Nutty Nationalists?

23 04 2008

So today is St. George’s Day. The patron saint of England who remains less celebrated than his free drinking Irish counterpart. Great. Does this mean anything to the people of England now?  Is nationalism a thing of the past in what we are frequently reminded is a ‘multi-cultural’ society? To some extent, I think it is, and here is why.

The growing influx of migrants (of which lots has been said by all sides of the political spectrum) has, I think, impacted upon good old George. That communities in the larger towns and cities now incorporate people from all corners of the globe is not a bad thing, but I think that this does, naturally enough, lead to some sort of loss of identity. It is only to be expected that  with people from across Europe coming to  England, ties with St. George get weaker. They bring with them cultures, food, lifestyles. Some do want to become part of English life, saints days and all. Others don’t. The more St. George has to compete with, the more he will lose. St. Paddy, as alluded to at the start, is a more popular saints day in England because of the associations with Dublins famous brew. As St. George competes against various other festivals, he is, as I see it, becoming more marginalised. People seem to be a bit afraid of celebrating St. George. I think.

That does not though mean that nationalism is dead in the water. The trouble is that there are too few people in the middle ground. Either you have the extreme BNP style nationalists, wanting to exile anyone who wasn’t absolutely English. Or you have people who don’t care enough to show that they are proud to be English. From what I see, you do not have enough people who are willing to stand up and be counted as nationalists, without preaching death to all black people.

I cast my mind back three or four years to a piece on the radio. Scott Mills, the radio one DJ, had a piece with a guy who would stand up and put his hand on his heart whenever the national anthem was played. Mills and co found this hilarious, and were heard playing the first few notes of the anthem to see this guy shoot up like a jack-in-the-box. The effect that such public mockery has, I think, is to make people almost ashamed to be English. Almost ashamed to do patriotic things like stand up for the anthem.

Regardless of whether you are a tory, a labourite, or a lib dem, I cannot understand why being proud to be English is a bad thing. You might, for example, welcome our European connections, but still be proud to say you come from England. The two, I think, do not have to necessarily be incompatible.

For me, I am happy to say I’m English, rather than British. On forms when asked my ethnicity, I write English, if the option is not there already. This doesn’t mean I want to take a shotgun to the Polish people, or deport all Indian people. I recognise the good that most do for the country. But I do not want to be ashamed of calling myself English, of belting out the national anthem, or of celebrating St. George’s Day. Why should we be?

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8 responses

25 04 2008
brigidjones

Aint nowt wrong with it, i just dont see the point! You can’t even make it into a drinking fest, nowhere does ale and Carling is rubbish

26 04 2008
Luke_D

Do you see the point in St Paddy’s day? More importantly, do you celebrate St Paddy’s day? What that implies is that for something to have a point, it must be related to your consumption of alcohol.

Suddenly your fondness for the Labour party makes sense.

26 04 2008
Claire

Am I proud to be English? no, because the way I see it, it was only luck that I am English, I could have just as easily been born elsewhere. I haven’t actually done anything to be proud of by simply being born in a certain place.

I think this gives some indication as to why nationalism is viewed as old fashioned. It did once have it’s place, e.g. in WW2 everyone was pulling together and making sacrifices for their country for a war that people knew that Britain was “in the right” for. We haven’t really had that since.

I am not however saying that I am not very happy to be English- I couldn’t imagine dying anywhere else! 😀

P.S if the government had national pride surely st George’s day would be a bank holiday!?

26 04 2008
Luke_D

I’m not sure it is a case of what have you done to be proud of being English. I think it is more a case of what has the country done in times gone by that can make you proud to say that you are English. I would point to things such as democracy and industry that England more or less gave to the rest of the world in some form or other. I think more than anything though, I am proud to just be associated with a country that has such a rich and colourful history, full of characters and individuals who did things to make you proud.

26 04 2008
Claire

In the past this country has built up colonies in other countries, used their materials and goods to make us rich, dabbled in the slave trade, come back to these countries later lent them money and charged them ridiculous rates of interest, leaving them in poverty for years to come. When they finally start developing countries like ours relocate industry there, putting workers here out of jobs and exploiting people out there.
Of course it goes without saying that I’m proud to be British!

26 04 2008
Luke_D

And of course it is easy to be critical of the past as judged by today’s standards. As a reminder, we were not the only country to have ‘dabbled’ in the slave trade, nor were we the only country to have colonies across the world.
Herein lies the confusion, I presume you meant English (in line with the point I was originally making) rather than British?
It would be interesting to see if you would have had the same reaction had you been alive say, in the 1880s. At a time when the Great Exhibition celebrating achievement had been held. At a time when improvements in working class houses were being made and implemented. At a time when we were at the heart of scientific research.
The point is, too frequently do we dwell on the negativity of the past, and too infrequently do we look at the positive things that have made England into what we now know.

26 04 2008
Claire

Sorry can’t help it, I’m a negative person, probably get it from the news.
Was going to say “English” but then all parts of the British Isles have benefited (or not) from what I was saying so… you’re right, we were not the only country to do all of that but our empire was the biggest (another reason to be proud of being British/English whatever eh?).

Who knows what I would have thought had I been alive then, however obviously some people realised it wasn’t right otherwise it would never have changed.

As for the changes in working class housing, do not kid yourself that it was done for honourable reasons that warrent pride; the appalling conditions that the working classes lived in spread diseases like cholera etc which ignore class divides and seeing as it was the working classes which enabled those in power to be wealthy and for England to compete industrially with other countries, they needed to be vaguely healthy.

Maybe they should do another Great Exhibition for the 21st century of all that we can be proud of now. Any ideas?

26 04 2008
Claire

Hmm actually am kind of proud of our NHS!

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