Saturday, 8 June 2013

10 Reasons Why I'm Proud To Be British

Sometimes, I hear people say "You know what? You can't even say you're proud to be British anymore, because it makes you a racist!" I usually reply with something like "Well I'm proud to be British, and like most immigrants, I have good reason to be."

You should see the look on their faces. I've said I'm an immigrant. I'm white, I speak with an Ingerlish accent, and I'm not praying to Allah. How can I be an immigrant?

The fact is, I'm not an immigrant. My family tree is largely English recently, although my Grandpa Henderson researched our family tree so extensively its roots extend across most of Europe. So, in a wide timeframe, I'm of immigrant descent to the sort of Brit who at a positive mention of immigration suddenly finds themselves confused or apprehensive or in denial. So here's why I'm a proud Brit.

1) Take a Look Around.
Our cities boast some stunning architecture. We preserve it well, and it forms landmarks for people from all over the world to set as journey landmarks and meeting places, as well as photo opportunities and history lessons. Move out into the country, and you have some of the most luxurious landscapes you could imagine. Personally I love Snowdonia and the Peak District, but there isn't anywhere in rural England you can't go and find something beautiful.

While we do have a habit of spoiling the terrain with quarries and roads, and Monopoly-board new housing projects, as I've watched the world for forty-plus years I see that over time nature seems to lay claim to what it sacrificed. The new roads are tree-lined and picturesque. The quarries are spent, now a haven for nesting birds and the adventurous. The housing estates are no different to the new housing estates of fifty years gone. They are homes, they are communities, and they are divisive. They're just very British.

2) Taking the Piss out of Ourselves.
There's a reason the British Isles boast comedians as diverse as Billy Connolly, Jim Davidson, Frankie Boyle, Ben Elton, Bob Monkhouse, Frank Carson, Lenny Henry, or (dare I say it) Michael McIntyre: diversity. You see, many a Brit will call themselves a Scot, an Englishman, a Welshman, or Irish. And the associated little islands like the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Shetland aren't overly keen on being lumped in with a general consensus. It's why jokes based on regional culture are so much a part of our Britishness. Even in England you have a North-South divide. In the North you divide it by accent, as in the South. You can even find regional divisions of piss-taking isolated to a county, a town, a suburb. A street.

No one can present a public image of rotten-toothed, thieving, upper-class chav pomposity quite like the British. Foreigners just don't get it. And that's why we're the funniest people in the world.

3) Not Letting Anyone Take the Piss Out of Us.
We are one nation, united in the isolation of being an island. One nation united in conflict both personal and physical, in basic principles of identity, and in knowing that we are the only people with a right to take the piss out of us. We will allow our own idiot government to pass a law that is stupid, but God(s) forbid Europe pass a law that we think is as stupid! Europe passing it makes it more stupid! And that Sharia Law? You know? The ones the Muslims talk about us all having to stick to so we have to stop drinking and allow women to be stoned to death? Well that's taking the piss! We're not having that!

Well no. But then the Bible commends stonings, human sacrifice, and dying in the name of God, and very few of those faiths do it now outside the US Army. I, like many free-thinking Brits who have long since realised that all religion in bullshit, don't let any of these morons take the piss out of me. If it were left to me, any written text professing to be an article of faith that had passages condoning or promoting murder, torture, rape, oppression, or subjugation would be completely banned. But that makes me a communist, apparently, so...

4) Freedom of Speech.
I've never been big on this, and I'm not now. Freedom of speech seems to be a blanket term for sayin ort writin whateva the fuckya like wi out considrin consiqinces o yaction or chekin what ye say 1st b4 u say or rite it. The ability to be able to speak freely does not mean that speech that enables mass negative action should be done without rationalising it first, or understanding the consequences.

As I said to a black friend a few years ago, who was defending free speech: "So, if a white supremacist moved in next door and started leafleting the neighbourhood with BNP propaganda, you'd be okay with that would you?" "Of course not," she said. But that's free speech for you.

Nevertheless, it's a classically British trait that I'm proud we still have. Because as much as I hate its interpretation, I know how much worse things could be without it. Because I know when most people say "communism" they mean "Stalinism". Discuss. Because you can.

5) British Industry's Influence on the World.
Oh my word we have quite a track record, don't we? Regardless of what we actually did or didn't invent, for a very long time what we did was so bloody good that rather a lot of people copied or consulted us. Not only did we invent something as incredible as the Harrier jump-jet, no one ever bettered it. A steel industry that's the envy of the world? Check. Giving birth to the American industrial revolution? Check, my home town, check indeed.

We don't have a lot of that now. Industry is something we sell to investors in the name of global market economy. Our electricity is French. Our gas is German. Our water is Saudi. Even our language, on the keyboard I type on, is American by default. But this is all okay, because we spent the 80s and 90s ensuring that British people benefitted from this development of the Britsh way of life. What we have is a respected and powerful financial centre center that will never be usurped because wages in the key sectors are ever increasing.

And so...

