Proud to be English?

I used to think patriotism was a little bit pointless. I mean, why should I be proud because I was born on one bit of soil and not another? I didn't chose to be English, I didn't work hard to achieve it, so why be proud of it?

Then I moved away. Having spent four years in Wales (Cardiff, admittedly) and four months in Norway, I'm starting to feel a bit jealous of countries who have national days that people celebrate, rousing national anthems, etc etc. This year I didn't realise it was St George's Day until I was about to go to bed. Would a Welsh person forget St David's day? Would a Norwegian fail to notice it was 17th May? No.

So why aren't English people so proud of their nationality? Well, the hijacking of the St George's cross by facists and football hooligans for one. And obviously the fact that there are a lot of things just not worth being proud of: colonialism, the Iraq war, Jim Davidson...

So what can I be proud of? Here's a quick list: great comedy, inspiring authors (past and present), the ability to take the piss out of anything, great cities, cream teas (that's tea with milk), music, history (and that includes learning from the less favourable parts), supporting the underdog, not whooping with enthusiasm at the drop of a hat, salt and vinegar crisps, being able to walk out of my house and buy food from every continent (bar Antartica) within a 600m radius, multiculturalism, free education, the NHS (when it works), British English, accents...

Having realised that it's not so bad after all, and that maybe, just maybe, I could start considering myself a patriot, I was interested to see that one of my friends had joined the facebook group 'Proud to be English'. The list of things to be proud of was fairly solid, and as my cursor was hovering over the 'join group' tab, I decided to check out the wall comments. I include some examples below:

"WE SHUD BE PROUD OF THE MONARCHY! ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE AINT TRUELY PROUD TO BE ENGLISH!"

"I HATE ITALIANS COME ON ENGLAND"

"What makes me proud is being WHITE!!!"

"The pc brigade really piss me off, i'd line them up along a wall and shoot the shit out of them as they stand hand in hand with the scroungers that come over here in the back of trucks"

Needless to say, I couldn't bring myself to 'join group'. I might be a little more patriotic than I used to be, but I can still see where there's room for improvement.

Taken

I went to see Taken last night (I’m living in a small town in Norway, in case you’re wondering why it took me so long). Plot holes aside (French people speaking English to each other, two teenage girls being desperate to follow U2 around Europe) it was, well, still very average. However, it did dawn on me that it’s not only pretty American teenagers that need rescuing from sexual slavery. I’m confident that a documentary about desperate twenty-something women from Eastern Europe being forced to work as prostitutes in UK brothels wouldn’t do quite so well at the box office.

If it feels like I’m giving a lecture here it’s because I am. To myself. A year ago I went to a talk about modern slavery at the Bath Literary Festival, so I guess that makes me at least as informed as the next person about the plight of these women. And what had I, a proud feminist, done about it in the meantime? Fuck all.

As I often do in these, and by 'these' I mean 'all', situations I turned to google. Finding something I could actually do, especially because I'm not living in the UK at the moment, was a suprisingly slow process. antislavery.org's current human trafficking campaign (http://www.antislavery.org/homepage/campaign/uk.htm) centres around the right of the trafficked victim to compensation in order to aid their physical, social and emotional recovery. That's a start I guess. E-mail to Jacqui Smith? Check. Still, there must be something more.

Research. Knowledge is power, blah blah. Won't hurt to actually know what I'm talking about, will it? Moment of realisation: I don't really know that much about the issues that I claim are important to me. Enough to have a quick debate on the walk from the cinema to my flat, sure, but not enough to start taking action. That's my homework sorted then...

'Yes, but the thing is...'

Like you (I expect), I have a lot of opinions and spend a lot of time thinking, debating/arguing with my friends, reading and solidifying my opinions (or at the very least realising that I have no strong feelings one way or the other). I know (vaguely, at least) what I SHOULD be doing about the things that matter to me. But I never seem to quite get around to actually doing it.

It's time to kick my apathy habit and I hope that writing this will give me the motivation I need to get on with it.

And, yes, I’m fully aware of the irony associated with ‘wasting time’ writing this blog. So don’t point it out to me. Please.