English Nationalism: A Tale of Two Nations

On Twitter today I saw a tweet which went like this:

Scottish Nationalism Good, Welsh Nationalism Good, Irish Nationalism Good, English Nationalism Bad, Why is England the exception?

The answer is that it isn’t. If we re-frame the question:

Scottish Nationalism Good, Welsh Nationalism Good, Irish Nationalism Good, English Nationalism Good, British Nationalism Bad.

There is then a clear difference, in that the first four are not really nationalism whereas the last is, if we define Nationalism as the belief that a nation is superior to other nations and thus is justified in exploited other inferior nations.

The difference is that these first four national movements include everyone in that nation, whether they identify with that nation or not. They seek fairness and a better political arrangement to allow innovation, investment  and economic development of infrastructure and for their nations to not be ignored. Whereas the true nationalism only serves the elite that identify as British Nationalists to the detriment of everyone else in Britain, allowing policies of repression towards those that don’t fit this narrow definition of “British”.

I think that English Nationalism struggles for it’s voice to be heard, because people find it challenging to differentiate itself from British Nationalism, which is racist and often the Nationalists have adopted both the English and British flags and some identify as English Nationalists. I should point out here that this splitting is in itself complicated, as you can identify as British and not be a British Nationalist, it’s this issue which makes the differentiation unclear.

I grew up in rural Powys, in British Wales and whilst most people from there identify as Welsh, they often share the views of British Nationalists, this certainly doesn’t make them bad people, but they are those that divide the people of Britain (the Britons) into them and us. An issue for the Welsh national movement is that we need the support of these people, but their British Nationalism holds them back from embracing the national movement. It is these people who value conformism and that is a very difficult habit to break, which I talked about in my last weblog.

I feel I could have very easily been one of these British Nationalists as it was part of the culture I grew up in. I just didn’t fit in and in being so kind of picked out the bits that made sense and discarded the rest. It was only through being different and an outsider that made me ask lots of questions, rather than accept what was around me as gospel.

What are these specific things you need to be a member of the British Nationalists beyond valuing conformity. You need to be white, you need to be from a Christian background (actual belief in Christianity isn’t important), you need to be a monolingual English speaker, you must have a distrust of intellectuals, you must not value the arts, you must regard those not in the club as inferior, you must not question authority. Essentially it isn’t merely valuing conformity, it’s being sceptical of questioning or exploring of issues.

When I was at school in a history lesson we were looking at the Cuban missile crisis. One of our activities was to have a mock debate, the class was split between pretending to be representatives of the USA and the USSR. I ended up on the USSR side and made that case as part of the activity. I was pretty much the only one who seemed to understand the logic of the USSR position, indeed a friend of mine admitted they they could not have done what I had just done, I think because it was somehow unpatriotic as the British position was to support the USA, even to the point of not trying to at least understand the other side. So, if you are unable to look at both sides of an issue, how on Earth are you supposed to get to the truth?

It’s ridiculous, how some people are now wary of talking about the Welsh language to me, now that I am a speaker of it. I’ve crossed that divide, there is no problem and it’s quite a nice place to be thanks.

I think it is this lack of questioning that is the mark of the British Nationalists, it explains how such awful politicians as Boris Johnson could have “won” the 2019 UK general election. For example, if you point out how awful it is that food bank use has risen so much in the UK, when there had been no need for such things relatively recently as a terrible development, you get the reply along the lines of “These people whilst perhaps deserving our pity are at fault for getting themselves into that position as people like us wouldn’t” When you point out examples of people who got there by bad luck or being made redundant, they can be dismissed as exceptions!

It is frightening, because when I was young I read the history books there were around and they very heavily promote the idea of British history as glorious and entirely ignore the damage that British policy has done to parts of the world. That accepting that interpretation is patriotic and any questioning makes you instantly ‘the enemy’. The idea that you base your belief system on a lie and adopt a position of not questioning anything is very scary indeed.