6) The Welfare State.
Where would we be without doctors and nurses, and the horrible, heartbreaking hours they put in? Where would be be without a system that sustains us throughout hardship and crisis? We'd be in the Third World. That's where we'd be. Like it or not, the ability to be able to pay into a system that means your unemployed and disabled neighbours can enjoy a standard of living similar to your own is something to be incredibly proud of. Okay, we all know someone who leeches the system, but that's what systems are about. There are flaws. That neighbour who has never done a day's work in their life is fundamentally no better or worse than the banker whose off-shore bank account and legally registered business in Monaco funnel income that should be paid in UK taxes. Systems will always have scammers, and I think we all know deep down the smarter you are, the better educated you've been, the easier you will find it to cheat.

I love this country. I love the fact some poor sod from a war-torn faraway hell-hole can come here and we can support them, while we complain that we can't, reading these words on a £500 laptop or £200 smartphone paid for on the never-never. Don't like it? Move to where they came from.

7) Beer.
With perhaps the exception of Belgium, no smallish nation knows quite how to do beer like we do. For all the annoying Carlsberg, Guinness, Coors, and Fosters ads there are on TV, you know one fact of Britishness: most of our beers don't need that level of advertising because they sell themselves. Real ale is a self-propagating entity, and quite a classically pompous one at that. Proper brits don't drink Stella and WKD. They drink John Smiths and Bells. The discerning British drinkers won't stump for a Kronenbourg and Smirnoff chaser when there's a chance of an Exmoor Gold and a Lahphroaig.

Never mind the Weekend carnage of the binge-drinking modern age. That's a fad. We'll get over it. For every pissed-up 20-year old knocking back 20 pints of club-piss in a weekend, there is a 40-something like me who will drink that volume, of British booze, in a week, for less money, and still put more into the nation's economy than we'll take out of it in A&E and the court system. And I say this as an ex lagerboy who's been in both A&E and court, who drinks about 20 pints a week.

8) Integration of Culture.
We were short on men-folk come 1946, that's for sure. We'd been short of them before, and that's historically evidenced by our conquests and being conquered. Britain, as I mentioned earlier, is easily divided. What we succeeded in doing, sadly with a hefty dose of racism or ignorance, was rebuilding the nation to become something that not only could we be proud of, but that people could aspire to call "home".

But we did it. It hasn't always run smoothly, as best demonstrated by the invading Vikings or Normans, but we've always settled in the end, and it's no different now. Britain's favourite dish is from Asia, and many of our national sports players are descended from ex-colonies. That's what you get from integration. Never mind the horrendous and xenophobic concentration on the worst any culture might present in our daily newspapers. If you care that much about this sort of issue with your "Britishness" then do some genealogy. Find out where you're really from. You might get a shock, like someone I know, who is "whiter than white" with Roma and Hindu ancestors.

We're the archetypal melting pot, and we do it better than anyone.

9) (Not) Mentioning the War.
"The" War. Like there's only been one. That iconic moment from Fawlty Towers might just have inadvertently defined modern Britain for far too many deluded people. We don't mention it because America doesn't like being reminded it came into wars late. We don't mention it because the French were cowards. We don't mention it because we kicked Germany's arse, and they're outwardly our mates now.

Until we're pissed. Then we mention it a lot.

But I'm a proud and studious Brit, and I know without America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Free France, Poland, Russia, and the Colonies we would have been screwed by 1941. You only have to study the input of the RAF personnel (a personal study of mine) during the Battle of Britain to see just how cosmopolitan we are when we face the worst. We haven't truly faced that since, and I am sure that's why the shortsighted amongst us so fear any seemingly sanctioned change in our culture.

10) Music.
This is our best export. I was told recently it started with The Beatles, but I know for a fact it started with with folk music we took to faraway lands. That music was what we think of as "folk" and it bastardised tribal music across the world until it finally amalgamated into modern music, with no specific genre other than people making music. Only time and education has changed musical taste and understanding, and that's probably why Ray Davies isn't richer than Paul McCartney.

I probably like more American bands as favourites than British bands, but what makes that interesting for me is how faithfully those bands talk about British bands as their inspiration. Never German, Spanish, Swedish or Czech bands. I love Pearl Jam. They don't ever sound like Led Zeppelin, right? And Gods bless Black Sabbath and Therapy?. And New Model Army. And Ultravox. And XTC. And Napalm Death. And The Beyond.

I could go on. But I won't. I've made my point: I love Britain. I have 10 very good reasons for loving it. If you can find 10 reasons for loving Britain that contradict what I've said here, then have at it. I'm British, and that makes me open to reasoned debate. If you're not open to reasoned debate, you've not read this far, or you get the Daily Mail delivered.

And to summarize:

In an overpopulated, war-torn world, where the talk has been of mutually assured destruction and environmental catastrophe, terrorism and the New World Order, I can camp at the foot of a mountain in Wales, drinking a bottle of Spitfire, listening to Sondura, while the Singh, Litvinjenko, Despres and Oladijawale families - who all speak my language - enjoy this very British experience themselves. We're all in this together. We can't afford a 5-star hotel in Dubai, like our government masters. But that doesn't matter...

Britain is better than anywhere, and we all know it.

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