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Stranger in a Strange Land

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Thanks to Stevie over at https://steviet3.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for the ‘Three Quotes for Three Days’ challenge.

The rules of the challenge are:

  1. Three quotes for three days.
  2. Three nominees each day (no repetition).
  3. Thank the person who nominated you.
  4. Inform the nominees.

For my third and final quote I am going to take another from George Bernard Shaw:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw.

I have been unable to find the context for this quotation, but he had this to say on the subject in Misalliance: You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.

I have no way of knowing what my father believed he was fighting for when he flew nightly bombing raids on German cities, because he never made it back from one of them. I choose to believe it was for a better world rather than merely ‘King and Country’.

reunion-of-giants

Lancaster bombers like the one of which my father was a crew member Picture from cbc.ca. My father’s aircraft was captained by a Canadian.

England, before World War Two and my birth, was a place I could not have loved in the unquestioning way of a true patriot. Bigotry, homophobia and misanthropy were the order of the day. Sexual harassment was condoned as were capital and corporal punishment, including the judicial use of the latter. The inbred sense of entitlement and superiority felt by the proprietors of the largest empire the world has ever known made Britain, on reflection, not a lot better than the enemy she was fighting.

True, Hitler took the whole notion of the ‘Fatherland’, and the superiority of the fictional race to which he claimed to belong, to its most obscene conclusion. But the seeds for such beliefs are there in the idea that any one country, any one religion, any one ethnicity, is superior to all others.

A better world

We did begin building a better world after the war in which I was born and my father died. The post-war government in Britain created a health service free at the point of use. Internationally the United Nations, NATO and the European Union brought the promise of lasting peace. I hope Frank senior would have approved of my embracing of centre-left politics in the 1980s, and my active involvement in, first, the UK Liberal Party, and then the Liberal Democrats. I was proud to be a member of two local authorities that argued for, and, to the extent they were allowed to, implemented, progressive policies on Education and other council run services.

Under successive governments Britain decriminalised homosexuality and eventually made gay marriage acceptable. Capital and corporal punishment were outlawed, along with sexual harassment and other forms of bullying in schools and workplaces. Women were empowered to follow careers that proved them to be the equals of men – though their pay still lags behind. The established Church allowed women priests and, quite recently female bishops. As I entered my twilight years I really thought we had achieved a lot on the road to that better world.

There was certainly a lot still to do. There were people who saw some or all of these changes as unwelcome. Resistance to measures designed to counter the harmful effects of parallel technological developments remained strong, but our rivers and the air in our cities is much cleaner than it was in my youth. There has even been, in the last year, an international agreement to cut carbon pollution, signed up to by 192 nations.

Symptoms of hate

What has all this to do with patriotism? Quite simply that it makes me proud to be a citizen of a country that has played a key role in all these reforms, sometimes reluctantly, but always making steady progress in what I deem to be the right direction.

Until June 2016.

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Anti-Polish immigrant graffiti in London in 2016.(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Suddenly a new Britain has appeared over the horizon. A Britain that echoes all those symptoms of hate that characterised prewar Britain. Overt racism, homophobia, bullying, a belief that Britons are superior to their fellow Europeans who have no business even being here. An indifference to the plight of refugees seeking a better life than they could avail of in poverty stricken and war-torn countries.

I console myself that only 36.4% of the electorate voted to leave the EU and that not all of them did so out of motives of xenophobia. But I am deeply saddened by the attitude of the popular presses whose headlines make me ashamed to be British. If patriotism is the belief that the country of my birth is superior to the rest, it is impossible for me to be a patriot in the circumstance Britain now finds itself in. When I look at Britain, as reflected in its media in the second half of 2016, I truly feel like Robert Heinlein’s ‘stranger in a strange land’.

I nominate:

Rosalien Bachus http://rosalienebacchus.wordpress.com

Asha Seth https://knisha.wordpress.com

Inkyfire https://prabhatks.wordpress.com

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the nomination, Frank.

    Like

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