The problem with trying to define ‘Englishness’


1:11 pm - June 20th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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So the Campaign for English Parliament have made a bit of news by stopping sales of t-shirts supporting ‘Anyone But England’. I think it’s ludicrous and political correctness gone mad.

Not only that, the CEP are following a dangerous and highly illiberal path.

Back in 2005 when I was passionately arguing against the Sikh play Behzti being shut down, because some Sikh extremists were angry, I was invited to a radio discussion.

Sitting next to me were some Sikh ‘human rights group’ who said, with a straight face, that they wanted to see the playwright Gurpreet Bhatti (herself a Sikh) put on trial for ‘inciting racial ahtred against Sikhs’. I laughed at them.

Of course, they didn’t get anywhere, thankfully.

I’ve earlier pointed out why Sikhs and Jews in the UK, absurdly, are legally defined as a race. Briefly, it’s a legal instrument to ensure they were covered by race relations legislation while having some particular exemptions. The point is that the law is a bit of an arse and it’s terribly outdated and messy. New Labour did say they were going to streamline and simplify all this equalities legislation but I’m not sure it got anywhere.

The Campaign for an English Parliament are behaving exactly like how Ms Bhatti’s detractors were at the time.

Now. I am happy to call myself English. It was a term I used to shun earlier, but I’m currently writing a few articles on Englishness and why I’ve changed my mind on it.

My point is that making Englishness an ‘ethnic’ identity has racial connotation – which is why many Asians in England have always been loathe to call themselves English. We always assumed that being English meant being white.

And so I see being English as a civic and political identity rather than a racial or ethnic identity. Sure, you could probably interpret the law to say being English is also a racial identity, as the CEP have undoubtedly done. The hapless and clueless police have just gone along with it.

But it’s an absurd situation because it’s actually an attack on free speech. Going around with a t-shirt saying ‘Anyone But England’ isn’t an incitement to violence or hatred against English people! Hell, I used to be in that camp! I have friends who still are. They’re not Scots. And they don’t go around looking to beat English people up, and it’s absurd to use such examples to actually ban such t-shirts and claim they’re inciting racial hatred.

Let me tell you where this is going. This is going to a situation where people are going to start using anything they find racially or religiously offensive as a way to state that statement is ‘inciting racial hatred’. We already have enough fuckwits claiming to upholding liberty while calling for any Muslim they don’t like to being banned. We’ve had, for years, Muslim groups calling for the ban of people they didn’t like. The Sikhs followed suit. The CEP are following that same line of argument.

So I object to Englishness being a ‘racial’ identity on the grounds that it implies that it is exclusive and people have to be born into it. And I reject the premise on which these t-shirts have been banned.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Race relations

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Reader comments


Heh this sounds a bit like old skool Pickled Politics…

To be fair, the t-shirts haven’t actually been banned. Just that HMV isn’t going to be selling them. You can still get them here, for example.
Agree with the article though, & I reckon it’s a bonus that “Englishness” is such a slippery concept because it means that nasty groups can never truly claim “ownership” of it.

3. Ryhs Williams

Sunny I think your are been a little naughty with this one.
You know what is coming.
Foaming right wingers ranting about multiculturalism.
Tut tut tut

4. George W Potter

Englishness is a cultural thing. It’s also defined by a certain type of behaviour and cultural practices. There’s no racial element to it at all, at least in my view. The child of immigrants who grows up in England, follows football, instinctively queues, drinks tea, watches Britain’s Got Talent, and so on, acting just like any other Englishman or woman, is far more English to in my opinion than someone whose ancestors lived in England since time immemorial but, for arguments sake, grows up in France and behaves just like another French person and follows their cultural practices.

For me, a defining part of being English is muddling on, and being willing to give everyone an equal chance. Hence why I’m all in favour of immigration. After all, fish and chips, that most stereotypical English dish, was invented by immigrants from eastern europe.

@4

I heard fish’n’chips were brought over by Portugese Jews… either way, another great contribution by immigrants to British culture!

