Friday, February 01, 2008

Wee patriots?

The British government wants patriotism taught as a subject at school! Can you believe it?

Yet it's understandable since Britsh patriotism isn't something that comes naturally to anyone across the water. Most Scots, English and Welsh would never introduce themselves to holiday acquaintances as "British", and yet they're passionate patriots of their respective nations.

The only people whose chests swell at the thought of Britishness are Irish Unionists, the last bastion of the British empire, for whom the concept of Irishness has - sadly but wrongly - been usurped by Republicanism. To them, Irishness is a dirty word associated with terrorists, Catholic supremacy and state-tolerated lawlessness. So, unlike John Bull, Jock and Taff, Britishness is all they've left to cling to.

That's sad and needs to be changed. Dublin-born Edward Carson - to many the father of Irish Unionism - would have been proud to call himself Irish. As were Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Henry Francis Lyte and Douglas Hyde, to name just some. We need to rediscover our Irishness because it's a heritage to treasure, not ignore. More of that later some time.

Right now, though, the idea that children should be given Patriotism lessons in schools is, at best, ridiculous and, at worst, a totalitarian hark-back to 1930's Germany. If a country has to resort to brainwashing children in order to command love and respect, it has no place in the third millennium.

This initiative proves Britain is an artificial political entity with a place in some people's heads, but not their hearts.

8 Comments:

At 1:31 p.m., Blogger O'Neill said...

A few sweeping statements there B.U.
“Yet it's understandable since Britsh patriotism isn't something that comes naturally to anyone across the water. Most Scots, English and Welsh would never introduce themselves to holiday acquaintances as "British", and yet they're passionate patriots of their respective nations.”

Your understanding of “Britishness” comes across as a rather old-fashioned, dare I say it(!), Ulster-centric zero-sum one- it’s not an either/or choice of identities.

You should think of Britishness more as a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-cultural and indeed, multi-national umbrella which covers all the many variations of people we find today in the UK. So just as it is possible to be British and Asian, it is also possible to be British and English, British and Irish. It’s completely up to the individual how much importance they place on the various entities that go to make up the whole.

The only people whose chests swell at the thought of Britishness are Irish Unionists, the last bastion of the British empire, for whom the concept of Irishness has - sadly but wrongly - been usurped by Republicanism..

I’m not the bastion of any empire. I’m British and I’m Irish, proud of both entities.
The myopic, monocultural way that Sinn Fein defined "Irishness" did put off many Irish Unionists from rediscovering their heritage, but now that they’ve stopped killing fellow Irishmen in order to unite them, there will, I predict, be an upsurge in those from the Unionist community tipping their toe into the Irishness pond.

This initiative proves Britain is an artificial political entity with a place in some people's heads, but not their hearts.

An artificial political entity that has worked pretty well for over 300 years, an artificial political entity that still commands majority support in all four parts of the Kingdom. And you won’t really know what place it has in peoples’ hearts until the threat of the Uk’s break-up becomes a real rather than hypothetical one.

But apart from all that, you’re right, you can teach civic values in school, but “Britishness”?
No, it’s something which is too precious, too personal to be left to the present generation of teachers and politicians to ruin.

 
At 3:19 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Thanks, O'Neill. I'm nodding to nearly all of that. I'm happy enough with my British heritage too, but the English/Scots/Welsh are English/Scots/Welsh first and British second. A key ingredient of a golden Irish future is for Ulster Prods to rediscover and reassert our Irishness. There is no single brand of it.

 
At 5:29 p.m., Blogger merrill said...

To almost everyone outside of UK and Ireland, whether they be European, American or whatever, British is a synonym for English - hence the reluctance of many in these islands to consider such an identity.

 
At 12:52 a.m., Anonymous perci said...

your most important post to date

 
At 6:18 p.m., Blogger Fakey said...

'Douglas Hyde, to name just some. We need to rediscover our Irishness because it's a heritage to treasure, not ignore.'

errrm... are you suggesting Douglas Hyde was a Irish Unionist?

Or for that matter Wilde.

Whatever about Oscar.. seriously, Douglas Hyde?

 
At 10:40 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Fakey, it's a list of Protestant Irishmen who treasured their Irish identity. Whether they were Unionists or not, it's a bit too late to ask them, but you're right that Douglas Hyde wasn't.

 
At 12:38 p.m., Blogger Fakey said...

speaking as an Irish protestant there's a huge difference between an Irish 'national identity' which at it's base is the idea of a nation distinct, separate and primary and a regional varient-identity that's interchangeable with say a British national identity.

I think this is an important debate.

To be an 'Irish Unionist', within the modern context of a successful independent Irish state is wholly oxymoronic as is the idea that religion defines 'national identity'.

My perspective on this is that while NI Unionist may be rediscovering an 'Island' identity it's inherently different from Irish nationality and of Irish national identity - why? Ultimately because NI unionists see themselves as integral part of a British nation/state and in the modern context post gfa/st. andrews although they can legally be part of both nations through dual citizenship it seems like an emotional half way house.

Until the UK decides whether it is in fact a nation-state, with a national identity or a loose/tight federation of nations - of which I should point out 'Ireland' or 'Irish' can not a part of - then and only then can the debate on NI Unionism's Irish credentials be taken seriously.

Irish or 'Island of Irelander' is the question.

 
At 6:32 p.m., Anonymous Welsh Unionist said...

I happen to really detest people speaking for me when it comes to my ethnic identity. I am British first and Welsh second. Britishness accords a far greater communal heritage than Welsh alone does. I take pride in the collective achievements of the people whome I share strong ethnic, cultural, and historical ties (I do not generally include Catholic Irish in that, developing as they have along a very different cultural and political outlook very much linked to their religion vis a vis British protestantism).

The United Kingdom is no more an artificial state than any other in Western Europe, having developed gradually over centuries in various incarnations. Indeed its developed in a far more communal manner than many other European states; German unification afterall was little more than the Prussian conquest of its co-lingual neighbours (oh I guess conquest is alright as long as they speak the same language).

As for teahcing Britishness in schools, well I'm not entirely sure what that entails. If by that it means teaching British history, and explaining the concept of Britishness as one involving the Welsh, Scots, English and Northern Irish, then thats perfectly reasonable. Children should be taught what the United Kingdom is (a state created out of several) and who lives in it. They can then make up their minds as to their own identity, and if they choose narrowminded little Walian or Englander outlook then that shall be their sorry lot.

I'd also like to point out the impact of class on identity. Its a shame really, but I have always felt whether one identifies with Britishness or one of its divisional identities depends on your social background. Working class people tend to be more Welsh/etc, with lower-middle class you see an increase of Britishness, and more Britishness yet with real middle-class (obviously you'll find some in all class who have their own preferance). This is a shame but regardless your assertation that none of us care for Britishness is wrong.

 

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