2017 minus 12: Proud? Not really…

Posted: 20 December 2016 in 2017 minus

Earlier today, I uploaded this year’s update for A Life In Pictures. It’s a by now annual tradition and I’d like to keep it going as long as I can. However, it’s not part of this countdown blog, and I wouldn’t want it to be, if only because if/when I refer anyone to it at a later point, I’d like it to stand on its own, apart from anything else. I genuinely hadn’t thought of it like that until I started the update but that does of course mean that I have a blog post today that I didn’t anticipate having to write.


So, a quick blog post now on something that I’ve been thinking about a lot this year, something which got back into the news this week with the announcement that the government is considering making public servants – people who work for or are paid by, the state swear an oath of allegiance to “British values”.

As many have pointed out, swearing an oath is kind of self-contradictory to British values; we don’t make people carry identity papers, and our constitution such as it is is built around the principle of ‘we leave you alone and you leave us alone, ok?” (Obviously this doresn’t apply to the government itself nor the armed services, but then they already swear an oath of allegiance; we’re talking about non-government.)

I kind of like the idea that British values aren’t easily codified, and indeed, if you asked ten different people you’d get fifteen different answers. (Not because we like arguing; we’re just useless at maths.)

But the American election revealed once again that the biggest insult you can throw at an opponent isn’t that they’re a criminal, but that they’re not patriotic, that they’re unAmerican.

I’ve written before that I don’t really get patriotism? I mean, sure I understand it in principle, but then I undersatand in principle how hair is cut, and how. to faulty a plane; I wouldn’t recommend you asking me to do either. And while I kind of understand the theory of patriotism, I utterly fail to see why anyone would be patriotic per se. Now, unquestionably, I prefer the British society to say, that in Russia, or Saudi Arabia. I prefer it to how Israel runs their society but that’s not being patriotic; that’s just liking – on the whole, not wholly though – how things are run here rather how other societies run stuff. I don’t think “my country right or wrong, but my country” and I’m kind of puzzled by people who do think that way. 

I don’t feel any special connection to the UK, nor am I particularly proud of being British; given some of the stuff the UK has done over the centuries, I’m not entirely sure anyone should be. But plenty of people are. Just as others are proud of being Australian, or American, who maintain that their country is the greatest country on earth… Really?

I’m proud of my son. And I’m proud of the things my friends have achieved, and I’m proud of the strength people I know have shown under incredible pressure and in horrible circumstances. 

But that’s in part because he is my son, and they are my friends and they are people I know, like and personally care about. 

But the country? The country’s sportsmen and women… the country’s representatives in any number of fields? Not particularly. Not at all, in fact. Not really.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

  1. I do have an emotional attachment to – an emotional investment in – my own country. There are aspects of how it’s been governed, how I hope it will continue to be governed, that I do take satisfaction in. Part of it is indeed deeply irrational, borne of my having been born and raised here. I know that my understanding will always be flawed, as is the nation itself. And so long as I try to help fix what I can of those flaws, I am okay with that.

    Not saying for one second that you’re wrong to see things as you do. You might be saner than me, I think. Especially now.

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