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define: british

By ATWadmin On January 12th, 2007

It is because the British have lost pride in themselves that they conceive of British identity as membership in a mildly left-wing social democratic club devoted to abstract principles such as ”tolerance.” It is because they conceive of British identity in this neutral way that they have lost the ability to persuade others to assimilate to it. And because of that, discontented young jihadists murder people against whom they have no legitimate grievance.

Neither Blair nor New Labor understands this basic political fact. It runs up against all their natural political instincts. Unfortunately for the British, the other respectable political parties that used to understand these things, notably the Tories, have made a heroic effort to forget them. (‘Chicago Sun’, Dec 2006 – sorry ive just lost link, will add in later)

Its not all down to the government though. We do a good job ourselves. Even the Left’s grossly devisive policy of multi culturalism creating rifts – are acerbated by a general self loathing right across the board. The Right is as much to blame.  It isnt simply a mind of the political elite ‘to forget them’. Who would seriously want to try and stop the snow balling effect of self loathing Brits who enjoy indulging in Victor Meldrew syndrome quite unlike anything you see elsewhere? It’s a national sport we actually do excel at. On that note, the most banal but equally the most positive of role models gets short shrift from the British public even when he demonstrates himself working class made good. LOL.  What hope anyone else?!! If as an example I looked at Mikes America directly after the elections at the tail end of last year, rather than casting my eyes over an entirely glum piece, I saw an acknowledgement of what was wrong coupled with a set of proposals for how to challenge in the future.  Belief in America was never in question.  Likewise if you read any democrat sites in their constant struggle with their arch-nemesis Bush, belief in America is still never in question no matter how sold out they might feel they are. Their criticisms stem from a belief that their version of America is the preferred version.  Belief in the country lies at the heart of the issues. Taken to the extreme it even looks ridiculous to me. On a trip to the US a few years back without too money between us my friend and I ended up camping for part of the trip. On one site, up rolls some huge van, out drops Mr and Mrs America and the first thing they did was drive the Stars and Stripes into the ground right outside their van. We cracked up laughing it seemed so ‘unreal’.


I wonder if we are actually capable of criticising what’s wrong without running ourselves into the ground doing it. The French recognise a blip and define it. They call it ‘le declin’ and countless books are written worrying about it. They don’t embrace it as intrinsic to who they are.  

On the other hand – is this healthy contempt for everything and everyone a definition of who we are?!

50 Responses to “define: british”

  1. A cynical attitude to politicians, A sense of humour about virtually any situation, A good old moan about everything and then at the end of the conversation saying..

    " … aah well mustn’t grumble, let’s put kettle on a nice cuppa tea will sort us all out..

    That’s what being British means.

  2. >>I saw an acknowledgement of what was wrong coupled with a set of proposals for how to challenge in the future.<<

    But, Alison, after this sentence we were all expecting to read your set of proposals for a solution, Where is it?

  3. Thats best left for another post Cunningham. (After which I hope to be elected)

  4. That was a very interesting article, Alison. I wonder how much influence the BBC has over the perceptions and assumptions of people.

    From what I understand BBC coverage more often than not promotes British self loathing. This results in the strange situation of the Britsh paying journalists to openly disdain them.

  5. I understand all you have to say and agree with it. The difference between the USA and Britain is that the USA has always been a nation of immigrants, European & every country in the world. Britain wasn’t (I can hear people out there shouting at me wrong, wrong) but the hardcore of Britain was white, a two main relgion country. We knew who we were, where we had come from, our history etc. We didn’t need to plan a flag anywhere, we were Brits and proud of it. Now the indiginous people of Britain are shell shocked they don’t know who they are anymore, and the Happy Holiday brigade have taken over. We are constantly told oh but this is wonderful for us. The problem is we don’t believe it, and right now we are battling with ourselves to find an answer.

  6. Maggie,

    Nice to hear from you again.

  7. that should read ‘plant’ a flag.! Thanks DV.

  8. Tolerance, self deprecating humour, a (fading) sense of pride in our history, enterprise, fairness…..

    Alison’s post is most interesing as I see the exact same thing she points our re USA/UK.

    I often think we exported our BEST to the USA – and we that remain struggle to justify who and what we are.

    Someone asked me was I a British nationalist on some other thread, I think. Can’t say I am, because I hate nationalism in general.

    I like what Britain was, I loath what Labour has tried to turn it into. I write to try and explain these mixed feelings.

