In my capacity as BULS’ tweeter in cheif I have started following Nick Griffin, and my suspicions about him have been confirmed straight from the horse’s mouth. The BNP is “bewildered” by its responsibilities in Europe. Nick himself delights in causing trouble, but is singularly slippery on facts. He expects others to listen, but does not reply to others who comment or engage in any kind of conversation with anyone on twitter. Perhaps inevitable when 90% of the population hate his guts.
He also usefully reminded me that yesterday was Trafalgar Day, and started me thinking about patriotism in its many guises. Being in Germany I find it a very interesting topic, because I sometimes feel as though I am experiencing more than homesickness for my friends and family – an actual longing for England itself.
Where does this feeling come from? Why do I leap to defend the weather or cuisine when I know it is better in other countries? Why do I seek to protect the concept of Britishness against jokes and slander? I’m poud of our liberties, I’m grateful for our relative economic security and safety from attack. I love the infrastructure and the accents, the music and the telly, the literature and the arts. But Germany’s not bad either. I could have been born here, and lived a very similar life. I wouldn’t be disappointed with Australia or Greece. As the late Linda Smith observed, most people who are proud of being British are taking credit for something they took no part in forming. No one alive now was alive to invent Britain. Most patriots were born and live here, so to call themselves British is not an achievement.
Nick Griffin’s attacks on foreigners in Britain and Brussels seek to include people like me, who want to feel proud and superior, who can define themselves as British if nothing else, who get excited by history and intrigued by ancestry. But it’s too easy. Patriotism is a luxury we don’t need. Defending the things that Britain does well individually is brilliant. But this concept of there being something more, an essence that runs through all of us and through the place itself is crazy. We see it taken to extremes world-wide, with broad hysteria on immigration, globalisation and EU integration. With MSPs preaching independence at all costs, with the Tea Party movement’s covert xenophobia, with the PKK committing violence in the name of the as-yet-unrecognised Kurdistan, with neo-Nazis in Berlin.
The British media heaps scorn with alacrity on any politician appearing to be less than delighted about their homeland. In the case of Gisela Stuart I more than once had to talk round voters who were unwilling to “let the Germans in” by electing her. Clegg was vilified for his foreign wife and europhile credentials. We have an unhealthy obsession with this second-hand pride.
The human race is entitled to liberty, good health and financial stability. It is not entitled to patriotism.