How can we bring across people from British Nationalism to the national movements of the nations of Britain? The UK has the highest  inequality in Europe, some of the most expensive housing and transport and is an unproductive and innovation averse economy that is falling behind, when there is no need for it to be.

Wales is not a poor country that couldn’t stand on it’s own two feet without the “help” of the “British elite”, we can afford a National Health Service, free education, affordable decent housing and a coordinated transport infrastructure. The UK is just wedded to the Tory party of not questioning why things are not going well and must, as always lay the blame on others, those who are not British Nationalists.

Brexit as framed as a perverse patriotism is causing unnecessary damage. Only yesterday there were anti-Semitic activity in London. In general there seem to be increases in racism, homophobia and even attacks on people for speaking Welsh.

The portents for 2020 in the UK are not good. Brexit seems to have allowed the nasty Nationalists to feel legitimised by the Brexit votes and all these repressed concerns about our society come out not directed at the useless Tories in charge, but at those who do not share this frankly bizarre adherence to not questioning authority, be they Welsh, Scottish, Irish, English, Black, Catholic, LGBTQ+, Jewish, Muslim, from Mainland Europe, Africa, or Outer Space. Why value being in this British Nationalist minority and ignore the great potential of all the people of Britain? It’s just very disturbing and there seems no clear way of getting people to come together as our nations for the greater good, to open minds and get people to think about these things.

Perhaps the question now is what do we want Britain to be? The Britain of national movements to unite everyone together to make things better or the Brexit if British Nationalism that divides us into us and them. Do we want to go down the path of 1930s Germany that my grandfather took up arms against or be nations progressing together to make a better world? Remember that only 36% of Wales voted for Boris Johnson’s Brexit, or 44% of the UK as a whole. We are the 56%, we can do this.




Misunderstood oppression

Continuing the spirit of Christmas tales, I paid a visit to London just before Christmas to attend a wonderful concert of Tudor polyphony. In the afternoon I wandered through Camden and ended up following two people a man and a woman. At first I thought it was a couple. I noticed that the woman was ignoring the man, I imagined some sort of quarrel. The man then quite casually stopped and the woman continued on her way. This seemed odd, until it occurred to me that these two people may not have met before and the man was simply pestering her. If so, he did a very good job of appearing to the world as if he knew the woman as he walked beside her. I’ve only recently become aware of such things occurring in larger towns and cities. This particular phenomenon of sexist oppression. such oppression affects us all. This oppression affects white males too, like me.

I have formed numerous friendships with ladies over the years. I have discussed before how once the possibility of a sexual relationship has been negated, a friendship may continue. However there have been a couple of examples where the lady has stopped all contact with me. This hurt me greatly and not understanding what had happened, not knowing what I had done wrong  caused me great peturbation. I seemed to be misunderstood and randomly losing friends.

It is only know that I have learnt not to be afraid of being misunderstood that I perhaps have the answer. That my continued contact has been construed as continuing to pursue a relationship. So why, when it was clear that I wasn’t seeking a closer relationship was this not being believed.

The answer being that the harrassment  of women by men has led to women being oppressed. Women have to put up with the regularity and persistence of unwanted attention from men every time they walk down the street. Hence men are oppressed too as when men such as myself are simply being friendly, we are viewed with suspicion.

Having said that it isn’t entirely this, it is partly that I overcompensate for my lack of social skills and talk too much, to the extent that even men have felt the need to tell me that they are not interested in a relationship with me. I just like talking to people, I don’t seek relationships, I just think that relationships happen when people bond together, but there is no harm in talking with the people that I meet. Nonetheless, I think the point still stands that systemic oppression affects us all, which is rubbish as it is then society as a whole rather than individuals to blame for this.

So, grab your pitchfork, light your torches and lets all get out there and change society. This blog has a purpose! Except we are all different and no-one can expect the world to change to suit them. I am just so glad to have understood this. The biblical quote “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew C7v1), resonates so much with me. That the problem isn’t within me. I just needed to be more aware of sexist oppression in society, to not be afraid of being misunderstood and more accepting of it when it happens.