6. Ryhs Williams

I have in lived the UK, US, Holland, Singapore and France. I would say there are far more similarities than differences between the inhabitants from so called different cultures. We all seem to have the same aspirations, fears and dreams.

Getting overexcited every four years along echoes of “the Spirit of ’66”. Definite English trait 😉

I thought Daniel Defoe had finally resolved the question about the True-born Englishman long ago:

A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction . .

Dutch, Walloons, Flemings, Irishmen, and Scots,
Vaudois and Valtelins, and Hugonots,
In good Queen Bess’s charitable reign,
Supplied us with three hundred thousand men.
Religion—God, we thank Thee!—sent them hither,
Priests, Protestants, the Devil and all together:
Of all professions and of every trade,
All that were persecuted or afraid

http://www.luminarium.org/editions/trueborn.htm

Just down the road, a few hundred metres from where I sit, there’s a bricked up cave which – according to that wonderful source: The London Encyclopaedia – contained evidence of human habitation going back at least to the middle stone age. Such archeological evidence as survives indicates that the early stone age inhabitants of Britain migrated here when there was a land or ice bridge across the Channel.

Several years back, the local library had a presentation posted about an archeology dig in the neighbourhood to uncover the foundations of a large Roman villa. The names of the locality and the district are both Saxon – as most are around here. About five miles away, seven Saxon kings were crowned before the Norman conquest in 1066 and the local Parish church is part Norman.

I’d challenge whether being English is even a cultural thing. Sure, there’s such a thing as British culture but what out of that is exclusively English? I’ve been thinking about this for a while and all I can come up with is cricket, and I can’t fucking stand cricket. I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a couple of years and there is plenty of Scottish culture that is easily noticeable. When I go back to England the only thing I notice is a lack of those things. Being English is only a civic or political identity, and we all know how easily that can change. So I support Scotland leaving the Union on one condition; that the North of England can come too!

Out of historical interest, readers may be interested to know about Francis Barber, the man servant of Samuel Johnson, the famed lexicographer who strongly opposed slavery:
http://www.thrale.com/history/english/hester_and_henry/francis_barber.php
http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/immig_emig/england/stoke_staffs/

The descendants of Francis Barber still live in Staffordshire.

I’d have bought one of those shirts. I am English and I am fine with that, but man, I hate football. I support other teams just to annoy other people. It amuses me and I honestly don’t care who wins.
The fact that these shirts were ‘banned’ is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard, and proves that these people are so out of touch it is untrue.

I see myself as being English by racial identity and see nothing wrong with this. We don’t complain when the inhabitants of celtic nations define themeselves by race, or the French, or Italians, or British asians who support India or Pakistand at cricket. But when it comes to England we start hand wringing.

If the liberal-left don’t make claims to English identity you do leave it to the far right (as I think Billy Bragg has pointed out)

BTW the Scots call migrants to Scotland “the new Scots”, maybe we could call recent migrants to England as “the new English” (instead of “black Britons”, “British asians” or whatever).

The row over the t-shirt is ludicrous (and I’m an England football fan), on the football forum I frequent it has just led to banter between the Jocks and us Sassenach bastards.

BBC had a decent article on ‘What’s behind Anyone But England?’

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8733373.stm

And:

http://www.wearetheenglish.com/store/storeimages/ts_snp_big.jpg

13. Charlieman

@4 George W Potter: “After all, fish and chips, that most stereotypical English dish, was invented by immigrants from eastern europe.”

I recall that we’ve tried to discuss this point in the past on LC. Without conclusion. Fried fish in batter is a universal food and I’ve enjoyed great versions in Andalucia, Japan and across the UK. Chips and crisps are more problematic to cook than fish; you need technology (eg constant temperature friers) to make them in volume without setting your business alight, so they are likely to be a product of the UK industrial revolution.

It is perhaps fairest to assume that fish and chips was popularised by immigrants who spotted the market for convenient food that was difficult to adulterate.

14. Norman Tebbit

Englishness is supporting our cricket team. Even when they are shite.

Oh – and kicking the arse of Chinese dragons.

