Sunday, October 23, 2005

To be English

How did our nationality become such a dilemma to us? We can understand and respect national pride in the French, the Scots or the Irish. We can even accept their taunts with good humour. So why can't we give what we get? Do we really think our Nation is worthy of less love or respect than others? I don't think so. In our hearts, though too "modern" to admit to it, I suspect most of us love our country as much as did our great hero whose death was commemorated this week.

The Act of Union was an expensive mistake. England has gained nothing from it but the brooding, resentful presence of Scots for whom their every misfortune is our fault. In a hopeless attempt to make the Union work, the English have suppressed their sense of national pride; have called themselves British (as few Scots ever did) and have tried vainly to win the love of their neighbours.

In an ideal world the people of our islands - including the island of Ireland - would be one nation. The differences between us are far, far slighter than the cultural forces which bind us. Peoples with the same language; people whose children learn the same nursery rhymes; people who laugh at the same jokes; people who can love the same poetry and art; people who have common approaches to liberty and rights, belong together. But if more than 200 years have not brought the Scots to that realisation, why waste money, energy and guilt on centuries more of unappreciated effort?

I have lived in two other countries. I came to love Poland. I want her to prosper and take pride in the sight of her goods on display in other nation's shop windows. My children grew up there. Most of my friends are Poles. If she is threatened, or criticised, I feel for her.

Now I live in Russia. Russia is harder to love (and less eager to be loved) but in two years I have come to respect and admire an enormously impressive culture. Russia has contributed nothing good to politics, economics or gastronomy, but she has made a peerless contribution to the arts.

Yet I have never felt more English than I do now. I have never cared more when England is threatened or criticised. I have never been more concerned about her future. I have never felt more resentful of the traitors who rule her, confound their knavish tricks.

I am concerned that some people who came to England full of claims have never learned to love her, or even respect her. Even some of their children and grandchildren feel, inexplicably, more loyalty to foreign ideologies, customs and traditions than to those of the great nation that has welcomed and nurtured them and twisted its own ideologies to accomodate them. No nation outside the Anglosphere has ever tried to modify its culture so as to absorb the influences of foreign immigrants. It was a brave experiment, and I am proud of the attempt, but it cannot yet be called a success.

If I can learn to love Poland in a decade, what is wrong with my country that some of these people can't learn to love it in three generations? What is wrong with my countrymen that when a few such maniacs commit suicidal and murderous attacks on our people, they look to blame each other?

England has rarely been ruled by her own. For centuries we laboured under rulers who despised us and delighted in tracing their ancestry to William the Conqueror. They owned the land and we worked it. At the time of the story portrayed in Braveheart, the kings of England and Scotland both saw themselves as Norman. The confrontation in Stirling Cathedral, so chauvinistically portrayed in the film, would have been a polite discussion in courtly French between two nobles who felt no more for the Scots or English than for their other cattle. They would have scorned to speak either Scots Gaelic or English. It's ludicrous that the heirs of those "cattle" should base animosity to each other on long-forgotten allegiances to such invaders.

Now the Scots ARE ruled by their own. They have their own parliament and they have ours too. They have all the top cabinet positions and they shape the United Kingdom's policies to Scotland's ends. They conspire, as they always did, with the French and their joint aim is as it ever was. England is once again ruled by foreigners while the practical English - as ever - focus on the arts, the sciences and the generation of wealth to be squandered by others.

When will England too be free? I am a cosmopolitan with friends from many nations. I do not need to despise them or their countries to feel in my bones that no nation has given the world more than mine. We deserve our place in the world, and to be proud of it.

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