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Nationalism - A Closer Look

Are you proud to be British?


Because you were born here? Is that enough to give you pride? A random event you have no control over gives you pride. You might as well be proud of being born in a hospital.

'Two World Wars and One World Cup' is another popular one. You're proud because we won two wars and a sporting event that you didn't participate in, that you had no influence over and where at least one of those events was over long before you were born. You might as well be proud that Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries or that Alfred the Great devised a system of fortified towns that frustrated the Northmen's effort to conquer Britain.

Is it that we had an empire on which the sun never set? It's impressive, I'll give you that. But is it something you should feel pride over? Leaving aside my views on our imperial history, that it's inherently shameful, is it an achievement that you are justified in feeling pride about? It's not your achievement, or mine, or anyone alive in Britain today. It's ancient history, and none of us are responsible for it. Consider this: you feel incredibly proud of your child, because 137 years ago his school cricket team beat the cricket team from the school in the next town over. It's absurd.

The NHS? Should we be proud of the NHS? After all, none of us were involved in creating it. But it's still here today, and we continue to work in it and support and use it, and it's one of the finest health care providers in the world. It's one of the few things that does make me proud to be British.

The point is, you can say you're proud to British all you want. But there has to be a reason for that pride, a viable, valid reason like the NHS. When Britain is selling arms to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, or when we're condemned by two separate UN reports on the way we treat the disabled, or when reports emerge linking the government's economic policies to 120,000 excess deaths; when all of that is going on and people are still saying they're proud to be British, what they're doing is legitimising that behaviour. It's like saying "Our government can do what it wants, because I'll always be proud of this country regardless." You wouldn't raise your child that way unless you wanted it to be a vicious, spoilt malingering bastard, so why should you treat your country differently? This land is what we make it, and if we want to be proud of it then it's time we learned to recognise when it behaves shamefully.

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