An old London traditional folk dance:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oimHJCURbo

On why London is so different, try this BBC2 Newsnight video clip:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7368326.stm

@13 charlieman

Chips came from France, yer actual pommes frites and were eaten in England long before fish and chips arrived.

Fried fish in batter may be a universal food, but it was popularised in England by a Portugese Jewish migrant in the 19th century (from an old Portugese Jewish recipe).

It’s up for debate who decided to put the two together.

And fish and chips was a result of railways mid 19th C. Before railways it was near impossible to get fresh fish from fishing towns to the many of the major cities and towns in Britain.

I reject the premise of this article. The legal definition of race now includes national origins. You are ‘racially’ English if you are from England, irrespective of your skin colour.

18. Charlieman

@9 Mike: “I’d challenge whether being English is even a cultural thing. Sure, there’s such a thing as British culture but what out of that is exclusively English?”

I don’t think that a separate English culture exists. England is a wonderful and infuriating set of regions with their own histories and traditions, and we should celebrate the regions. Englishness, however, does exist. It is about accepting and welcoming differences, and applying self deprecation when we misunderstand others. Englishness cannot be overtly racist because England and the UK are nations of mongrels.

English people militarily tamed their regional identity hundreds of years ago to establish the English political state. They sustain regional identity by maintaining customs that are distinct from other counties or towns. New traditions emerge: Merseybeat, balti curries and possibly morris dancing.

That piece of bread that you can use to make a single sandwich, what do you call that? A bun, a bap, a barm cake, a cob?

Lancashire and Wensleydale cheeses are made at dairies within miles of one another using similar ingredients; but when producers know what they are doing, the results are gloriously different. As a Lancastrian, I know which one is a smidge better. As an Englishman, I relish the difference.

Being English means hating immigrants, and wanting an end to all immigration while at the same time buying the foreign property section of newspapers so you can see where you might like to emigrate to.

Criteria being, where can I go where I won’t have to speak the lingo, or fit in with their culture, and where I can buy baked beans.

20. Charlieman

@16 captain swing: “Before railways it was near impossible to get fresh fish from fishing towns to the many of the major cities and towns in Britain.”

Before railways existed, almost all major UK cities and towns were ports.

A notable exception might be Leeds, which had a prosperous wool market. Trade expanded with canal building and flourished when railways were built. Perhaps Leeds citizens had to wait a bit longer for relatively fresh fish (no direct rail routes from fishing ports, I believe).

Nice bit of racial stereotyping and anti-English racism Sally.

And a complete load of balls given the amount of immigration we do have.

You really are a nasty piece of work.

You know where the airport is…

Not really see why the English get so uppity about whether their neighbours support them or not. ITS A GAME FOR GODS SAKE!

What particularly tickled me was the fact that the Campaign for an English Parliament has lead the campaign to get the Anyone but England shirts removed from sale in Scotland. So in one breath they argue against Scottish influence in England and in the other they tell the Scots what to do! So is English nationalism based on the universal principle of self determination? or a craving for a return to empire?

23. Tulloch Gorum

There’s a blog about this over at Scot goes Pop, which makes the very good point that you never heard any of this kind of thing from the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly or the Scottish Constitutional Convention. He (or she) asks whether the CEP is really more about point scoring and wounded English pride… well, from this episode, I’d say yes.

24. Chaise Guevara

Alexa: “Nice bit of racial stereotyping and anti-English racism Sally.

And a complete load of balls given the amount of immigration we do have.

You really are a nasty piece of work.

You know where the airport is…”

LOL. You complain about Sally stereotyping the English as being stupid and hypocritical about immigration, and then end your post with a variation on “If you don’t like it why don’t you just leave”, a right-wing comment so stupid and oft-repeated that it’s become a stereotype in its own right.

I can’t say for certain, but I imagine, in the context of the article, that when Sally said ‘being English’ in her post she was referring to people who place an illogical amount of importance on being English, i.e. kneejerk patriots of the kind she was satirising.

What she described in her post is real. Internet comment boards are FULL of people saying things like “the amount of foreigners being allowed into Britain is a disgrace – glad I moved to Spain!”

