly Europeans”.
Fellow Right-wing MP Michael Gove tweeted his feelings. People “offended” by Johnson’s comments are “humourless, deliberately obtuse, snowflakes – it’s a witty metaphor”, adding “hashtag – Getalife”. Johnson’s bigotry is everywhere: in newspaper headlines, detestation of civil rights, Nazi salutes, and strident intolerance.
You can liken England’s ugly nationalism to primitivism, a DNA regression. English courtesy has had its day. Authoritarian posturing is the fashion. Sound tough, act tough, be brutal. There is a sense of menace in the air.
What is Englishness?
Lately I’ve taken to asking English friends to define what they mean by being, or feeling, ‘English’ above all else. They stumble for an exact definition until they reach the inadequate explanation, “Born in the British Isles.” A few mumble pleasantries about playing cricket on the green on a warm summer’s day. It wouldn’t occur to a Gael to say Scottishness is a muddy battle of shinty in a Highland field.
Push them hard and the English colonial mentality will betray their innermost bigotry, a superiority over other ‘races’, the benefits of living in a wealthy country with a higher standard of living, not a banana republic like others they could mention and do as often as it makes them feel comfortable. English think other nations would be better if English, and wouldn’t it be better if they all could talk English.
The best of British
The dark side of British nationalism has been whipped up in greater and greater intensity since the beginning of the Millennium. It’s the power elite’s way of keeping the anger of the masses away from the ills that are afflicting society, namely tax avoidance, austerity, wars for profit, and corporate privatising of everything.
During the two years national discourse of Scotland’s Independence Referendum any number of BBC television series adopted the generic title, ‘The Best of British’. Over thirty-three series with the same title, plus a parade of documentaries on the First World War. To combat any attempt to subdue English nationalism BBC’s answer is to broadcast an excess of ‘British’ patriotism. So, we all became British, one country, one culture, one flag. We didn’t get a series called ‘Great British Bullshit’ but it felt like it.
To keep the population of Scotland feeling British patriotic wary of self-determination, various amoral right-wing politicians complain their forefathers died in two great wars for the United Kingdom. In reality they died to uphold the ideal of democracy for every corner of the British Isles, every language, every race every country that makes up the United Kingdom. Tens of thousands were Scots.
British patriotism is best demonstrated in the tired xenophobia of BBC’s Question Time, supposedly a political debating show. An England still mourning the loss of its empire is there for all to witness. Ninety per cent of panellists are British, a good many right-wing rent-a-pundits.
The audience is ever-ready to gun down any new idea that clashes with Englishness. Scotland’s constitutional rights is a prime target, Nicola Sturgeon its elected spokesperson Public Enemy Number One. When an English plaintiff voice is heard to say they admire what is happening in Scotland and dislike what they see in England they are thanks by Scots and dismissed by English. Anyone categorised as a free thinker, think of Marxian economist Yanis Varoufakis, are invariably seated far left, out of wide vision.
England, your England
For all its imperfections and injustices there is a better England, just not the one English think they are creating now. That one is an aberration. Scotland wants no part of it.
For wanting a say in negotiations with the EU Scots and Irish are ‘divisive nationalists’, according to pundits echoing the empty-headed Theresa May. When Scotland achieves its democratic ideal, England will be a very small country indeed and it knows it. In desperation to hold firm to its illusory empire, a few scattered protectorates, plus an atoll of tax havens, English society is condemning itself to a petty, corrupt existence.
England consists of Indians, Pakistanis, and Trinidadians whom it once governed, some still part of the British Commonwealth, a constant reminder of its days of dubious glory. Those people and their decedents are now only fit for deportation. The European project, the EU, was always a work in progress, never a conspiracy to establish a sinister super-state. Rather than share a top table, England has decided it wants no table, no person with a non-white skin colour. So be it.
Scotland denied a voice
If Westminster wants Middle-England dictating to all of the United Kingdom, I am more than happy it gives shelter to all the head banging English nationalists and thugs they want. They deserve a place of their own. They have no safe harbour in Scotland.
It is time for an all-England parliament expressing its own identity, and an all-Scottish parliament, both nations able to exercise free will.