Hey guys. I wanted to talk to you today about a subject very close to my heart but one which has not been heavily discussed on the Fourth Floor site. I want to preface this by saying that I do not think any single nation or landmass is superior to any other. With that in mind I want to talk about Britain and being British.
I really hate those words. Britain, for me, is the name of an island — nothing more. There was a Britain, long ago in my nation’s dim Celtic past, before there was an England. But I do and always have identified myself as English rather than as British. It’s not because I want to dissociate myself from my Welsh and Scottish brethren — you guys are awesome. But whereas ‘Britain’ used to just be a name for the island upon which we live, named by the Romans because they came here to mine tin, it later became synonymous with England ruling over Wales and Scotland and later the rest of the world with the ‘British Empire’. And no Scotsman would go around calling himself British but every now and again you’ll hear an Englishman referring to himself as British and refer to British food and British history — and he won’t go on to talk about haggis or Robert the Bruce.
And when I fill in a form my nationality is always ‘British’ or ‘United Kingdom’. There’s never a category for ‘English’. And in 2007, with the ‘British’ Empire dead, references to ‘Britain’ make me uncomfortable. We shouldn’t be giving out MBE’s, we shouldn’t be living in this Imperialist Ideal. If the word ‘British’ as it refers to anything exclusively English were to die tomorrow I would shed no tears. I know we used to be dicks, we used to straddle the world like a colossus exploiting people from other countries — exploiting them, invading them, enslaving them — but we’ve stopped now. We’re a tiny country, we accept that now. We’re friends, yes? No more ‘British’ this and ‘Britain’ that. Just as there is a great deal of pride to be had in being Scottish, Welsh, Irish, American, French, German, Japanese or Dutch there is some pride to be had with just being English (or at least as much pride as can be had in belonging to one lump of rock rather than any other lump). After all, Shakespeare anyone?
So if you are English, please think twice before you talk about being British. And if you are not, please think twice before referring to myself or one of my countrymen as British. The days of Imperialism and general bastardry are over. Let’s stick to what we do best — cynicism and conversations about the weather. Ooh — and Hugh Grant movies. Right, I’m off to drink some tea.