So Gordon Brown wants a "British Day" to celebrate something called "Britishness".
Quite apart from the fact that this is just a cynical ploy to distract us from the fact that a Scot is soon to gain control of the English parliament, one has to wonder just what it is we are supposed to feel proud about?
Years ago there might have been some point to it. Being British did, once upon a time, seem special. In World War 2 we'd stood out against a vicious, powerful and murderous dictatorship and won. We'd established a welfare state that ought to have been the envy of the world until we pissed it all away. We were a leading financial and technological power. Concorde ruled the skies, British musicians ruled the airwaves and earned, in the 1970s, more money than the entire steel industry, and Carnaby Street made Britain the hippest country in the world. Almost uniquely among former colonial powers we had a Commonwealth of countries that didn't actually hate our guts. We had a car industry, an aerospace industry, a film industry. Our schools and our universities were better than everyone else's.
And we had faith. We had faith in our police, we trusted our legal system, we really believed that if we worked hard at school we'd get a good job and a happy life, we respected our politicians, we were proud of our armed forces, we felt a deep affection for our royal family, ordinary working people had unions that looked out for their interests, and you could walk the streets at night without giving more than a passing thought to being mugged or murdered.
And what of Britain today? What do we have to be proud of now?
We are engaged in a war that we were never justified in fighting, that was unpopular at home, badly directed abroad, and that was condemned as illegal by the international community. Our National Health Service is the third largest employer in the entire world and still can't deliver the goods. Our major industries have withered and left us the service-industry and call-centre capital of the world. Our education system is in deep trouble, no-one wants to be a head teacher any more (and who can blame them?), children run riot in the corridors and all we can think about is that a teaching job has been given to some poor sod who was once so misguided as to let a pornographic website take his credit card number.
Innocent civilians are stabbed to death in the street for their mobile phones. Entire housing estates are war-zones where the police hardly dare go. Our armed forces are riddled with bullying - or possibly with girly complaints about bullying; don't squaddies have to be hard any more? Our police are seldom seen on the streets, take hours to respond to an emergency, then when they do arrive they won't go into the house in case there's a doggie in there, and spend most of their time being politically correct - several policemen in Nottinghamshire are currently being investigated for calling a career criminal "pondlife" - not actually to his face, but during a private conversation. Our legal system is so slow and expensive that ordinary people don't have any realistic access to it. Citizens can be charged and imprisoned if they try to protect themselves and their houses from criminals. Our royal family - for no real fault of their own so far as I can see - are a joke not too far removed from Celebrity Big Brother.
And speaking of television, our most popular form of entertainment recently appears to be watching a group of untalented, worthless, brain-dead, unpleasant misfits scratching their privates, drinking, and screaming incoherently - and I'm not talking about "Chimp Watch". Once we had wonderful television dramas like "I Claudius" and "Brideshead Revisited", and ground-breaking comedy like "Monty Python". Now we have a diet of DIY, celebrity navel-gazing and "Little Britain".
Politically we have sunk to a level worse than Nazi Germany, in many ways. We don't actually have Blackshirts strutting the streets beating people up or persecuting them for going about their daily business. It might be easier if we had - at least we'd know who the real enemy was.
Instead we are beating ourselves up. Everyone these days is a little gauleiter in the name of "responsibility". I have been clearing my garden shed out recently, and took a load of waste paper to the local dump. An official questioned me, examined my waste paper in detail, then wrote down my name and my car registration number. Why, I asked her? Because it's her responsibility, she said. If you enter a yellow box on the road you are likely to have your photograph taken because it's some little jobsworth's responsibility to do so. If you're fat the doctors won't treat you because they're responsible for not spending any money that might more usefully be used for administrators' salaries. If you go to a pub you're not allowed to smoke because someone else has decided to make themselves responsible for stopping you from damaging your own health. There are six different kinds of traffic warden some of whom have the power to stop you and impound your car without warning even though you have not committed an offence. If you don't pay a parking-fine you are likely to have the heavy mob sent round to your house, in Stroud at least. Despite all the evidence to show that they have had no effect on fatality rates at all, speed cameras are raising billions of pounds of revenue only a tiny fraction of which ever reaches anywhere it might do any good - 90% of it is swallowed up by the traffic gauleiters' wages and perks.
And what of The Mother of Parliaments? Well, you have to ask which parliament, don't you? Do we mean the Scottish parliament, where Scottish MPs make decisions about what happens in Scotland? Or the Welsh parliament where Welsh MPs make decisions about what happens in Wales? Or do we mean the English parliament at Westminster where Scottish and Welsh MPs make decisions about what happens in England? We have a Prime Minister who believes that scraping into power on the votes of fewer people than watch Colchester United on a Saturday afternoon gives him the right to interfere in everything we do, to take an axe to our traditional freedoms, to sell off our national assets and even to poke his meddling fingers into our workplaces, our homes and our family lives.
So no, McGordon McBrown, we don't think much of your idea. We are not proud of being British - in fact, we're rather ashamed. There are plenty of nationalities we'd rather be. If we were French we could be proud of winning the World Cup and having wonderful trains. If we were Swiss we could be proud of being a right-little, tight-little, stuffy bunch of plutocrats and having wonderful trains. If we were Japanese we could be proud of the economic miracle that made us a financial and industrial megapower, and having wonderful trains. If we were American we could be proud because we didn't know any better.
But British? I'd rather keep quiet about it, really.
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