  9. Really interesting reponses Maggie David Notme.

    David i think you criticise politics really well. I wonder how to attack the core of what i dislike without undermining us randomly or across the board and i dont deny i find this very hard. I think Maggie has it right that we are battling to find an answer.

    Something i dislike is this desire to pull someone off their pedestal no matter what eg if anyone makes good, does good, something worth celebrating etc . So its hard to get positive role models and positivity in general for kids to look up to or have a base on. We dont celebrate what we do well and there is a lot of it.

  10. >>Someone asked me was I a British nationalist on some other thread, I think. Can’t say I am, because I hate nationalism in general.<<

    That was me David, I suppose what I mean is, is nationalism not defending your identification with state. You are British, you define yourself as British, you are proud of your British qualities, you want an independent UK, outside the EU, and you want to preserve your identity. Genuine question, but is that not a sense of nationalism. You defend this identity against other identities. There are different forms of nationalism I suppose. You are weary of the nationalism that attempts to break the union, but I would argue that it is your British nationalism that attempts to keep it together.

    Im Irish, first and foremost. Im an EU citizen next, purely by political means. I in no way identify with a european culture. I dont every identify myself to someone as being an EU citizen during conversation.

    This of course is completely different to the British identity and the identities of the constituent regions of the UK. The British identity is an amalgamation of qualities, culture and identities of its constituent regions. Is it not ? So I presume its a lot easier for
    someone to identify with a British and an Irish/Scots/Welsh identity.

    Which one comes first though, Your British or your Irish/Welsh/Scots/English identity. Is it not right that the identities of the constituent regions be preserved as well ? Or should the British identity consume the others. Was that not what was hoped for, but has been proven to be a failure, at least in scotland and ireland.

  11. Maggie "we didn’t need to plant a flag anywhere". That would come as a shock to various colonies, the former inhabitants of which have returned with your flag to your shores. And history is an evolving thing, not just a static state, which is why Britain will evolve with the rest of the globe. It was and is the ideals of the nation that make it great, not the skin color of the inhabitants.

  12. "I often think we exported our BEST to the USA"

    A humble thank you from your American cousin.

  13. Of course exporting your best has officially ended by dropping Beckham and his wife upon us. An reprehensible act unequalled since you burned our capital.

  14. >>Tolerance, …enterprise, fairness..<<<

    Imagine, even David now trying to prove that the Northern Irish are not British after all!

  15. Kloot,

    Thank you for that interesting response.

    I DO see myself as British, first and foremost. I don’t really think a lot about my NI identity and I certainly try to blank out my EU identity.

    I know that there is great pride in the constituent elements of the UK – with the Scottish, Welsh, English and Northern Irish dimensions – but I look to the Union Flag to sum us all up.

    My grandmother, now long deceased sadly, used to tell me that you can’t eat flags. She had a point. I love the diversity of people around the UK, around Europe, around the World. It’s our common humanity we need to embrace, which is often easier said than done.

  16. Beautful beautful Becks – my eastender made good. May he teach you that football is played with your feet. Fair trade Mahons – for all the years of ponsey overpaid film stars dropped on our culture via the tube

  17. Mahons,

    I’m waiting on the cheque from Beckham. Still, he’s gone over to lala land.

  18. Alison – Where Pele failed would Beckham succeed? I doubt it. I suppose it is payback for sending you Paltrow and Madonna.

    David – Look for him on Big Brother America or Dancing with the Stars in less than three years.

  19. I was talking about this country Mahons re planting a flag. Re David Beckham, he’s ok and so is his wife but they are a successful and therefore a target.

    "And history is an evolving thing, not just a static state, which is why Britain will evolve with the rest of the globe." ….tell that to the Chinese.

  20. He did mahons. Pele tried and failed to get a goal in from the halfway line. Beckham succeeded. In both their careers that same thing was a defining moment. I love the fact that Mr Working Class inspires such hatred in liberals! Good on Mr Becks for his ‘soccer’ schools for kids. Nice guy

  21. This lunacy is ‘British’.


    This is where we are now.

  22. Maggie – I know you flag comment’s intent, but I couldn’t resist.

    One of the effects of globalization and international celebrity is exposure to the celebrity couples of other nations (your forgiveness is requested from Brad and Angelina). I respectfully submit that there are additional grounds to roll one’s eyes at the prospect of another tabloid couple like David and Posh.

