Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Oh to be in England

Hello folks, my role here will be to, occasionally, cover English matters; I realise that there have been some problems in this area recently, and I hope to correct any such misunderstandings that may occur in the future. I will not be making regular appearances here, only when I have something to say, or when I have been asked to comment, even arbitrate, on a sticky problem. I thought I would begin by asking:-

What is it to be English?

For a start to be English is to be slightly uncomfortable with the very concept of "identity"; after all we English are famous above all for being somewhat insular, maybe this has something to do with being an island race. I am not talking a cut-off mid-oceanic island here; but rather, an island that is within swimming distance of mainland Europe - an island that can be easily invaded, or employed as a base for invasion. Our insularity has, in the past, been convoluted by two striking incongruities; our ethnic dilution and our history-making inclination to export, even to deport, people; and nations have been founded by this very inclination. We have a language that, due in part to its extraordinary capacity to borrow and assimilate words from other languages, has become pretty much a global lingua franca. However, there are parts of “this sceptered isle” where one is barely able to understand a single word that is uttered; I am thinking of those places where the local dialect is still strong.

We English have a defensible reputation for being powerful and mundane, yet we have excelled in all the arts. We are often seen as being shy and retiring, even affected to the point of effeminacy; however few peoples have shown a more fearsome and merciless talent for aggression. Our fondness for gardens and animals is something of an international joke, however there is scant evidence of that tenderness we lavish on, for example, dogs in our dealings with “Johnny foreigner”, when it is our natural inclination to practice gunboat diplomacy. The general temper is distinctly repressive and autocratic allowing the cult of aristocracy and hierarchy to remain astonishingly tenacious.

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