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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
St George in the 21st Century - more of your comments
More of your comments on Billy Bragg's essay St George in the 21st Century.
If I were to have to name one characteristic that I could say was truly "English", it would have to be our ability as a nation to judge fairly the actions of ourselves and others. That characteristic may not win us any gold medals, or world cups, but hopefully, it will continue to define us.
Isn't it time to ditch St George? I have nothing against the man or the legend, but an Anatolian legionary has little to offer us. Since it is Shakespeare's brithday, why not celebrate that instead?
"Progressives" as Billy Bragg likes to style himself, can fly the flag for multi-culturalism, tolerance and all those other worthy adjectives, but unless the fundamental concerns of people about such issues can be raised without the howling of the self righteous'anti ...isms' lobby, we will end up with a reaction in England as in France with votes cast for Le Pen.
For the English to take back from the extremists the passion for Englishness we have to accept that the impact we have had upon indigenous people around the globe is unforgivable and the resources we have plundered a grave mistake. I do not feel the non-extremist section of the English community is ready to accept Englishness. The notion has always been associated with extremism
There will always be a confusion between the terms English & British. The distinction I draw is that British is purely an administrative and political title (with all the baggage that carries) whereas being English means much more culturally. Unfotunately the flag of St. George is all too often only associated with geographical & sporting confrontations and it need to be "claimed back" to represent every aspect of Englishness.
The answer is Community, whether in Canada or the U.K. When one accepts the fact that all people living within the area (regardless of race, colour, religion,etc) are part of the community, it makes it much easier to accept that individual's uniqueness.
I am patriotic, but I would never feel comfortable shouting it from the rooftops - the "stiff upper lip" remains a true English trait!
We must not forget that the concept of nationality is a relatively recent idea foisted upon the people by their rulers to encourage them to do their bidding. Thus they weren't fighting for their feudal lord anymore but for their country! If we want to preserve the myth of national identity then of course it will have a racial content because appearance, above all, helps people develop the visual image which differentiates them from others.
Being in a mixed race relationship my partner and I often discuss what it means to be English. She was born in the Midlands, has Indian parents and considers herself British and not English, as she sees English being more closely linked to skin colour than to birth place.
More and more people associate being English with sporting events - most people tend to become very patriotic when the World Cup is on. Perhaps in our ever-changing world this is the way people will start to associate their nationality....as all other things that were considered English are either changing or disappearing.
Any attempt to rediscover Englishness must be rooted as much in the present and future as the past. While we should all remain proud of people like Shakespeare and Queen Victoria, and occasions such as World War II, we should also bear in mind that an increasing minority of people who live here and would relish being included in a national identity have no great attachment to such things. April 23rd should replace May 1 as the early spring bank holiday and we should all be encouraged to do something that we personally associate with being English -- be it eat roast beef or tikka masala.
Today for the first time in the 15 years that I have been at my employer, we have the flag of St George flying outside the company.
Englishness is belief system just like any other, religious or not. Consequently it can be "subverted" from a common interpretation by the right-wing or loose followers as occured over the later half of the 20th century.
A couple of points: 1) People of colour in this country do not usually see themselves as English, because it seems to them to be an ethnic classification - whereas being British is more to do with nationality. 2) St George may be an English hero, but according to muslim historians he is seen as the Christian version of Bin Laden!
Excellent speech. I have often been reluctant to celebrate Englishness as a result of English thugs out drinking on a Saturday night. In recent years, I have declared myself a European.
Well, I suppose if Sean Connery can be a Scottish Nationalist in Spain there's no reason why Billy can't be a multi-culturalist in Dorset.
I would like to expand on Billy's argument and reconsider the entire concept of nationality and identity. I agree that where you are from matters little. However, I would like to go one further than Billy and suggest that it is what you "do" that defines ones identity in general, not where you are. Hence, one is what one does; and one does not "do" ones nationality, whether they be English, British, Scottish or Chinese. How we actually live our lives is far more important than anything, and should be the only standard upon which each of us are judged.
In "Northern industrial town" Bragg once sang about how even Belfast was essentially the same as any other northern town like Glasgow or Manchester. This UK-based vision of our country was one that rang true for me. As a non-English British person living in England I would not expect to be considered foreign in my own country, however English independence would bring this about.
I think that talking about Englishness only serves to perpetuate feelings of nationalism and "us and them" mentality. I see little potential positive outcome in redefining Englishness. What purpose would it serve? If, for example, we defined Englishness in a purely positive manner such as defining ourselves as being a nation of openminded, racially and culturalty tolerant people then would we use that as evidence that we are in someway supperior to people from other nations?
The problem over the last couple of decades is that it seemed a crime, or not "politically correct", to be patirotic and English. It would always be greeted with terms such as Xenophobic, Imperialist or always having the hooligans mentioned. We do indeed need to reclaim our identity from the thugs and racists, and stop being made to feel ashamed.
A very intelligently written and elequently delivered piece - but with a serious leftist flaw. I do not think the big issue facing England is racism. There is a crisis of identity (even if only because the media says so!) but it is caused by our national characteristic of modesty, or even shame, about our history. Billy didn't help at all with that
What is with English people? I have never seen a country go on so much about its national identity. I am from Ireland, and you don't see people there struggling to find their "Irishness". I now live in Holland, and people there are happy to be Dutch, and there are no debates about their national identity.
