Recently I have been thinking about what it is to be British. I personally think our notions of "Britishness" are completely out of whack and not really relevant to my generation, and the generations to come. Think British and there are images of the past - or of the plain bizarre. World War Two, Winston Churchill, The Queen. I can understand those, in a way. But bulldogs? Anyway I have recently been thinking about what needs to change. Phrases like "proud to be British" make me uneasy. It makes me think of nationalism and xenophobia. But it really shouldn't do.
You could argue that England is the bigger problem. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have quite distinct cultures and traditions. England is not treated in the same way. The St George's Cross has for some reason become synonymous with xenophobia, racism, football violence. But let's just take on the problem of Britain before we move on to the component countries, shall we?
We need to somehow make a new Britishness, that doesn't rely on irrelevant past experiences. The flag is a good start. Hang one in your living room. Go on, it doesn't make you a racist. It's the first step. Now the tricky bit. For me Britain is about a sense of fair play, equality, trust, inclusion, politeness and a sense of humour with a belief that nobody is above ridicule. There are other qualities, of course, but I want ones that don't rely on past endeavours. For some reason I think of The Libertines as being the poster boys of the new British. They seem proud to be British, but not in a lairy, "you what, mate?" kind of way. We need new imagery, throw in some Olympic heroism or something like that. Something to give a sense of never giving in, despite the odds, that doesn't rely on Dunkirk.
This might seem like a load of old rubbish but I sincerely believe that we need to bring Britishness bang up to date and relevant for people. It's important, you see. It gives people a sense of community and belonging beyond their own, closed group - be it friends, regions, religions, ethnicity. That's why I'm going to buy a Union flag (off eBay probably, I have a strange hankering for a really tatty, old one) of reasonable size and see if I can hang it somewhere that won't look inappropriate. Then I'll buy my Union Jack suit. Okay that's a lie but the flag thing I am serious about.
I am on eBay now, looking for vintage Union flags. Not many about.
Also I have bought Frightened Rabbit's album 'Winter of Mixed Drinks' and it is very good indeed. The lyrics are quite brilliant, for the most part they are melancholy but I quite like that really. You need sadness to remind you how good happiness is. More later. Toodles.