Speaking as a Scot, I can say these ‘ABE’ Tee shirts are completely toe curling gringe worthy.

Either they display

a) A kind of hatred that is not acceptable Or
b) A witless sense of humour based on the above.

Either way, what a sad image to protray to the outside World.

@9: “Sure, there’s such a thing as British culture but what out of that is exclusively English?”

Try George Orwell in his war-time essay: England, Your England:

“Here one comes upon an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in ‘the law’ as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible.”
http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_eye

Of course, that was before Blunkett’s time as Home Secretary when he took to slagging off the judiciary for being independent.

Orwell went on:

“England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly. But in any calculation about it one has got to take into account its emotional unity, the tendency of nearly all its inhabitants to feel alike and act together in moments of supreme crisis. It is the only great country in Europe that is not obliged to drive hundreds of thousands of its nationals into exile or the concentration camp.”

“the amount of foreigners being allowed into Britain is a disgrace – glad I moved to Spain!”

Exactly!

For those who want be among foreigners, London is the very place to live. According to that BBC2 Newsnight piece on why London is different, 40% of Londoners were born abroad:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7368326.stm

But then, what’s new? Disraeli wrote in his novel Tancred (1847): London is a modern Babylon.
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Disraeli

In a fit of nostalgia a few summers ago, I thought I’d go to check out the church in Lambeth where I was christened as a baby. Opposite, was a large convenience store: Afghan Store. Somehow, I doubt that was there at the time.

@ 20 charlieman

“Before railways existed, almost all major UK cities and towns were ports….

….A notable exception might be Leeds”.

Oh yeah? My home town of Manchester for instance? The vanguard city of the 19th century? Work on the Manchester ship canal started in 1887, long after railways were running from Liverpool to Manchester.

“Joseph Malin opened the first recorded combined fish-and-chip shop in London in 1860….in 1865, while a Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North of England in Mossley, Greater Manchester in 1863

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_and_chips

Or Birmingham?

Do me a favour.

Railways were revolutionary in the 19th century while canals were a century old. We don’t hear about 18th century fish and chips.

I can’t believe I’m arguing about fish and chips……..

To my amazement, from this it seems that Ken Livingstone and I come from pretty much the same parts in south London:
http://www.southlondon-today.co.uk/tn/news.cfm?id=21046&headline=Ken%20to%20run%20as%20mayor

31. Matt Munro

@ 5 “I heard fish’n’chips were brought over by Portugese Jews… either way, another great contribution by immigrants to British culture!”

Yes and sauasage rolls were exported to China and came back centuries later as spring rolls – does that mean there’s no such culture as Chinese ?

All cultures have multiple influences, so why do lefties continue to attack English culture for not being “pure” ??

“All cultures have multiple influences, so why do lefties continue to attack English culture for not being “pure” ??”

They don’t,

but thanks for your concern.

“All cultures have multiple influences”

Absolutely. Reportedly, the Han Chinese were surprised by these archeological finds:

“In the late 1980’s, perfectly preserved 3000-year-old mummies began appearing in a remote Taklamakan desert. They had long reddish-blond hair, European features and didn’t appear to be the ancestors of modern-day Chinese people. Archaeologists now think they may have been the citizens of an ancient civilization that existed at the crossroads between China and Europe.”
http://www.meshrep.com/PicOfDay/mummies/mummies.htm

34. Matt Munro

@ 32 – sally LCs “house line” is something like

“English culture has multiple influences, it cannot therefore be defined, it does not therefore exist”

35. Matt Munro

@ 33 Yep – or maybe a load of swedish-scottish exchange students who got lost in the desert on a gap year expedition ?? What’s your point ?

@31

All cultures have multiple influences, so why do lefties continue to attack English culture for not being “pure” ??

Oh, yawn. It’s a cause for celebration, not attacking. I love the myriad influences on British/English culture from across the globe.

Rhys:
You know what is coming.
Foaming right wingers ranting about multiculturalism.

Heh, sometimes I can’t resist baiting them.

