|Nigel Farage - Leader of UKIP|
One might imagine that part of the reason for patriotism having become so unfashionable nowadays, is that the actual concept of having an attachment for, or being devoted to, one's home country, is generally thought to be so old fashioned that it more properly belongs to the Britain of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, before the enlightened arrival of multiculturalism, globalisation and the cultural Marxism that have infiltrated every tier of our modern society and nearly every aspect of our everyday lives. How much easier it is to dismiss a love of country, of culture, of language, of shared national histories, of common practice, gather them into one nice tidy package called strident nationalism, and then simply brand them all as xenophobia, fascism, racism, intolerance and/or isolation.
It's sometimes hard to imagine that just under a century ago, hundreds of thousands of young British soldiers set off to do their patriotic duty for King and Country, in defence of a European continent that most of them knew little about; and even fewer would have ever visited. It little mattered who they were defending, who they were fighting, or why, it was simply sufficient to have been called to serve their country in its hour of need, a call that most were happy to heed, as were millions more from Britain's numerous foreign dominions. The slaughter that followed, the lives that were lost, that were blighted forever, were not sacrificed for financial gain, for territorial advantage, or for any pecuniary benefit to the soldiers themselves, but often entirely for love of their country, their family and friends, to defend their lands, their possessions, their culture, their history, in fact everything that made Britain what it was then and what it remains to this day.
Twenty years later, another generation of young British people were asked to repeat the same futile exercise, this time against an even greater and far more vicious enemy, one that had they succeeded in their task, would have put an end to almost two thousand years of British history, an enemy who would have happily subjugated our people, robbed us of our cultural heritage and murdered any of our citizens who dared stand against them. Despite being bombed from the air and starved from the sea, Britain's population, men and women, military and civilian, stood fast against the onslaught of the Nazi war machine; and through their steadfastness, sheer bloody-mindedness and patriotic zeal, were able to weather the storm; until the tide of war turned against Hitler and his generals, helping to secure an overall allied victory in 1945. Despite the fact that the British people of the 1940's were entirely different to those who experienced and fought in the Great War in 1914-1918, in that the country and society had fundamentally changed in the aftermath of the First World War, love of country, a willingness to stand up for the weak against the strong, an adherence to; and belief in, the rule of common international law; along with an absolute refusal to allow our nation to be conquered, or subsumed by a foreign military power, brought a latent patriotism to the fore.
However, the fact that our country has experienced an almost unending period of peace since 1945, in terms of armed conflict being visited on our own geographical doorstep, so the nation's pool of dormant patriotic fervour has remained largely untapped, save for likes of the Falklands Islands conflict in 1982, the London Olympic's in 2012, the regular Proms Concerts, or the occasional England football match. More recent armed conflicts, which have seen our young men and women from the Armed Forces undertaking service in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even Bosnia and Libya, do not engender the same feelings of national patriotic pride within the country, simply because they are intrinsically foreign wars, fought too far away, often for foreign interests, for the most questionable of reasons and with the most uncertain outcomes. That is not to say that our young servicemen and women do not deserve our fervent patriotic support, which they often receive in abundance, as they are entitled, but one wonders whether they undertake their onerous tasks with the same sort of patriotic willingness that their predecessors were thought to have done, a century or so before?
Interestingly, the term Patriot is thought to have been used in common parlance during the Elizabethan era, deriving from the late Latin word "Patriota" or "countryman", which in its turn originally came from the Greek language. It is often confused with, or related to "Nationalism", which is an entirely different and often far more complicated personal ideology, one that can have and has had highly negative connotations in the past, as in the case of National Socialism in Germany (ie: the Nazi Party). In one interpretation of Nationalism, it can be identified as a belief that citizenship of a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural, religious, or identity group, whereas Multi-Nationalism in a single state should comprise the right of all groups, majorities and minorities, to express and exercise their own versions of nationalism, as they see it applying to them. Equally, Nationalism in a political sense isn't just right-wing, as some would have us believe, pointing to the likes of the Fascist parties that rose to power in the 1920's and 1930's, but can also be left wing as well, assuming of course that it adopts a political ideology, or a stance to begin with.
Of course common useage of the word "Patriot" is generally associated with our American cousins; and those colonists who fought the dreaded British during the late 18th century, in the skirmishes and battles that would ultimately result in the founding of the United States of America. In much the same way, one would suppose that if there were commonly regarded British "Patriots", they would include a whole long list of historical celebrities, from Caractacus to Boudicca, from Alfred the Great to Edward the Confessor, from Harold I to Richard the Lionheart, from King Edward I to Llewelyn ap Gruffudd and William Wallace, from Sir Francis Drake to Walter Raleigh, from Oliver Cromwell to Admiral Robert Blake, from Bonnie Prince Charlie to Admiral Lord Nelson, etc. In fact, the list of potential British patriots, assuming of course that you now included the various historical figures from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (prior to its independence) then it would be a very long list indeed. But then one imagines it depends on how exactly you choose to define "patriotism", bearing in mind that Llewelyn ap Gruffudd is widely regarded as an exclusively Welsh patriot, having fought against the English in order to defend his own native homeland, in much the same way that William Wallace fought and died to preseve an independent Scotland from the avaricious nature of the same English king. They didn't fight for Britain as such, which has only formally existed since the Act of Union 1707, but they fought for their own particular part of Britain, so as to whether that qualifies them to be regarded as a British patriot, or just Scottish, or Welsh, is open to argument and discussion, even though they undoubtedly form part of our shared national and cultural heritage.
