Sunday, June 20, 2010

Transference of pariahdom

There were a few comments around the blogosphere about the CEP's decision to have a go at the Scots ABE "joke" Many thought it OTT and a waste of time and that humour shouldn't be constrained by the use of the blunt instrument of the law. Wonko defends the actions of the CEP quite adequately here though.
The problem as I see it though is that there is a transference going on from British to English. At one time the British were seen throughout the world as the "enemy" still are in Hollywood movies where the bad guy is frequently a Brit, something to do with the accent. However, Brit usually meant English, the terms were interchangeable to a greater or lesser extent. Scots were Scots and Welsh were Welsh, but the English were (and are) British. Pre 1997 because we only had one parliament to rule us that was acceptable and the English got on with the odd nationalist sentiment from Scotland and Wales with an occasional raised eyebrow. However after the Scots and Welsh gained a measure of political independence it became apparent to the English that they were being sidelined by the process, Scottish and Welsh MP's forced legislation on the English that a majority of English MP's had voted against. Some sought to justify it by pointing out Thatcher's foisting of the poll tax on Scotland when a majority of Scottish MP's voted against it, whilst conveniently forgetting that we had one parliament at the time for all the UK as well as the fact that it was Willie Whitehall (a Scotsman) who encouraged Thatcher to do so. Still again since when have 2 wrongs ever made a right? Justifying something because of a past wrong is in the end both petty and demeaning and there are certainly enough past wrongs to go around. As Sir Terry Pratchett puts it "Remember the atrocity committed against us that will forgive the atrocity that we are going to commit today! And so on! Hurrah!" That's the mindset that a certain type of nationalist has, from past military defeats right back to imagined slights and includes to some the "anyone but England" joke. To some including many English it is funny, but to others it's deadly serious and anti-English racism has seen kids attacked for wearing an England tee shirt, women attacked for their accents or people forced out of their homes because they are English. It's not just a Scottish thing though as evidenced by Obama's attack on British Petroleum causing a rise in anti-English (note not anti-British) sentiment in the States.
This is one of the reasons why England is trying to re-assert its own identity, to look to its own history and disentangle itself from Britishness. Despite the best efforts of politicians and other unionists, Britishness is a tainted brand and that's why it is no longer accepted by many of the English as a description of themselves. When eventually the UK breaks up (and it will) perhaps the intense rivalry felt by the minor constituents in the Union will recede and it will become more like England/France which is humorous on both sides and perhaps we can simply get on with things without recourse to the more extreme nationalism that rears its ugly head from time to time.
However the days of the English accepting the sins of the British are going now and the other components of the Union will find themselves reminded of their part in the overall sins. We were all British once.

5 annotations:

heritage listed said...

Well said - and it is strange that when the joke goes the other way, they are singularly unimpressed - I commented on this in detail at

Trooper Thompson said...

I think it's using a non-political issue (rivalry between England and Scotland in football) to make a political point about the post-devolution stitch-up.

Football is one of the few occasions for the English to express their identity, so the World Cup leads to a lot of debate around the issue. As there are so many idiot lefties and anti-English scum using the opportunity to voice their tiresome opinions, it's not surprising that the other side, of which I guess I am one, do the same. But we shouldn't confuse the superficial (sport) with the important things (the West Lothian Question, our country being devoured by the EU etc).

Conan the Librarian™ said...

It was Willie Whitelaw, QM. He was about as Scots as any upperclass Englishman who went to
Winchester and Cambridge.

Not very at all.

Something like Blair, and the elocuted North Briton himsel, Broon.

The wee laddie who was assaulted in Stockbridge was actually a New Zealander, and the guy who did it was a Rangers supporter. Go figure.

Quiet_Man said...

Technically Blair was/is Scottish himself Conan, certainly he was born there, though he never (as far as I know ever thought he was)
I believe the best solution for all is for us all to go our separate ways and become good neighbours rather than squabbling family. But some people (and I include the English in this too) will hold onto and cherish a grudge for generations and will often shame their nations by doing so.
It's time and past time that Britain and British was put to one side and a fresh start commenced.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha! Yes, yes, yes, Of course, Whitelaw wasn't "really" scottish. Liar! He was scottish. William Whitelaw was born in Nairn, northeast Scotland. That makes him scottish! Blair and Brown are also scottish.

The SEVEN year old little kid punched by the scotsman had an England shirt on. That is why he was assaulted by a fully-grown scots idiot! The idiot did not know where the kid was born and you trying to use it as some sort of excuse is pathetic. Said idiot also punched his father.
You just now tried to insinuate that Willie Whitelaw wasn't scottish and now you're saying this kid WAS a New Zealander! Oh the bloke who punched the kid was a rangers fan? And?

Oh and I think you forgot this nasty assault. police in Aberdeen were hunting a man who attacked a disabled driver because he was wearing an England shirt and flying a St George's Cross from his car.
Ian Smith was sitting in his car on Aberdeen's Anderson Road waiting to pick up a friend's child from school when he was attacked.
Mr Smith, who is originally from Peterborough, is registered disabled.
He was left with a badly-bruised right eye and double vision as a result of the unprovoked assault at about 3pm yesterday.
The 41-year-old told the Press and Journal newspaper: "He just came up to the car and started giving me a load of abuse about supporting England.
"I told him there was no need for all this bigotry because it's only football but he grabbed the flag, snapped it in half and then pulled me out of the car and threw me to the ground.

I s'pose the bloke who assaulted a disabled man wasn't scottish either huh?