George: The child of immigrants who grows up in England, follows football, instinctively queues, drinks tea, watches Britain’s Got Talent, and so on, acting just like any other Englishman or woman, is far more English

But if you don’t, and are born in this country and have lived here all your life. Does that mean you’re not English?

Captain swing:
If the liberal-left don’t make claims to English identity you do leave it to the far right (as I think Billy Bragg has pointed out)

sure, but Billy Bragg is not defining it as a racial identity as far as I can see. Why should it be racial?

Alexa, think sally was being ironic. You seem to have fallen for it straight.

I understand the concern over anti English bigotry, especially after what happened in Scotland during the last world cup, but this is going to far.

Whilst we need to have limits to freedom of speech, it is also a great way to know who you’re dealing with. Stopping those who hate from expressing their hatred doesn’t make the hatred go away, it just causes it to submerge.

I’d welcome people who are prepared to wear an ABE shirt, to have it tattooed on their forehead. I know then what might happen if I was unfortunate to meet one of them.

Your English if someone asks you what country your from and you reply England.

If someone asks you what country your from and you say another country, then you are not English.

@24 – Your right that is a “right-wing comment so stupid and oft-repeated that it’s become a stereotype in its own right.”

But it doesn’t mean its not sensible advice, if you hate the people who share your country as passionately as Sally, why not move somewhere else?

“What she described in her post is real. Internet comment boards are FULL of people saying things like “the amount of foreigners being allowed into Britain is a disgrace – glad I moved to Spain!””

What does this mean? Do Internet comment boards ever get FULL (sic) ? And I’ve seen some of these “comment boards” myself and they actually have a wide variety of different things on them.

Just the other day someone was talking about Big Brother!

If I wanted to tell you how naughty all Muslims are I could quite easily look on an Internet comment board and tell you it is full of people who want to kill you. Im sure you would rush to tell me that this is a small vocal minority though.

40. Flowerpower

English is traditionally an ‘ethnic’ identity (distinguishing an English person from Scots, Welsh, Irish etc.) also a cultural, and to a lesser extent civic, identity open to Jews, Sikhs or any other ethnic/racial group. If a Sikh can be a Scot (and many are), then a Sikh can be English too. What makes Englishness problematic is the limited extent to which English can be a civic identity. Without an English parliament or assembly and with English people holding British passports…. the ethnic and cultural ingredients tend to overshadow the civic element. But since one of the cultural ingredients of Englishness has historically been a willingness to improvise, compromise and fudge; and another is to prefer the pragmatic to the ideological – that shouldn’t be a big deal.

Sunny, I’m surprised that you say “ which is why many Asians in England have always been loathe to call themselves English. We always assumed that being English meant being white. “

This goes against the findings of an Ipsos MORI poll, published by the Ministry of Justice who found that “BME”s (Black and Minority Ethnic) strongly feel themselves to be English above being British. See here for the PDF http://governance.justice.gov.uk/british/

It makes perfect sense (to me) for BMEs to identify more strongly with an English identity, with its values (real or imagined) of tolerance and fair play. Why would you identify more with an identity that reflects the BNP, Empire and sectarian violence of Northern Ireland and Scottish football?

42. Shatterface

According to Wikipedia, chips are Belgian:

”The Belgian journalist Jo Gérard recounts that potatoes were fried in 1680 in the Spanish Netherlands, in the area of “the Meuse valley between Dinant and Liège, Belgium. The poor inhabitants of this region allegedly had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals.”

Frankly, I don’t see the problem with the t-shirts. It says far more about the wearer than it does about England. For some it might be gently mocking, for some it might be an expression of pure hatred. There are worse ways to express your displeasure.

Around 1950, there was a vogue for global catastrophe novels like John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951), and John Christopher: Death of Grass (1956) because the narratives were so plausible. As a young teen, I was gripped by these stories. With its references to satellites circling the earth, Wyndham’s storyline was remarkably prescient.

With this in today’s news, I’m wondering whether we could be in for another round of catastrophe stories:

A toddler was recovering at home today after being attacked by fox at a playgroup in Brighton
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/10363646.stm

I fancy the ancestors of the urban foxes around where I live go back a lot longer than us humanids.

