What is Britishness?

This morning Radio 4 ran an item on ‘Britishness’. It is apparently a topic close to Gordon Brown’s heart.  As far as I understood the context, the idea was to find some unifying – if at all possible gallant and proud – traditions, habits or (the rather elusive) spirit of the British Isles.

I have been working in Scotland, Wales and England (I am way to chicken to put a foot into Northern Ireland), but as far as I can tell, there are few unifying things. What unites them all is a penchant for binge drinking and gratuitous violence on the weekend, but apart from that there’s few things I can think off. The Scots and the Welsh are united in the animosity against the English, the English look down on the Scots and Welsh, everybody’s wary of  Northern Ireland and none of them are particularly good at football but very keen for international glory (the big premiership teams can hardly be called English, as they are all coached by foreigners {sorry, Sir Alex} and there are hardly any English players present).

So, is Britishness a sense of mutual loathing, debauchery on the weekend and never winning anything with their respective national teams? There must be something more to it. I actually quite like their ability to incorporate vast amounts of immigrants from around the world and get them to integrate – kicking and screaming -into British life.  Of course there is mighty grumbling on both sides at times, but who else but the British would cope with a sudden influx of 1.000.000 Polish economic migrants within 2 or 3 years (actually, this was probably the best thing that happened to the British economy for years: sudden influx of a  bunch of highly skilled, motivated, multilingual, hard working individuals freshening up the gene pool). With me being of the German persuasion I had my fair share of  ‘don’t mention the war’ and soccer/war puns directed at me, for some reason this has been getting less, mainly due to the hundreds of thousands of happy british fans after the last world cup.

Another thing the British excel at is Public Broadcasting: The BBC (and CHannel 4) are peerless in the world and I can only wonder in horror about the state of national values and education if there wouldn’t be a regular steady drip of sensibility from Auntie into the British soul.

Then there is the link to tradition, the sometimes daring architecture, amazing music, lovely outdoors.

So, is there something that unites those lovely habitants of this small island?

Nope. There isn’t. I think the inhabitants of this country are far to diverse to be defined by just 3 or 4 meaningless attitudes, and that’s agood thing.

Let diversity be Britishness, and let it bloom.

One thought on “What is Britishness?

  1. B is still in the garden, and you’re still there!
    I actually agree with most of your post (especially about the BBC, although they’ve really been sending their dregs to BBC America). PBS is actually running Lawrence Welk and Yanni in concert during pledge week.

    Check out the blog: I’ve been taking baby steps learning to upload photos, etc., and think I’m almost there for Kindergarten. It’s more fun than
    I’ve had in ages…………and my friend Mel Cooper
    will be doing a what’s-coming-up-in-London page on a regular (probably monthly) basis.

    Hope to you you and B in May……………

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