Don’t you just love it, when the foreign press attack us for being “British”, as if that’s something that we should all be ashamed of! What most foreigners fail to understand is the very characteristics that annoy them so much, are the very traits that make our country so unique and previously helped our tiny little island nation become one of the greatest trading and military empires that the world has ever witnessed; and will probably never see again.
The British people are also unique because they share no single common origin, but are largely the result of an amalgam of peoples, from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as those regular waves of invaders and refugees from continental Europe, who have settled on our shores and subsequently been absorbed into our general population. The Anglo Saxons, Normans, Danes, Dutch and Norwegians have all played a part in helping to create Britain’s national identity, bringing with them the very best and worst of their own cultural heritage; thus helping to create a mongrel race who are unlike any other national population in Europe. It is little wonder therefore that other modern European’s fail to fully understand the British people, when we have so little in common with them.
Although the idea of being “British” has tended to wane in the past few decades, mainly because there is no unifying purpose to tie the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh populations together, one suspects that most people living in England, would typically describe themselves as British, rather than English. With Scotland, Ireland and Wales all having achieved some degree of political and regional independence in recent years, with the establishment of their own national assemblies, so their citizens have increasingly begun to see themselves as Scottish, Irish or Welsh, rather than British, thus undermining the historic links to the Union that once tied all four nations together.
It’s difficult to try and identify specific British characteristics, other than the stereotypical whiners, who incessantly talk about the weather, which is the way most foreigners seem to regard the British people. Of course, the British people that they choose to forget are those many millions who have died in order to preserve other countries democratic rights, or the British public who have welcomed millions of refugees over the centuries; and who have made them welcome on our shores. They also forget the tens of thousands of British people who regularly donate to various charities every year, to feed and clothe those less fortunate in Africa and Asia, not because they have to, but because they choose to do so.
It’s perhaps worth remembering that although we might be painted as a nation of beer swilling, telly watching, wannabe celebrities, the vast majority of the British public are not only generous of spirit, but are also prepared to sacrifice themselves, their sons and daughters, in order that international law and basic human rights are observed by less compliant states. It’s a mistake to judge the British people by the standards of their political leaders, many of whom are completely unlike the citizens that they purport to represent. As seems to be the case throughout the world, for the past four or five decades Britain has been unfortunate enough to be led by a succession of low grade politicians who have somehow managed to attain the highest office in the land, without having the slightest clue of what to do once they get there. As a result, the entire country has fallen into an economic, political and social malaise that seems to get worse with each succeeding government; and that requires financial trickery and deliberately invented property bubbles to keep the country from erupting into civil disorder. Is it any wonder that the British public eye all politicians, foreign or domestic with such unbridled cynicism. As somebody commented on a newspaper thread “Cameron, Clegg and Miliband may be idiots, but at least they’re our idiots and we can choose to elect them or not”, unlike those unelected politicians across the English Channel, who want us to simply dispense with our hard won independence; and then threaten us with all sort of economic reprisals if we continue to refuse their offer.
Speaking for myself, such overtures simply help to confirm my personal view that I am not European, never was, never have been and never will be! I’m British and proud to be just that. We may have our problems and a pretty poor set of politicians, most of whom lack the credibility, principles and leadership qualities of previous generations,, but they’re ours nonetheless and we’ll have to make do with them, till something better comes along. We may lack the discipline of the Germans, the flair of the French, the passion of the Italians, Spanish and Greeks, but give me the independently determined and slightly impoverished character of the British any day of the week.