Britishness: Just What the Heck is It??
We'd certainly miss Britain's contribution to the world.
Does Britishness Exist? I'm Bemused
Can there be any manifestation of blind nationalistic fervor more irritating than the bloody British harping on daily about what they perceive as the national identity and its component parts?
You don’t hear Americans carrying on about their “Americaness,” the Canadians as their “Canadianess,” even the self loving French don’t bore the rest of the world with “Frenchness,” which sounds vaguely pornographic anyway.
These nations are no less patriotic than the Brits or hold themselves in less regard. Is it that they are more bland and the British do, indeed, have something special withheld from other nationals?
The British do have some admiral characteristics: they are polite, in the main, integrate well (again, in the main) with all the other nationals living in Britain. They do, indeed, know how to queue par excellence, but perhaps that is the result of years of being downtrodden and inured to bad service. North Americans would surely riot if kept waiting in the post-office, the Department of Motor Vehicle, ticket windows and all the rest, as Brits are regularly.
Brits do tend to favor the underdog and know how to win and loose with grace. (Hemmingway said being a good looser takes a lot of practice…make of that what you will, while remembering “Eddie the Eagle” and the Eurovision Song Contest every year).
The race does have the famous “stiff upper lip,” and endures economical hardship, petrol prices and bad service, as well as the awful weather with some equanimity.
The British do dearly love animals, who often fare better than the kids.
But we have a lot of nasty and undesirable traits as well. We criticize other people and nations far too much, (The British are constantly banging-on about the Americans which irks me deeply in view of what the “Yanks“ have done for us). We also find nothing good in the French, which is roundly repaid by the Froggies (who call us the “Rosbiffs”).
We eat all the wrong foods, drink and smoke far too much as a nation. We are serial forelock-tuggers to any fool calling itself “Sir,” and passionately in love with a greedy family so wealthy they could never count their riches, but are too “poor” to fix Buckingham Palace roof without complaining about it.
Many of us are lazy and spoiled by years of the Welfare State. We gaze around in some bemusement at the tattered and torn little archipelago, which is all that is left since we lost the Empire. We speak of belt-tightening and facing up to our financial woes, yet we still buy fillet steak and premium wine on credit cards that charge more than 30% in annual interest.
I have a feeling that Britishness, if it exists as anything except a vague concept, means different things to different individuals.
To me, who has lived overseas most of my adult life and is a reluctant resident of England, I reject most characteristics which would brand me “British.” I am an anti-royalist and think we should stop all this king and queen bulldust; the same applied to forced respect of a bunch of waffling Oxbridge retirees “knighted” by our old fossil. Once a night with any of that lot (apart from Kate) would surely be enough. OK, some of them have earned my respect, but I will decide whom.
I am an unashamed atheist and see all the religious leaders as hogs sucking on a drying trough. I try to avoid queues as much as possible and all other forms of masochism disguised as Britishness.
I think I am kind, compassionate and understanding, but this is a trait which should apply to all of us and doesn’t - for me - indicate a component of “Britishness.”
And I am in love with that great nation, the USA, and the generous, brave people there.
Perhaps this examination of Britishness is merely a desperate search for solidarity, albeit tenuous, against a world fed up with Anglos and their bullying, acquisitive ways. Perhaps the poor little Brits, having lost all else, need this rallying cry amid their country becoming more and more foreign: foreign owned, and foreigner populated.
Perhaps someone can tell me what Britishness really is in comments, because it’s sure hard to make sense of it by this ex-pat. As a force, is it more emphatic than, say, Greekness, or Italianess…and doesn’t it sound weird even suggesting that?
I suggest this nonsensical whimsy is sent to the trash-bin along with “God Save the Queen,” (it’s her subjects who need Heavenly intervention); and “Rule Britannia,” that daft song out of date by 100 years and far too jingoistic anyway.