OK UK?: A History Lesson...
I think that, pretty much, every global event in the history of the world started with an Englishman saying, "I think..." and some country or other was, from that moment, basically screwed. It is utterly amazing that this island, with a couple of hundred residents, produced so many people who felt the urge to be somewhere else. It had to be more than the bad weather, or the food.
The pull of elsewhere was, and continues to be, strong. I succumbed, but for the best reason of all, an amazing woman. Many of my forbears, often the disenfranchised second (and below) sons of the aristocracy, believed in their god-given right to take, from elsewhere, what was denied them at home by the order of their birth. Specifically, they sought land, money, and power.
Claiming other countries became a national obsession enforced by a mighty navy, and an army of the great unwashed who wanted a piece of the action. Official policy was to paint the map of the world pink, and damn any Johnny Foreigner who got in the way. You can imagine the mustachioed gentlemen of influence, smoking their cigars and downing the best brandies, sitting in their clubs, getting all agitated by the bits of the world map under the thrall of someone other than them.
A couple of big wars later, it dawned on us that this might be, just a tiny bit, insensitive, and thus official policy was changed to apologizing to everyone. No sentence was to be spoken in the English language without the word "sorry" in it. In practical terms, the countries we had stolen were reclassified as "borrowed," and given back to the natives to screw up as much as they would like. Now, not being stupid, and scruples only being skin deep, those in charge made sure they retained anything of value and put it on the balance sheet as business assets.
No sir, we no longer wielded power (which was wrong and imperial and domineering) we now wielded influence. It bothered us not one bit that the big dogs of the world looked at us and saw a little barking terrier, because that terrier was shaking everyone down. The polite term is, of course, called being a player in the global economy, but how brilliant is it that we invented insurance, for example.
We were somewhat shortsighted, though. While we were munificent in our bestowing the greatest honor on earth, British citizenship, to every Johnny and Jane Foreigner we ‘administered’, no one ever thought they would leave their hovels and exercise their right to live in their "homeland." This is why you will not find a single English person in London, ever. What English people there may be in our capital, are transported ‘in’ every day from the "shires", but have the decency to be gone by 5:30 every afternoon.
Ever been to Heathrow airport? It is the poster child for the ethnic melting pot, the very epitome of a global village.
Of course England is no longer England. It is now a fully owned subsidiary of the Common Market, more properly called the European Union (and the winner of the oxymoron of the century award). I am now a Euro-Brit, who lives in America. Following the footsteps of my people, in being anywhere but here.
But who are these English? Edward Rutherfurd has had a few goes at explaining it, which boils down to: we are the product of tourism. Established Europeans suffered badly from wanderlust. Actually, all varieties of lust when you come to think about it. So Danes and Norwegians came visiting in their longboats. The Huns had a quick look-see. Angles, Saxons, Normans, even the Romans, all came for a holiday.
Now when I say holiday, this coming and taking over your house is uniquely English. Even today, relatives seem to have great difficulty in leaving someone else’s home, having lost their home address somehow. Wilde wrote about it as “Bunburying” in The Importance of Being Earnest, and boy, did he ever nail that phenomenon.
So having crossed the North Sea (which would put the most mild mannered traveler into the foulest of moods) the visitors, finding no suitable accommodation being provided by the native Celts, they burned what they saw and rebuilt.
It is rumored that a few of the Celts still live on the island, a couple in the wilds of Scotland, and one chap on the outskirts of Aberystwyth in Wales. They do not advertise their presence, or celebrate their roots, for fear of someone coming to stay in their house.
Now, of all the places the-people-who-call-themselves-English, have the hardest time with, it is France. France’s very existence causes a very extreme form of apoplexy in your average Brit. I suspect it may have to do with the fact that they are our equals, perhaps even our betters, in the arrogance department. The hundred-year war (which may not have actually ended) was supposed to have sorted this all out, but despite a brief lull so we could fight the Germans, the antagonism is still there.
Apparently we got all upset at being called a ‘nation of shopkeepers,’ which is overdoing it a bit as we call them “frogs”. Hardly the greatest insult ever, but did we get over it? Well, yes and no. We still hate the French, but we show our disdain by going over in massive numbers to have our holidays there. We like it. We buy a château, or a run-down farmhouse.
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