Monday, 23 April 2007

St George And the De-Festering of England

Today is the saint's day, and, predictably, the BBC have done their usual - Peter Allen is reporting from Glasgow asking about the end of the Union and Thought for the Day managed to libel the entire country with bullshit about Little Englanders (funny how when the French talk about "une certain idee de la France" or boast about their great achievements,we lap it up as evidence of our failings) - with our rulers chipping into to smear the flag-wearers and to emphasise St George's multcultural origins (Jack Straw on CIF, via Mr E but if you think I'm linking direct to that tosser, who years ago said on the radio that England had oppressed Europe and so was bad, you can think again).

Whatever.

I'm currently listening to World in Motion by New Order and it reminds me of two things: one, how England throughout my life has been either washed up, failing, divided, and violent; or, it has been the subject of constant attacks by its own elites and rulers. No-one can take an innocent pleasure in England, it seems (except XTC, maybe), whereas even Germany has managed to resurrect a kind of unthreatening national pride. Perhaps it comes down to comprehensive defeat, and whether England needs that before it can rebuild its legitimacy (via the end of the union, maybe) - I don't know.
But the song, World in Motion provides exactly that sense of innocent pride, despite popularising the expression "Eng-er-land", partly through John Barnes's rap, and partly through the lovely samples: "a beauty scored by Bobby Charlton"; "we want goals" etc - even if it is hopelessly naive for New Order to tie football to love, especially in 1990.

I cannot control my birth and I owe more to Ireland than England in ancestry. But England is my home and as such, I love it; rotting cities and corrupt elites notwithstanding. Here are some reasons: Shakespeare/cricket/Chaucer/Joy Division/rain/rolling hills/XTC/Bath/rugby football/the glory of failure/irony/ale/Chipping Campden/George Orwell/Viz/Oxford/kitchen sink drama and soap operas/the light/the abundance of the colour green/the CofE.

There are others, and there are British things I love too: Doctor Who being the most obvious. I don't claim that England invented any of the things in the list, except Shakespeare maybe, but I do claim that they make it wonderful.

If the price of recreating England as a self-confident, meaningful modern state which takes joy in its own culture and welcomes people from everywhere, loves its people rather than regards them with a sort of tired disdain, and tells people who hate it to fuck off, is to lose the union, then that's just what we have to pay.

5 comments:

james higham said...

I didn't know you were a Joy Division fan. I then followed New Order but that cuts no ice with purists, of course.

The Tin Drummer said...

Yes I like New Order & Joy Division. I know that JD purists think they're a betrayal but I don't agree - I think they're a natural progression. Late JD songs suggest that they would have moved in a similar direction (though the lyrics would have been more consistent).

Not Saussure said...

I'm with you almost all the way, until you start involving the state. Apart from the fact I shudder when people start talking about wanting a self-confident, meaningful modern state (sounds like the sort of thing Tony Blair would propose), how can a state take joy in its culture? States don't have emotions -- they're there, or should be, to play a very important role, but one limited to specific areas,like maintaining a fair and impartial legal system, defending the country and keeping a sound currency. And it isn't the state's culture at all -- it's the culture of the people who live there, and in which they may or may not take joy.

And I certainly don't want to be loved by the state, thank you very much, which will almost certainly involve using my money to shower me with gifts it thinks I should appreciate. Think how disappointed it might feel if it felt I failed adequately to reciprocate.

The Tin Drummer said...

NS, good points. Perhaps I should rephrase my points: I used "state" interchangeably in my mind with "collection of people" and "territory" - I wasn't thinking about the actual government, except that I _would_ like the people who run the place we live in to like it, rather than to loathe it. When I talked about the state having pride in itself I kind of meant that the people who lived in England as an independent state would like it, would regard its past and its achievements more equitably than we do at present, while being able to see a future for it - which, while the union staggers on, is difficult to do. I just think that while the educational establishment and all good progressive politicians think that England is a slightly dirty and half racist idea we'll never move on, and we'll never do anything to improve our situation. But how you achieve that, I don't know. Dissolve the teacher training colleges? I know I would. I guess, thinking about it, it would take an awful lot more than just the end of the union to relegitimise England.

In terms of the form of the govt, I would prefer a dissolution of the union followed by a referendum on renegotiated EU membership (obviously our contributions would have to be cut...); a bicameral parliament with either the constitutional monarch or an elected president (no appointed presidents, please); and a clause in a (sadly, but necessarily) written constitution that says that - like the FRG I believe - English law takes precedence over EU or other law.

Ruthie said...

I think there is seriously a New Order cult going around and I can't believe I never heard of them before!

What should I go listen to?