Warning: The following disjointed rambling contains some outrageous and ridiculous generalisations which the author cannot substantiate in any way, shape or form. Additionally the author makes no claims to historical, geographical or indeed any other sort of, accuracy.
Walking though San Francisco the other day, I was struck by what could well be the answer to something that’s been bothering me for a while. Why is that everyone you meet who is not from the England is proud of where they come from and, more often than not, are enjoying their travels but are actively looking forward to going home. I don’t think, whilst being abroad, I’ve met a single English person who misses England. Plus a lot of English people who live in England want to leave (whether or not they ever will is another question). Don’t get me wrong, there are people who live in England who I miss, but I would miss them wherever they lived, what I mean is a pride in our country and a belief that the English way of life is an admirable and enviable one.
Small derail here, could the bloke behind me shouting about how he paints flames on lowriders and how he was “humping bodies across the deck of the Connie in Great Plains” please shut up. He did 5 tours in Black Ops wouldn’t you know.
In my experience, non-English people admire some things about the English, things which I am proud of. They love our sense of humour. We’re dry and sarcastic, and once they adapt they think it’s hilarious. Um, that’s about it. Everyone (and I mean everyone) says food in England is awful. I’m not sure I agree but I’ve given up arguing. It’s such a cliché these days that if they haven’t got anything else more interesting to criticise then they’re probably not worth talking to. We don’t have a food culture, such as the French or Italians I grant you, but you can eat well. People do eat well. And remember, these are sometimes Americans who are telling me this. With a straight face. Irony they don’t get.
But, on the other side, most nationalities you come across are proud of where they come from even if they’re not there right now. My girlfriend Laura, who is from Colombia, hasn’t lived there for a couple of years and isn’t planning on returning anytime soon, but the majority of her friends in Buenos Aires are Colombian and she gets all misty-eyed when she talks of missing her “land” and her “people”. Not many people from Yeovil feel like that.
So anyway onto my great theory about this. The countries that seem to have a greater sense of national pride and identity are those that have had Revolutions. A specific moment in time when the modern nation was created – 1776 for the USA, 1789 for France, 18 something or other for Argentina. The UK (more specifically England as I would not presume to talk for anybody else) has never had this moment. With the glitch of the Civil War over 450 years ago, our country has been more or less the same for 1000 years. Yes, things have changed, progess has been made but we have never had the one moment where we have cast off the shackles of tyranny (been the tyrant often enough though). This, to me, is the key. Street names in the US, France, Argentina and countless other “unshackled” countries reflect the names of past heroes (military, political, historical, scientific, literary and more) and dates. The main avenue in Buenos Aires is the Avenida 9 de Julio. The streets of Paris are full of the names of military, scientific and literary heroes (not even all French to be fair) . OK, London has Trafalgar and Waterloo but where is Wellington Avenue, Churchill Boulevard, Dickens Street? The main street in Bayeux is called Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt for God’s sake.
Statues here have references to this person’s contribution to Our Country. I don’t ever recall seeing that in England. Flags are flown proudly, the St George’s Cross in England has some somewhat unsavoury links to jack-booted skinheads, and nobody seems willing to try and reclaim it for the decent folk. So that’s my theory, I think we need a revolution, something we could be really proud of.