  23. I aint apologising for inflicting Colin Farrell… yis deserved it!! 🙂 thats what ye get for watching "Ballykissangel"

  24. In the 80s it was Michael Jordan, now its Becks.

    ‘globalization’ and ‘international’ celebrity

    By that you mean americanisation. Allans reference to compensation culture for example. American isnt it?Yes how is that working out for us guys? Has anyone had any more ubiquitous starbucks pop up in a high street lately selling hot frothy milk? 😉

    Indeed maggie – re China.

  25. David,

    What do you make of the habit of the English media to describe the best of what comes from the UK as being British, but the bad aspects in provincial terms.

    E.g. Scottish lad does well in XYZ sport…described as British.

    Scottish lad knocked out in first round of XYZ sport…described as Scottish.

    Is it something you see and recognise ?

  26. Kloot, Peter O’toole once said that when he got an award he was British, but when arrested from being drunk he was Irish.

  27. Kloot – eventually they all fall from grace even if they do everything right. Reading the press today about Beckham – guess what! They actually get it.

    LA Times:

    "You’re getting an earthling so famous his look-alikes make approved endorsement appearances to sell his fragrance, **yet who somehow seems to exude an everyday decency**"

    Regards the media point taken. But then again what do you think of the English cheering on the Scots in sporting events whilst the Scots and others get themselves so worked up about us english losing it is a sight to behold.

  28. Interesting post Alison.

    I think part of the problem with Britain is that British identity had its zenith in the 19th and 20th centuries (say until around 1960). Since then, it has gradually subsided with the retreat from empire, relative economic decline, mass immigration and the growth of separatism in Scotland and to a lesser extent in Wales.

    This leaves England, which has also lost much of its sense of identity for the same reasons. For many English people, English and British were synonomous. Not so now.

    I agree that a tendency to moan and self-criticise is part of the British pschye. This has been reinforced in recent years by a deepening cynicism about politics, for which Blair and his cronies must take most of the blame.

  29. Some positive, pro-British leadership would be a help. If say, Prince Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury spent more time talking Britain up, well, it’s just one factor that would have an effect on people’s spirits.

  30. Another thing we DESPERATELY need to do, is to stop listening to those who would make us feel ashamed of our history. Britain has been a GREAT country in the past, a true world leader, and it can be so again.

  31. >>But then again what do you think of the English cheering on the Scots in sporting events whilst the Scots and others get themselves so worked up about us english losing it is a sight to behold.<<

    Yeah, its a problem here as well. Most Irish people from the ROI, and I dare say a fair few from NI, would cheer on any team playing against England in soccer. I think there are many reasons for this

    1. English media talk their football team up to the hilt. They have themselves with the cup in their hands before the tournament has begun. No one likes that kind of over confidence, and therefore when things work out people tend to point and go ha ha..

    2. Inferiority complex. The smaller nations just loved and continue to love beating the larger nation of these 2 islands every so often. Its a continuation of the tensions that always existed between the Scots & the English and the Irish and the English.

    3. Hatred. There are people out there who just hate the english. Hopefully they are the minority.

    Those I think are some of the reasons why the other nations like to see england lose. It used to be that you would never find an Irishman (ROI) cheering on an england team, but that is now changing. A new generation of Irish are on the scene. The Irishman who travels over 3 times a year to the UK to see their favourite football team. Who can make the mature decision to cheer on their favorite player when he is playing for his national team, just as he would cheer them when playing for his local team. I see more and more irish following England in the cricket, athletics, rugby.

    Rugby is my favourite as i regularly catch a game. I love nothing better then the atmosphere of the six nations. I relish the game against the English. Why, to beat them of course 🙂 , but also the atmosphere of watching the game in a pub full of English, Irish, Scots and Welsh and the banter and fun that goes on between us all. No animosity, just fun. The games of recent have been very close, nail bitting finishes, which are great. And of course, its an Irish team, not a ROI team. That I must admit I like.

    Im looking forward to seeing Ireland play England in croke park this year. Id sell a kidney to get there.

  32. What about the Irish famine for instance. Im not saying it was the British people that mismanaged this, it was the British government. But lets not drag the discussion down those lines. It will detract from the central point

    There are stains on every nations history. Admitting and acknowledging them shows a strong sense of pride. Ignoring them doesnt.

  33. "There are stains on every nations history. Admitting and acknowledging them shows a strong sense of pride. Ignoring them doesnt"

    Well said Kloot. I was going to say something about the Amritsar Massacre or Camps in the Boer War etc but perhaps this is not the right time…..

  34. A quick quote from a song about Historical British terrorism….



    Who do you think formulated the British army at the time. At one time the Irish were the largest grouping in the British army, the 1800s I think.