For 40 years we have experimented with liberalism. We now are starting to see the answers. As we integrate the values of other cultures through benevolent immigration policies, it is obvious that quintessential English values such as fair play, humility and politeness are being eroded, replaced by the culture of self, lack of respect for authority and identity. Is any other nationality asking who they are?
I am proud of the land, but sadly I am constantly ashamed of the people. That is why I feel inclined to shrink behind being British.
Patriotism and nationalism are becoming outdated terms and unnecessary - pretty soon we'll all be Europeans in any case. Nationalism of any kind is perverse.
It's time to stopr feeling guilty about being English. English national symbols are not the property of fascist groups & soccer thugs. Every other nation is proud of its national symbols so should anyone who is English be.
Speaking as a British citizen of mixed descent, I am imediately drawn to Mr Bragg's argument of inclusion. For if it be allowed that an extremist minority are able to dictate that someone of mixed ethnic background who has been raised all their life in England are denied their right to an English identity, I no longer wish to consider myself English for I would be ashamed.
It's easy to see how a lack of a cultural identity is manifesting itself in some elements of the English as "football" hooliganism, racism, xenophobia, and the Saturday night drinking-and-wrecking culture. We went to the town's St George's Day parade on Sunday for the first time ever, and although the crowds were dominated by the parents of the Scouts, Cubs, Brownies, it was good to see that at least the pubs had got their World Cup bunting out in time for April 23rd!
It's time for the English to face the modern reality, and yes Europe. People need to recognise that it's one country among many, and one with many tribes within it. Living together means recognising that diversity within and between those tribes is absolutely vital. Then it will be able to reclaim the symbols appropriated by the racist and nationalist minority, in order to share them among the different groups.
Sorry Billy,You can't have your cake and eat it.While the human race divides itself into differnt little seperate groups of nationalists, separation is inevitable, as is racism. We must remember we are citizens of the World. It was was never intended that we should be split into little countries.
I like a curry on a Friday night, I visited China town to watch the Chinese New Year celebrations, I despair when the English cricket team loses, Iżm proud of my countryżs history, I stand in queues, and play be the rules. In summary Iżm English and proud to be so.
We don't need to redefine Englishness, we need to reawaken it and make it something for English people to be proud of, not just something to become during the World Cup or Six Nations.
I agree: we should identify the positive aspects of Englishness and celebrate them. We should celebrate our diversity; our language; our humour; our creativity; our sense of justice and,yes, our tolerance.
Billy Bragg's attitude has raised the level of debate about what it really means to be an ordinary English person now. English people aren't all racist thugs and fanatical xenophobes. Left-wing professors and reactionary right wingers have always hated any positive or inclusive idea of Englishness, (see Orwell for a fuller explanation) but what do they know of the real world which exists outside of Marxist tomes and BNP meetings? If everybody else can be proud of their country and heritage why on earth can't the English? Happy St George's Day!
I am a young Englishman living in America and my car has a St George's flag in the window. After moving to America, I immediately noticed how proud Americans are to be American. It made me realise the lack of pride we English have in ourselves. I am proud of being English because we have given so much good to the world through science and art. Pride in ones country is important. How can you love your neighbour if you hate yourself? The English should show their pride and St. George's day is the idea time.
Every time we see the George flag, its draped around some thug being arrested in Europe. We need to reclaim the flag and wear it with pride like the Welsh, Scots and Irish. I suppose winning some big events and having the players draped in the flag (like Cathy Freeman in the Olympics) would be a start.
England's Youth are suffering because of previous colonialism and acts. It seems almost a crime sometimes to be a white English subject. I think the sooner everyone realises we are at heart all the same, the better. Maybe globalisation isn't such a bad thing.
The English identity had lost all of it's meaning long before WW2. The English nation was not conquered in the same way as Scotland and Wales. We - I was born in England - allowed ourselves to evolve into a new identity, a cultural identity that recognises and incorporates all that is best in the Scots and Welsh cultures, and is far more in keeping with the new millenium, rather than one that is restricted by purely geographical boundaries. To seek to limit ourselves by geography is divisive. So we draw a line at some point north of Carlisle. Well why stop there?
The best thing about Englishness is that it is host to principles which have transcended geographical boundaries: English common law, free speech, democracy. I am English and I'd personally rather English people continued a long history of integrating with other cultures and exporting these ideals, than spend time trying to look for some silly allegiance to a flag with little relevance.
The essay was very well done. I strongly agree with Mr. Billy Bragg. His views reflect new ideas coming from a more culturally refined generation.
Billy, you are wrong.The eternal link with Imperial Britain is the British Commonwealth, and that - despite all its imperfections - is a club that even countries who were never our colonies wish to join. I despair of the British and English failure to walk tall and be proud of their past and future as the most successful multi-cultural society I have ever had the privilege to see. Churchill's bull dog spirit must be shown again by the British and the English as they refuse to be suborned into an utterly undemocratic institution called the European Union. HM the Queen Mother's finest hour may well not have arrived yet. Her tragic but inevitable death should remind us all of those standards which our country is justifiably proud. Stand Up you English!
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