Sunday, 28 August 2016

Marmite and sponge cake

As I've probably said before, I don't feel at all "British" and I don't understand those who do. The word means such totally different things to different people, I'm not even sure what I'd be identifying with.

One journalist suggests it means Wimbledon, the Shipping Forecast, Marmite, Shakespeare, Royal Weddings and Mary Berry's Victoria sponge. Goodness knows why he picked that particular combination. In any case, I have no interest in any of those things except Marmite. So does that mean I'm disgracefully un-British?

None of the things I'm actually interested in - like fiction, coffee, music, art, foreign food, ceramics - are exclusively British but come from all over the world. Which surely makes me Global or International rather than British.

Neither do I feel British in the sense that Britain is better than any other nation. That's an absurd idea. Every nation has its virtues and vices, Britain included. How can the country of rampant porn, horrendous online abuse, widespread poverty and soaring personal debt be better than any other country?

If feeling British means defending all those wonderful traditions foreigners are undermining with their weird primitive beliefs, then obviously I don't subscribe to that idea either.

Or we're expected to feel fervently British if someone British has excelled at something. When Team GB did so brilliantly at the Olympics, we were told we should be "proud of ourselves", as if I was personally responsible for such prowess. Er no, it had nothing whatever to do with me. They just happen to have similar passports.

The fact is I have a British passport only because I was born in Britain. Beyond that arbitrary accident of birth, "British" means nothing but a confusing bundle of quaint and irrelevant stereotypes.

British? Thanks, but no thanks.

21 comments:

kylie said...

here in Australia people go on about "mateship" and the "Aussie value" of helping out. The concept is especially bandied about when there is a natural disaster or some other large and unpleasant event. I laugh at it every time, as if the only people in the world to help their neighbours in a crisis are Australians. It's so very arrogant

Jenny Woolf said...

Hm, I think that being British makes me different from how I would be if I had been born and bred in, say, Spain. I am not saying that it makes me better or worse than I'd otherwise have been, mind you! Of the British list idea, I can only say that this seems really a corny sort of thing for a journalist to write. Perhaps they had 500 words to fill in 15 minutes! :)

I suppose (on further reflection) that I think people who are actively involved in politics might be entitled to say they feel British, since they are engaged in shaping the way the country is going - or trying to shape it, anyway. So that's worth a bit more than just a passport .

tammy j said...

well....
you COULD belong to the country that views itself above all others both in morals and wealth and even supreme purpose! and not to mention the self mandate of leadership "of the free world" LOLOL!!!
three guesses.
i have always wished that ET's would come and make themselves known to everyone...
all at the same time...
all over the world!
then maybe we would all just be content to be EARTHLINGS!!! :D

CheerfulMonk said...

I agree with tammy. It's ludicrous that the U.S. thinks Americans are morally superior to other countries and can tell them how how to run their affairs.

Bijoux said...

Wait . . . Are you trying to tell us you DON'T have a stiff upper lip??

Nick said...

Kylie: I think a lot of British people don't even pride themselves on helping out in a crisis. They're more likely to pass on by, fearing for their own safety and well-being and leaving the emergency services to sort things out.

Jenny: Yes, I guess I'd be very different if I lived in Spain, but I wouldn't feel Spanish either. I'd be steeped in Spanish customs and habits, just as now I'm steeped in British ones, but I wouldn't "feel" Spanish.

Even if you're a politician shaping the country's future, you won't necessarily "feel" British. Especially if you're originally from somewhere else like Australia or Germany.

Nick said...

Tammy: It's outrageous how the USA sees itself as so morally and politically superior to every other nation. That's the same country that has spiralling poverty, low incomes, no national health service, increasing homelessness etc. Some serious self-delusion going on here.

Jean: The same country that's totally ruined Iraq and several other countries, but is still convinced it has all the answers.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I don't have a stiff upper lip, thought there are still plenty of British men who do. I'm very much in touch with my emotions and happy to express them. The only emotions my father was happy to express were rage and frustration. Anything else was a bit unmanly.

mia more said...

I was raised with the idea of being à citizen of the world. So no national proud I have two passports German and French but I am not particularly proud of these countries. French so proud to be French (don't know why) and Germans always busy to explain to not cross the street when the lights are red ( even when it's midnight and the streets are empty).
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I see myself as a citizen of the world as well. Only identifying with one country seems very insular and narrow-minded. My partner also has dual nationality - Irish and British - and identifies with both countries but Ireland first and foremost I think.

Strange how some countries are so censorious about jaywalking. In the UK it's totally normal. I jaywalk all the time!

John Gray said...

There is ( as you yourself has demonstrated) a unique British sense of humour...
Slightly self depreciating , sarcastic, warm, ironic and slightly underplayed

There something to be proud of

mia more said...

Sorry Jewish humour is above all.

Nick said...

John: I guess you're right about my British sense of humour. I don't think of it as British though, I just think of it as the sense of humour I caught from my father. I've no idea if it's unique to Britain either.

Mia: I have no knowledge of Jewish humour at all. Well, except a minor acquaintance with Sarah Silverman, who is very funny.

Rummuser said...

I think that you should write on this subject again after Brexit.

Nick said...

Ramana: Oh merciful heavens, Brexit! What a dreadful mess that's turning out to be. The exit negotiations haven't even started yet and God knows how long they'll go on before some kind of agreement is reached. I'll probably feel even less British once all the EU legal protections have been dumped and people's lives are even harder than they are now.

Mind you, there are two ongoing legal cases asking for a ruling that we can't leave the EU without a parliamentary vote. Which could very well keep us in the EU.

Wisewebwoman said...

This whole patriotic nationalist flag waving serves no useful purpose anymore. We've never needed to pull together more.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: What we need isn't vacuous flag-waving but some serious attempts to reverse the growing inequality in the US, the UK and other countries. That would be genuine patriotism.

Hattie said...

I can't be anything but an American, but it's nothing I defend or denigrate about myself. It seems silly to think that way.
I love Jewish humor, or as I call it, the really funny stuff. Watch a Marx Brothers' movie. In fact, that's what I'm going to do now, while waiting to be hit by a hurricane (actual fact, look at the news from Hawaii).
Jewish joke: Mother at the beach cries out, "Help, help, my son the doctor is drowning!"

Nick said...

Hattie: I'm not denigrating myself though, I'm just saying I don't feel British. I don't have this nationalistic great-little-island stance we're all supposed to have. I love the Marx Brothers, but I never thought of their stuff as Jewish humour. Must take another look.

Hope you escape the hurricane....

Hattie said...

Yes, the Marx Brothers are so normalized that we don't see the origins of their humor in Yiddish theater.

Nick said...

Hattie: I must reacquaint myself with the Marx Brothers' style of humour.