  36. Rue,

    That isn’t damien dempsey is it ? ‘Colony’ is it ?

  37. Kloot,

    Are you really a dub? Your a disgrace. Irish people only koined up to escape poverty. Those who plundered were those in control. In London. The plundered resources unchecked for hundreds of years and then became embittered when colonised nations began standing up for themselves.

    Keep guessig re the song. You would hear it any any good ballad session in certain working class areas of Dublin.

  38. >>Are you really a dub?<<

    Im a working class wexford man. Rue, I aint saying the irish directed it, but participated. We therefore have to accept some of the responsibility. I dont think that an independent irish nation at the time would have engaged in such ventures. We also should be able to admit or part.

    I got the answer via google. Cheers. Not a ballad man myself, and even though i like my music, ive a shocking memory for lyrics

  39. Kloot,

    A Londoncentric media does EXACTLY as you say.

  40. "Im a working class wexford man"

    Is there such thing? I didn’t think class distinction existed outside of Dublin..

  41. >>Is there such thing? I didn’t think class distinction existed outside of Dublin..<<

    oh there is alright. Small towns have their upper and middle classes just like dublin.

    I wouldnt consider myself working class now, I have a decent job and can pay my way. Doesnt mean i cant retain my working class values

  42. As an American, I’m the proud recipient of Britain’s "plundering." Because of British "imperialism" I have the great good luck to inherit many quintessentially British values: fair play and honest work, respect for law and order, protection of the weak and volunteerism. Just to name a few. I am grateful that America was once a British colony. As pedigrees go, I don’t think it comes any better. (Of course, we also inherited the British love of taxation, but when was anything ever perfect?)

  43. I think it is fair to suggest that the UK is one of those entities that are more than the sum off the parts.

    That the Union owes much to the skills and expertise of the the Scots, the English, the Irish and the Welsh, in developing much that is admired and imitated by others, in all fields of civilised endeavour.

    Of course there have been mistakes, but none with overtly malicious intent.

    Would the Industrial revolution have happened without Scots expertise and Irish brawn – doubtful, or for that matter without the financial and management skills of the English, and not forgetting the political skills and muscular efforts of the Welsh.

    Without the Union I doubt that the Commonwealth would ever have happened

    As a team we were virtually unbeatable, individually we are at best mundane. Each nation has been a catalyst for the others.

    What a wonderful concept, and it almost worked, pity about all that nationalist baggage…

  44. Nice comments Notme and Kloot.

  45. and Ernest…

  46. "What a wonderful concept, and it almost worked, pity about all that nationalist baggage… "


    I strongly disagree about it being a "wonderful concept", but that’s by the by.

    "Nationalist baggage" never goes away. It has helped destroy most supra-national states. It helped destroy the Soviet Union, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. It destroyed Yugoslavia all on its own. It is throwing shapes re the UK and, no doubt all you right-wingers will be delighted to hear, I fear it will eventually destroy the EU.

  47. <em>Keep guessig re the song. You would hear it any any good ballad session in certain working class areas of Dublin.</em>

    It’s the ballad of Joe McDonnell, excellent song.

  48. Reg,

    Of course it will destroy the EU. Then our ‘dear leaders’ may come to realise that you can ‘lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink’.

    Sure nationalism may not be the greatest sin, or virtue, (depending on your pov), but people need a sense of belonging, and they need to relate to the entity they feel they belong to.

    Only mentally deranged socialists would see otherwise.

  49. Did anyone else see the programme on the making of ‘One foot in the grave’, on BBC tv last evening?

    The general conclusion seemed to be that Victor Meldrew, far from being no more than just a grumpy old man, was actually a valid critic of the ‘life and times’ of ’90’s Britain.

    Like so many at that time he had been made redundant, and was not a pensioner. Thus he had plenty of time on his hands, and the mental capacity, to find fault, and to attempt to do something about it.

    Perhaps the large number of people in the same situation as him, i.e. unemployed, for whatever reason, give rise to his, and the general downbeat attitude of so many Brits. Might it be a case of a national epidemic of mild clinical depression?

  50. Ernest

    It often strikes me as weird that we band around the word tolerant as a virtue…to tolerate. Hardly nice is it? Why do we need to just tolerate? Surely if everyone felt they belonged – and Britain is a terrific country to belong to – belonging is better than tolerating. Tolerate to my mind sums up the attitude of governments who knowing that they are forcing immigration onto people without understanding the social impact – only the economic – simply end up merely hoping it all works out. And then blame the population when it doesnt.