Several people have wished me, either specifically, or as part of general bit of well wishing to all their digital friends, a Happy St George’s Day today. Because there’s been a trend in recent years to try and celebrate it, a bit like St Patrick’s Day, presumably because the big breweries will jump at any excuse to sell more beer.
I have had to restrain myself from snarling at them. I am not proud to be English. I find the suggestion that I ought to be deeply offensive. I find the notion that Englishness is anything to celebrate to be tedious, at best.
This is not out of a hatred of the English. I like the English, what with being one of them myself. I like cream teas, and gin, and pints of bitter, and awkward politeness and talking about the weather. I like my friends, and I like the culture I come from.
I like a lot of cultures I don’t come from, too. I like French cheese, red wine, and snobbery about the quality of life. I like American breakfasts and and their willingness to chip in to help others. And so on.
But I could list things I hate about all of those cultures, too. A lot of things.
Celebrating any one culture over any of the others is repugnant to me. Suggesting I should be proud of the one I come from is far too small and parochial. Patriotism, national pride, these things bespeak a tribal view of the world that exists to separate “us” from “other”. I will have none of that. I am a human being of Earth, and even saying this, I find that scale a little small.
Maybe I’m being unfair to my patriotic friends who love the good things their country and culture and just want to celebrate it. Tell you what: when we’ve got rid of the bad things, we can celebrate the good. When we’ve eliminated prejudice and want and suffering and disease and death, then we can talk about having something to celebrate. Until then, let’s not all wrench our arms patting ourselves on the back, eh?
Although, on reflection, maybe St George’s Day is a good day to celebrate being English. After all, St George was a Turk, and he is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia as well. The fact that we in England have tried to redefine him and his day as an English myth, and an excuse to celebrate Englishness rather than multiculturalism seems kind of appropriate.