It seems to be the case, at least to me anyway, that since the second half of the 20th century Britain has been compelled to review its long, rich and tumultuous history by what are often referred to as "cultural marxists", people who take the view that established cultural norms, such as family, gender, race and cultural identities are simply there to maintain existing hierarchies, which adherents to and practitioners of cultural marxism have clearly concluded is a wholly bad thing? It is believed that this pervasive cultural marxist agenda has been directly responsible for the introduction of the modern day concepts of multiculturalism and political correctness that have helped to undermine so many of society's traditionally accepted practices of the past, that it often seems that the entire world has gone completely mad.
Change, purely for the sake of change, is a complete nonsense. Our modern societies have taken thousands of years to develop into the fairly imperfect places that they are today, but for anyone to suggest, let alone attempt, to undo all of those centuries of work, those years of trial and error, is complete madness; and can only surely lead to social anarchy, as well as repetitions of previous mistakes.
Britain's national history is both extensive and extremely mixed, as is any great former imperial power's. However, as with the list of prominent historical figures who have sprung from these islands, the list of the credits and debits, the rights and the wrongs, the good and the bad, that resulted out of Britain's imperial ambitions have to be seen in the round, not in isolation to one another. Does anyone really imagine that if Britain hadn't got involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, then it wouldn't have existed at all? Do they really believe that the Arab States, the Spanish and the Portuguese would have just stopped taking Black Africans from their homelands? If Britain hadn't colonised half the world, does anyone really think that those countries would have remained free and independent, with France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands all busily colonising other areas of the world? Does anyone really think that Imperial Japan would have just ignored those Far Eastern territories that Britain hadn't colonised? It's a complete fallacy to believe that the world would have been a better place without a British Empire, because if it hadn't been us, it would certainly have been someone else.
Consider these things also, while criticising Britain's imperial past. Which country was it that helped bring the Transatlantic Slave Trade to an end? Which country established homelands for many thousands of repatriated Black African slaves? Where did virtually all of Asia's and Africa's basic civil infrastructure come from? Who was it built and financed by? Who was it that established most of the economic industries that much of Africa and Asia still rely on for their national incomes? Which country provided the basis for the courts and governance that many of these former imperial territories still use to this very day?
Clearly, it's easy to be highly judgemental about the colonisation and the exploitation of these faraway countries hundreds of years after it happened, when Britain was competing with other European nations and Empires for control of the various vital resources that many of these overseas countries possessed. But to try and pass judgment on political and financial decisions made by English and British monarchs and parliaments during the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is a totally pointless exercise, because the economic priorities, the political allegiances, the military stategies and the social morality that existed several hundred years ago, no longer apply, not in the 20th century and certainly not in the 21st.
Why should anyone in modern Britain be ashamed of our imperial past? We had no part to play in events that took place 400 years ago, or even 40 years ago. None of us have ever owned slaves, exploited India's unique wealth, traded goods for opium, so why are any of us apologising for events that took place centuries ago. Without an expansive British Empire, with foreign allies to fight by our sides in time of conflict, who would have stood against an all powerful, all conquering, Spanish or French Empires of the age, or against the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe and the Middle East? Would modern day Canada even exist, or would it simply be another American state? Would continental Europe exist as it does now, if Britain hadn't eventually become the great naval power that it did, not once but twice in the same century? It's very easy to be judgemental about Britain's past, if you choose to concentrate your mind on the negative events that have taken place over the period of several hundred years, forgetting that for every bad thing that's occurred, there were more than enough good deeds to balance it out.
Those who would so easily disparage the notion of British patriotism would have everyone believe that patriotism equates to a narrow form of nationalism, one that discriminates against race, colour, creed and culture, which is completely and utterly wrong. Patriotism in its truest form, is devotion to one's country, respect to and of its finest traditions, remembrance of its history, celebration of its cultures, protection of its natural borders, preservation of its native languages and dialects and a willingness to be unique to any other country on the planet.
Being British isn't about being black, white, brown, yellow or red. It isn't about being Christian, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Rastifarian, Sikh, or even an Atheist. It's not about being male, female, or perhaps trans-gender! It doesn't matter if your politics make you right wing, left wing, or centrist.
However, it does matter if you would happily discard 2000 years of British history because someone told you it's the right thing, the politically correct thing to do. It would matter if you would be happy to see all of our unique cultures and tradtions swept away because that's the right thing to do into a modern multicultural society. It would matter if you were happy to adopt the rules, the regulations, the practices of the crowd, because it's easier and the least amount of hassle. It would matter if you were content to remove our country's traditional borders, allowing our services, our infrastructure, our housing, our land to be freely accessed by over 500 million outsiders. And it would matter, if you were willing to become known purely as a European, rather than remaining as a Scotsman, an Irishman, an Englishman or a Welshman. That would matter a lot!
So for all you supporters of the EU, or even those of cultural marxism, believe in what you like, that's your right. But please stop trying to convince us that Patriotism is such a dirty word, because I have 2000 years of British history that tells me otherwise!