44. Shatterface

‘With this in today’s news, I’m wondering whether we could be in for another round of catastrophe stories’

‘Day of the Fox’. I like it.

45. Charlie 2

As a result of our history and geography, England had been a more tolerant and well fed nation than much of continental Europe. England has been a place where rule of law has existed for over a thousand years ( pre dates the Laws of Edward The Confessor ). The fertility of the soil , climate and extensive fishing has meant that the English have been well fed compared to Continental Europe and has experienced a much high protein intake. The absence of famine makes life much easier. England was famed for it’s large beef herds and wheat in Roman Times. The constant worry of starvation

A little knowledge of the Anglo -Saxons helps to understand hour the English evolved. England is one of the few countrie where a geographic area , race and language have been defined for over a thousand years. There are very few countries which have borders over a thousand years old. Certain aspects of Anglo Saxon rule were as follows
1. Willingness to be ruled by laws- The Laws of Edward the Confessor,
2. Compared to Europe post Charlemagne, a lack of a clear divide between a military aristocracy and an unarmed peasantery. In Anglo Saxon times there was a small royal bodyguard but the bulk of an army were armed farmers.
3. There was a a more egalitarian spirit in Anglo Saxon England with a much larger part of the populace comprising freeman who cultivated their own land than the much more strictly socially divided continental Europe post Charlemagne.
4. The Church of Anglo Saxon England tended to be much less wealthy than that of continental Europe post Charlemage .
5. England, for most of the history from Anglo Saxon was les absolutist than continental Europe; monarchs, senior churchmen and nobles had less power compared to their continental equivalents. In addition, there was a much greater understanding of a nation ruled by laws and the percentage of the population who were freemen , who worked the land they owned or were craftsmen was much higher than in continental Europe .

The more egalitarian aspects of Anglo Saxon society greatly influenced the Middle ages post 1066.The archers who won the victories of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt were freemen- husbandmen, franklins and yoeman farmers who were trained in military skills, volunteered to serve the king and were paid in coins. The continental armies comprised largely military aristocrats and mercenaries and levies from the estates .

England has enjoyed a history with less hardship. The fact that England had a sizeable class of freemen who if fought as archers were well paid , created a more egalitarian society and outlook. Them fact that the phrase ” Yoeman ” work
exists shows the respect of of someone who was competent, hardworking and honest yoeman farmer.

The creation of Parliament in 1275 reduced the absolute pwer of the monarch.
By the mid 15 centuy it was recognised in England that the King was not an absolute ruler as in France.

The Magna Carta used to be read out aloud once a year in villages so everyone knew their rights. Magna Carta influenced the Roundheads during the civil War and the Bill of Rights in 1689.

So what marks out the English; a certain pragmatism: a race given persuaded more by practical results than theory or appeals to emotion: down to earth; a willingness to be ruled by laws once they have been discussed and agreed upon; a belief in free speech; a belief in fairness:a lack of extremism and absolutism of any sort; in reality a more egalitarian society than many ; an ability to compromise and hence be flexible- hence no revolution after the Civil War ; innovative ; a nation whose actions are closer to their words than many; a certain confidence which enables the English to be flexible and pragmatic; adventurous( in order to sail the seas one needs to be adventurous, flexible, practical and pragmatic, otherwise one will lose a ship in a storm or on the rocks ).

Day of the Fox?

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/environment/fears-grow-as-fox-spotted-on-top-of-horse-201006212836/

Also, agree with Flowerpower @ #40.

Why should it be either/or? If your own civic and cultural self-identity is English rather than British then you are English cultuarally and civically, regardless of whether or not your bloodline goes back to the last sodding ice-age. Equally, if your parents emigrated and you were born on another continent, you can still claim an English identity of sorts. They are not mutually exclusive.

If your sense of self and belonging is inextricably tied to excluding others then that may well be a personal issue you need to work out.

I get what you’re saying Don

England has a very rich genetic mix and it always has. I always say I’m 50% Irish and 100% English. I don’t say this because I’m crap at maths. I’m trying to say that genetically my mother’s side came from Ireland, but I have only ever lived in England, I consider myself to be English and that’s who I am.

