Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Guest Post - The Irate Dog

A real live Englishman has been kind enough to write a post on English culture for this blog. Tom Jardine-Smith is a good friend of mine and quality journalism student in England who I've stayed in contact with over the past year or so, debating, contributing, exchanging guest posts and getting to know one another on BlogCatalog. As you will later see with the sheer number of tags on this post, he really has covered all the bases and in a fantastic way.

In addition to his current blog, Thomas Bobs, he used to run the Irate Dog.


British Culture, and Where to Find It

When Jeremy asked me to write another guest post for him I was of course delighted. Through the BlogCatalog we have debated on many things; well, mostly politics and God’s existence. But here we have something completely different. British Culture! Enjoy.

Visit my blog for more: http://thomasbobs.webs.com

British culture is, in many people’s views, one of the richest in the world. I’m not talking about Pop here. There’ll be no references to skinny Oompa Loompas who think they can sing because that isn’t culture, that’s a horrifying disappointment. When I say we have a rich culture I am referring to a fantastic variety we have; from people who actually are pretty good at singing to those who can do pretty awesome things with a city wall and a can of spray paint.

That is not to say that we are the masters of Culture; a vote announcing us the official “Most Yobbish” country in the world would reveal that much. But we are proud of it none the less. Sometimes, unfortunately, for entirely the wrong reasons.
No talk about the British and their culture can be said without mentioning our Empire. For example there are a great many people in my country who are still proud of our now ex-British Empire which, in 1922, covered over 13,000,000 sq miles - a full quarter of the Earth’s surface.

Personally, and with my predominantly left-wing mind at work, I find the idea of an Empire cringe-worthy. To go to an entire continent (i.e. Africa) and label the entire population as “animals” and ‘uncivilised’ was, in my view, despicable and I would like to grab this opportunity to apologise on behalf of my country to anyone who’s family has the words “slave” in their history.
However, (and there must be a “however”) I also believe strongly that if it weren’t for us effectively owning a quarter of the planet we wouldn’t be nearly as diverse in culture and demographic as we are today.

In the last few hundred years our country has grown in other ways; not just geographically. We have learnt to respect other nations and, most importantly, we have learnt to laugh at ourselves. An American comedian whose name I’ve annoyingly forgotten said recently that “that is a very advanced thing y’all do”. And it is. It is a sign of a matured and laid back society. We don’t take ourselves too seriously anymore. The majority of us don’t have faltering hopes that the ‘once great Empire will rise again’. That isn’t what we’re about anymore.

One of the hardest questions I ever had to answer during my college studies was this; What is ‘Britishness’? I imagine this is a much easier question for foreign people to answer but, as a British citizen, I don’t have a clue. I would be tempted to sway towards the traditional politeness and sense of ‘good manners’ but let’s be honest, that’s not really the case anymore. Not when you look and see the sorts of prejudiced hatred of ‘immigrants’.

So perhaps ‘Britishness’ is our political system? Unique in the world for being completely and utterly mad. We have no written constitution and the law effectively changes after each and every judicial decision. Our Prime Minister effectively holds Parliament by the balls if his/her party holds a big enough clout. Our electoral system has been proven to be unfairly weighted in the larger party’s favours. And our Queen is the head of State but ‘Her’ government could, if it wanted to, over throw her at any time. Why don’t they? Because she’s a shell of power anyway; little more than a tourist attraction. There hasn’t been a threat to sovereignty coming out of Buckingham Palace for a long time and I doubt there will ever be again.

Maybe ‘Britishness’ is the NHS. Yes, I mentioned the NHS is a guest post for a right-wing American. I imagine if I said the same thing in some places in the US of A I’d have signs depicting me as Hitler scattered about. But I truly do not understand what the Americans have against the NHS. It is a medical marvel. Free at the point of use (mostly). The saviour of countless lives; including Steven Hawking who, I was delighted to find out, apparently became American over night when anti-Healthcare reformers thought his American-accented computer was his actual voice. Hilarious.

In short, British culture is a combination of our nation’s age, a generally progressive nature, and immigration. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you.


Clockwork Kitten said...
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Clockwork Kitten said...
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Clockwork Kitten said...

Well, being from the other side of the pond (United States) I can agree that there is a very stereotypical view of British culture that has probably drastically changed in the last 100 or even 50 years. But with all cultures, it's hard to break free of a stereotype. Over here, for example, I would wager to say that most of the world views us as unintelligent, bigoted, rednecks who would rather shoot at someone than discuss things properly. This is not the case, however I have to admit that our last president didn't help with this image much.

If I were to wager a guess at what "Britishness" means to most people outside of Britain, I would say that it's probably the idea that you are a very sterile society. I don't so much as mean physically clean as that when an outsider looks at the British, the first thing that comes to mind is refined and proper. This isn't always a good thing however, because it sometimes comes across as an emotional void. So concerned with 'keeping up appearances' (Great show, by the way.) that you often lose sight of what being a human is all about. When one thinks of Britain, the best image that comes to mind is the royal guards that are the big tourist attraction. The ones that don't move, no matter what you do in front of them. For some, this is an admiral quality, and for others it's a sign of detachment from those around you.

My personal thoughts on the country are not that bad, obviously, as I try to keep an open mind and not fall into stereotypes and generalizations unless it's funny. I feel I personally have an odd relationship with the British empire as my mother's side has been your standard 'white American' long before anyone can remember, and my father's side is pure Australian. As such, I feel like a byproduct of the British empire as both of it's original colonies came together to produce me. Of course, that doesn't make me fell British. I just think it's an interesting idea to ponder once in a while.

To sum up the differences between the US and the British empire, I often fall back on my personal views on the subject:

The reasons why the American's and the British seem to clash so much, is simply because the British have a lot of words for every-day objects and actions that have very dirty meanings in the US. Because of this, whenever the British and the American's get together, the Americans are always laughing and the British are always confused.

I kid of course, I do have a lot of respect for the accomplishments of the British throughout the years, despite the shortcomings, as every country has it's pros and cons. I think all you have to do is show the world you've learned how to 'lighten up' and a new era might unfold. You never know.

(And yes, those two deleted comments were mine. I apologize, there's no 'edit' button for comments.)