In a very early brief rumination on the main attributes of the English character I touched on how many had forgotten what it is to be English, the English calling themselves British for decades. From the repulsive utterances we are prey to these days courtesy of the media it seems English have supplanted their best qualities with the worst in human nature.
What happened to the famed English sense of fair play, reasonableness, levelheadedness, politeness, decency, chivalry, and an unmatched aptitude for good manners? I had grown to believe those attributes ingrained in the English character. Was it all a myth, fine etiquette and consideration for others only ever in Agatha Christie novelettes?
To Scots, and I have to believe to English who live in Scotland, England has become a mutant society, another planet.
Where are we now?
English of a certain vulgar authoritarian disposition have reached the stage where Boris Johnson can describe Africans as “piccaninnies” and still be appointed UK Foreign Secretary and they won’t complain, and Johnson allowed to survive in that post comparing François Hollande to a Nazi prison guard.
Panellists on the lightning rod of British public mood, BBC’s Question Time, dismissed his bigotry as an over-reaction by silly Europeans. On this occasion three were public (private) school educated, taught a hellova low standard in international understanding.
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”. After a failed bid for Tory party leadership Gove is searching for a life of his own.
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.
Lately I’ve taken to asking English friends to define what they mean by being, or feeling, ‘British’ above all else. They stumble for an exact definition until they reach the inadequate explanation, “Born in the British Isles.”
We know they have something else in mind, a certain superiority over other ‘races’, the benefits of living in a wealthy country with a higher standard of living, not an economic basket case, or banana republic like others they could mention, such as Scotland. So much for over 300 years of English economic rule.)
The aggressive sort, unnerved their nebulous life-long assumptions are shaky, to say the least, respond with the reflex “So then, what is ‘Scottishness?’ In turn I quote them in reply, rebellious uneducated tenement dwellers, whiney, uppity, vegetable hating, alcohol swallying, welfare reliant skirt wearers, and wait for the expected silent embarrassment.
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 real ills that are afflicting society, namely tax avoidance, wars for profit, and corporate privatising of everything.
During the two years national discourse of Scotland’s Independence Referendum, (I enjoy giving that event proper respect with capitals) any number of BBC television series adopted the generic title, ‘The Best of British’. It was a unique coincidence; over thirty-three series with the same title, plus a parade of documentaries on the First World War. England had been at war for decades before, in the Sudan, and South Africa, but poppies have a greater resonance than portraits of Gordon of Khartoum.
To combat any attempt to subdue English nationalism BBC’s answer was to broadcast an excess of ‘British’ patriotism. So, we all became British, one country, one culture, one flag.
To keep the population of Scotland feeling patriotic and wary of self-determination, various amoral Right-wing politicians complained that their forefathers had died in two great wars for the United Kingdom. In reality they died to uphold the notion of democracy, and that included every corner of the British Isles, every language, every race. Tens of thousands were Scots.
As the black propaganda increased from British Establishment Central so too did the desire for Scottish hegemony. The reaction was predicable. More had to be done to convince Scots to accept British political orthodoxy, and toe the line. The BBC did its part.
My turn to be pontificator
Any wannabee television celebrity given a hand-held camera and a silly hat threw a knapsack on their back and took off on long boring walks talking to camera around our ‘Great British Countryside’. British tended to stop at the Lake District.
Now, many of those programmes were made by independent production companies, leaving the only logical explanation for the rash of amazing plagiarism a BBC executive memorandum instructing ‘British’ used in as many titles as possible. We didn’t get ‘Great British Bullshit’ but it felt like it. I waited for the crème de la crème, ‘Great British Public Conveniences’, but I guess unmarried celebrities shied from the role of narrator. Anyhow, the best of British turned out to be the worst of Englishness.
This week saw an even greater stamp of England’s will on Scotland’s aspirations. We had the anger inducing scene of Brexit means anything I want it to mean prime minister Theresa May. She said “No deal is better than a bad deal”, and in the same breath, warning Scotland it doesn’t count when it comes to sharing negotiations in a democracy of nations.
