Ginger and Proud!

October 9, 2008 at 9:56 am 5 comments

An American colleague and fellow blogger recently wrote a personal perspective on the subject of “Patriotism” (you can read it here). This got me to thinking, realising, how different patriotism is on this side of the pond – in the UK, Great Britain, England. You see what I mean? We are not even sure what to call ourselves.

To clarify “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” is a sovereign country; Great Britain is an island consisting of England, Wales and Scotland. Does that help? But for sure, it seems an increasingly uneasy alliance. Scotland seems to be on the verge of seeking independence. While the Welsh have, for now, stopped burning down the homes of English people resident within their borders, they still seek to differentiate themselves in terms of culture and language. The Northern Irish are, to say the least, “split”, between their “allegiance” to Queen Elizabeth or the island of Ireland.

The unofficial anthem of the Scots (Flower of Scotland) goes: “O flower of Scotland, When will we see, Your like again, That fought and died for, Your wee bit hill and glen, And stood against him, Proud Edward’s army, And sent him homeward, Tae think again”, celebrating a (rare) defeat over the invading English king’s army.

I can remember only a handful of occasions when the nation has felt truly patriotic – the Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Falklands War in 1982, the Rugby World Cup in 2003, the Ashes victory in 2005 and the recent Beijing Olympics.

Well, I consider myself to be British first and English second. This is probably because I feel that England has less of a distinctive identity than Britain. For those of you in North America, we do not all speak like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins; we do not all wear bowler hats and carry an umbrella!. The English identity is less clear to me than that of the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh. Indeed, it has almost become un-pc to claim to be a patriotic Englishman.

While cries of “U-S-A!” are seen as patriotic cries of encouragement for American sporting teams, cries of “Ingerland! are more of a battle cry, spat venomously by football hooligans. Indeed, the bowler hat characterisation of old-England has probably been replaced by the image of a shaven-haired, football-shirted, yob with pitbull in tow. Ginger spice apart, sporting the Cross of St George is more of a “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” than a declaration of patriotism. Indeed, flying the English flag, in some quarters has associations with the British National Party and racist (or pro-white) overtones. This is plain wrong. It is an association I abhor and resent.

Similarly, we seem to be embarrassed by our Christian heritage. The “Christmas holidays” have given way to “Winter Festivals” for fear of offending the many non-Christian fellow Brits. My home city of Birmingham has a notorious “Winterval”. Ridiculous! Personally, I think we should celebrate them all – Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Eid ul-Adha, whatever – celebrate their differences, their similarities, the diversity.

I am proud to be British. Founders of the biggest Empire the world has so-far seen. I know our history has been far from un-blemished but I am not of the school that the present Queen should apologise for all past misdemeanours – slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing, etc, etc. I am proud of our industrial heritage and our invention – the airplane, the guillotine, the electric bulb, the telephone, radio, the iPod, etc. etc. All invented here (hopefully that will inflame some comments from across the water!).

I am proud that as a nation we still punch above our weight politically, diplomatically, economically, militarily, and on the sporting field (football aside!).

I know that I am a patriotic Brit. A proud Englishman. I celebrate our multi-culturism, our demographic diversity, our addiction to class and celebrity, our “fairness”, our “arrogance”, our “cockiness”, and, Morris Dancing!.

 

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. erik  |  October 9, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I was willing to let the invention claims go unchallenged, but then you had to bring up Morris Dancing? Is there extant video of Middle Man’s Morris Dancing youth?

    Let’s examine the claims.

    The telephone, history tells us, was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, a Scot. But like Calculus, it was actually independently invented by two people only one of whom was British. Bell narrowly beat Elisha Gray to the patent office.

    Marconi certainly considered himself Italian, but his mother was Irish and most of his important work in developing the radio took place in England.

    Sir Humphry Davy advanced the design of the electric bulb, but Edison’s sweat shops had produced the first working bulbs.

    The Halifax Gibbet and Scottish Maiden existed long before Dr. Guillotin was born.

    Fixed wing flight was the grail (another British invention, I believe) for many. The Wright brothers get credit for the first self powered human flight, but this child had a great many parents (among them Sir George Cayley and John Stringfellow).

    Given Apple’s penchant for secrecy, there’s no telling who invented the iPod. To be sure, there were MP3 players before that. Even before the MP3 standard had been created, Kane Kramer had designed a digital audio player that was never commercially produced.

    I will concede that, in varying degrees, Britons have had a hand in those inventions, though in most cases, not exclusively so.

    Morris Dancing is all yours, though.

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  • 2. Middle Man  |  October 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    He, he, he

    Oh Erik, I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist 😉 I should take up fishing!

    The Grail – Robert de Boron was French!

    Radio – David Edward Hughes of Corwen in 1856

    Electric bulb – Sir Joseph Swan in 1878

    Airplane – Welsh Bill Frost in 1894 or Perry Pilcher triplane in 1899

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  • 3. erik  |  October 10, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Still waiting on the Morris Dancing video…

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  • 4. Middle Man  |  October 10, 2008 at 7:07 am

    OK Erik,

    Unfortunately, my Morris Dancing days were before the onset of video. While there may be some ancient cine film footage somewhere, you may have to make do with this:

    https://caughtinthemiddleman.wordpress.com/2007/07/03/early-education-part-4-2/

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  • 5. lifeisannoying  |  October 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    here is an english woman! happy as larry, and nobody especially cowards like the BNP should hijack the flag for their craven ideals. it’s time ordinary people took things into their won hands. I quite argee about the idiocy of “wintervals” nobody i know gets offended by any religious festivals.
    Anyhoo back on topic, start a group with likeminded people and start researching what it is that unites us. hopefully it won’t be things alien to our way of life, like saluting the flag and singing the (god-awful) national anthem, the queen is the biggest welfare recipiant in theworld. but aint she sweet?

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