I like “civic nationalism”. It means anyone, regardless of race, place of birth etc etc, can subscribe to a set of values and call themselves a citizen of that nation.

It serves a community very well when there is a large influx of immigrants and has been used by the USA very effectively. They swear allegiance to the flag and constitution of the United States, but they are really subscribing to the “American way”. No one else has taken a more diverse set of people and integrated them so effectively, whilst they can still hang onto their Italian-American, African-American, Jewish-American identity.

This is the model I subscribe to.

48. Matt Munro

@ 36 “Oh, yawn. It’s a cause for celebration, not attacking. I love the myriad influences on British/English culture from across the globe.”

What you are giving is the left’s default position, which is what prompted my (still answered ) question. Loving the “influences” is not the same as loving the culture itself, at best it’s a pick and mix approach to identity, at worst it’s an “Anything but English (culture)” T Shirt.
And all this crap about “myriad influences” is getting a bit tedious – all cultures have myriad influences, so what ?? It’s a pointless, hackneyed observation, which does not become any more significant for being repeated every other post.

49. Matt Munro

@ 47 – Oh dear oh dear. What you are suggesting is the “assimilation” model of immigration, somethimes called the melting pot model.
It is deemed bad by the left because it obliges people to abandon some part of their culture in exchange for acceptance in their “new” country. Next you will be suggesting that immigrants should have to learn the host language and obey it’s laws and blatantly imperialist things like that

This has already been posted on a different website where Sunny’s drivel has been demolished by many commenters. It’s nothing to do with race and everything to do with HMV irresponsibly stirring up bad feeling against the English to sell some t-shirts. Violence against the English is a problem at any time in Scotland but worse in world cup years – this is fact, not opinion. When the risk of violence towards English people in Scotland is at its highest point, adding fuel to the fire of anti-English feeling in Scotland is criminally irresponsible.

51. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar Six, KitKat, Trio

It’s a pointless, hackneyed observation, which does not become any more significant for being repeated every other post.

Pretty much sums up your entire tedious trolly output, Munro. Well done on the whole “lack of self-awareness” thing.

52. Chaise Guevara

@Dave
“But it doesn’t mean its not sensible advice, if you hate the people who share your country as passionately as Sally, why not move somewhere else?”

If you really hate your country then moving is indeed the sensible thing to do, assuming you can. But if you actually like living there are just dislike small aspects, the sensible thing is to try to change that thing rather than just bail out.

People who tell people that they should leave the country if they don’t like it never apply that logic to people they agree with. They complain about the country themselves but rarely decide that they should be the ones to leave. Occasionally it’s good advice, but normally it’s just a moronic statement that achieves nothing.

“What does this mean? Do Internet comment boards ever get FULL (sic) ? And I’ve seen some of these “comment boards” myself and they actually have a wide variety of different things on them.”

Just the other day someone was talking about Big Brother!”

Yeesh. “Full” has more than one meaning (and it’s spelled ‘full’, funnily enough, so take your SICs away. I use caps instead of italics because I’m used to formats like text messages where italics are not an option). I mean, as I would have thought was clear, that a lot of people say that sort of thing. Not that it’s the only topic of conversation on any message board ever.

“If I wanted to tell you how naughty all Muslims are I could quite easily look on an Internet comment board and tell you it is full of people who want to kill you. Im sure you would rush to tell me that this is a small vocal minority though.”

I would, yes. But the people Sally and I are talking about are a small vocal minority. Nobody said otherwise (in fact, the accusation that Sally was accusing all English people of being like that was the very thing I posted to disagree with). If you tried to prove that all Muslims were evil by quoting cherry-picked evil Muslims, you’d be a racist. If I say that hypocritical English people are hypocritical I’m arguably redundant, but hardly bigoted.

Chaise Guevara, Sally has only made one statement on these boards (the couple of snipes at others’ comments are exactly that) and that statement was…

“Being English means hating immigrants, and wanting an end to all immigration…”

What a mind blowingly stupid statement!