How can no deal be better than a bad deal? Any bad deal is better than no deal. Starving, what would you rather have no chicken or only a chicken leg?
And as the United Kingdom is united in its Crown not in its laws and political preferences, all else is negotiable, jointly and severally, so long as it does not undermine the will of either nation.
And from where has all that intense British patriotism arrived? It demonstrates its arrogance in a repulsive xenophobic BBC Question Time political show. An England still mourning the loss of its empire was there for all to witness.
The panel was packed with ultra-Right-wing politicians and pundits, the one person there for some sort of impartial, sane comment, American novelist Lionel Shriver, struggling to construct a coherent sentence without sounding like a Trump apologist.
A fast aging David Dimbleby, chairman, failed to control the high-handed, bombastic antics of self-promoter and serial failure, Piers Morgan. As far as Morgan was concerned he was the chairperson, and, he reckoned, so long as he talked over everybody on the panel England would be mighty again. His was penis patriotism in your face.
Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry
The audience was ready to gun down any new idea coming into their Dodge City. From a member of the audience came the inevitable gratuitous jab at the integrity of Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
The audience did as an English audience is expected to do in the new order whenever the democratic rights of a smaller nation are called into question, it applauded and laughed uproariously. If a member of the audience experienced any misgivings none appeared to show it. There is a cure for that sort of excruciating colonial double bind, but it requires a machine gun.
A quick witted cameraman made sure viewers saw the joke was shared by all the panellists, including the thick lipped, treble-chinned, dishonest Liberal-Democratic MP, Alistair Carmichael.
It was unclear if he was laughing in relief because for once he wasn’t the conspiratorial author of the taunt. He’s a Scot, remember, yet there he was joining in the ridiculing of his own nation. It’s a sign of a craven individual who succumbs to the pressure of the group.
BBC’s Question Time is a freak show.
What we are given isn’t erudition, wisdom, or wit, but braggarts, the vainglorious, and narcissists. The entire charade was repulsive, at moments chilling to watch.
English readers who voted Remain – who lost by a small margin in a referendum that ought never to have been called – will have experienced the same alienation, but the time has arrived when they must affect the cure themselves for their nation, and not expect more delay to Scotland’s democracy as a sacrifice in assistance to their interests.
For all its imperfections and injustices there is a better England, just not the one they think they are creating now. That one is an aberration.
England still mourns the passing of the empire, and as a substitute, entertains the delusion that the United Kingdom plus Gibraltar, and all its little far flung tax havens for multi-millionaires and corporations, is … the new empire.
For wanting a say in negotiations with the EU the Scots and the Irish are ‘divisive nationalists’, according to May, oblivious of the authoritarian nationalism in her claim to speak for the Scots and Irish against their better judgement.
Nor does she blench at her imposition of English nationalists’ warped ideals on the Scots and Irish, who rejected her vision. (I can’t vouchsafe for the Welsh, Wales a land geographically too close to London to be enough of a renegade and survive a revolution.)
England, your England
When Scotland achieves its democratic ideal England will be a very small country indeed, and it knows it. It’s desperate to hold firm to its empire, a few scattered protectorates, plus an atoll of tax havens it owns abroad.
England is filled with Indians, Pakistanis, Trinidadians, and Europeans whom it once governed, a constant reminder of its days of dubious glory. The UK is the British Empire lite. But it is also an illusion. The sublimation of Scotland’s culture and hopes is fast losing attraction. British imperialists who believe Scotland can only survive as a vassal of the United Kingdom are in retreat.
The European project 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 its own table, and the right to choose who they invite to sup around it. So be it.
Scotland will not be denied a voice.
If Westminster wants to respect Middle-England dictating to all of the United Kingdom I am more than happy it gives shelter to all the head banging British nationalists and thugs they want. They deserve a place of their own. They have no 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. Who knows – perhaps the English will then decide other nations are worthy of respect.