I am a proud Englishman. Or, at least, I used to be. Today, I’m just a proud human being. In my late teens and early twenties I was passionately patriotic, with a huge St George’s Cross flag hanging menacingly from my bedroom wall, and England cups, towels and key rings never far away. I followed the England football team fanatically, and took an active interest in any other sport where England competed. My younger brother is Welsh, and we used to mock each other mercilessly, albeit in a friendly manner.
Over the last year or so, my patriotism has waned to the point where there is almost none left. I’ve questioned it more and more and come to see it as rather pointless and empty. I’m proud to be English; why? It wasn’t a choice. And, even if it had been, so what? What does the fact that I was born in England actually mean? Does it make me better than people who weren’t born in England? Of course not. The planet is made up of land and water. Human beings have drawn lines to divide that land up. Those lines are certainly not random, but they are arbitrary when it comes to where they lie in the moments that you draw your first breaths.
So, what about England as a country and as a culture? Well, I’m certainly proud of some of the values we hold in England, such as freedom of expression. On the other hand, I’m ashamed that we are officially a Christian nation, and still function under the archaic monarchy system. I’m proud of some of the achievements by English men and women, and by England as a nation. In the past we have lead the way in industry and contributed richly to music, art, literature and sport. On the other hand, in our colonial adventures we have been the tyrant, spilling much blood and taking many lives.
Another thing, was that I always thought of myself as English rather than British, but the absurdity of this identification has dawned on me too. I’ve lived in Wales for the last 20 years, been raised here, educated here and worked here. I can’t really claim to be English rather than Welsh or British, looking at it rationally.
I consider myself British insofar as I live in Britain, and so what is in the British interest is inevitably in my interest. If I were to move abroad, I would see it exactly the same with whatever country I moved to. I find it much easier now to think of myself as a global citizen. There are aspects of England to be ashamed of and aspects to be proud of, and the same can be said of any other nation. The same can also be said of human beings. I think I may as well just consider myself human. As a human I am ashamed of the religious ignorance in Saudi Arabia, but I am supremely proud of the United States Constitution. I see very little to be gained from patriotism and much danger. The segregation and emphasis on arbitrary differences often simply fosters resentment and disdain, and it is a mindset that can be easily manipulated and exploited by charismatic speakers, who dress up racism as fair and rational.
Is it worth it? To me, the answer is an ever more resounding no.