She really does mean all 50m people, not a small vocal minority. I have blogged with Sally elsewhere and have been impressed how such a narrow mind can process such incredibly large numbers.

Don’t try to excuse her hate filled venom as “irony” or anything else. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Matt #49 “What you are suggesting is the “assimilation” model… It is deemed bad by the left because it obliges people to abandon some part of their culture in exchange for acceptance in their “new” country”

No, it is deemed bad by the extreme right and the extreme left wing. If you want to demonise a people, you must first separate them. The Nazis first move was to herd Jews into ghettos. You can’t hate “the Jews” if the nice bloke next door/at work is ‘one of them’.

This is also why I think religious schools should be abolished, they separate, divide and breed hatred. (I wonder what school Sally went to?)

55. Chaise Guevara

Terry,

I admit I’m working on the assumption that Sally meant the fervently English, not all English people. If not, I agree that the statement is ridiculous (and evidently false: I’m English, I don’t think like that, QED). However, I’m pretty sure I’m right about this. We’d have to ask her, though.

@54 Terry

“The Nazis first move was to herd Jews into ghettos.”

That’s rather simplistic; ghetto-isation didn’t really happen in occupied western Europe, and even in the East it wasn’t always a “first move”. From 1933 onwards the German people proved remarkably supine in the face of Nazi persecution of the Jews within Germany. True, the Jews were represented by the Nazis as being “non-German”, as somehow “other”… but the evolution of Nazi policy towards what they called the Jewish question was much less stark than your comment suggests, particularly in the case of Jews within the Reich, and to a lesser extent in Western Europe. German Jews, who were probably the most assimilated in Europe, were gradually stripped of their civil rights and subject to increasingly onerous anti-Jewish measures.

There was remarkably little resistance from the general population within Germany to such measures. In Nazi terms, it wasn’t necessary for the German people to hate the nice Jewish doctor who treated them, or even the Jews as a people or race; it WAS necessary for them to be either indifferent to the increasingly obvious and onerous measures of persucution, or too scared to openly protest. The German people may not have swallowed Nazi racial ideaology in toto, but neither did they rise up to prevent the Jews being stripped of their rights.

English isn’t a racial epithet anymore than Scottish, Jewish or European is. The English don’t have a particularly well developed sense of heir own identity as far as I can see… tho that seems to be changing. Whilst I understand the siren voices calling for an English parliament, people need to realise that it would almost inevitably lead to an acceleration of the break up of the UK. As an expat Scot, I think that would be unfortunate… but maybe it’s what people in England want? Perhaps it’s inevitable? The $64,000 question is, can “Englishness” be rescued from the clutches of the right wing nutters? There is so much that is laudable about the English character and outlook – perhaps you just need to “promote the positive” a bit more?

Chaise ” I’m working on the assumption that Sally meant the fervently English, not all English people

No, I’m afraid not. She also thinks you’re arrogant.

Galen10 “That’s rather simplistic; ghetto-isation didn’t really happen in occupied western Europe, and even in the East it wasn’t always a “first move”.”

I’d rather think it succinct, rather than simplistic (it is just a blog not a dissertation) but I firmly believe in its basic premise. ie. in order to hate a people you have to demonise them. To do that, you must separate them first.

Voluntarily separating society’s sub cultures is a recipe for disaster. You can draw a straight line from this policy to the bombs of N Ireland and 7/7.

Finally, I disagree that Englishness needs to be ”rescued from the clutches of the right wing nutters”. Englishness is a response to Scottish and Welsh devolution. It has never belonged to the right wing, but some on the left seem determined to gift wrap it and give to them.

The English are often mocked for their rich ethnic diversity as was reflected in the programmes “Mongrel Nation” and “100% English?”. We can’t be “mongrels” and exclusive!

When English flags are waved by English fans at football matches (supporting players of more colours and hues that can be found in any other UK team) at least it doesn’t remind me of the Raj and empire.


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  1. Elly

    RT @libcon: The problem with trying to define 'Englishness' http://bit.ly/9ZzrtL

  2. Liberal Conspiracy

    The problem with trying to define 'Englishness' http://bit.ly/9ZzrtL





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