Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Romantic Nationalism

I've been thinking about English nationalism and how it's becoming respectable to wave the red and white with absolutely no blue in it. The topic is being forced on us by the possibility that the Scots are going to up and leave the Union. Personally, I wish they wouldn't. Scotland may be a very different place from England, but my sense of national identity- my Englishness- wouldn't be what it is without the contribution of myriads of Scots.  The Scots have helped make England and the English have helped make Scotland (the kilt I seem to remember reading was the invention of a Lancashire industrialist.) If Independence happens, are we going to have to regard Boswell's Life of Johnson- the biography of the archetypal John Bull Englishman- as a foreign book? And what about Sherlock Holmes- As English as they come, but created by a Scotsman? How about Long John Silver?  Am I going to have to stop taking a modest pride in the achievements of Hume and Watt and Alexander Fleming? They were all Scots, weren't they? Actually I'm not entirely sure. Hume was definitely Scottish, but the other two? The names sound Scottish, but...And that's a measure of how interlaced the cultures are.  Lots of people who used to be British are going to marched off behind the checkpoints and denied to us. And it works both ways. How do Scots feel about being denied ownership in Shakespeare and all the other thousands of notable Brits who happen to have been born south of the border? Do they really want to be made to feel that London- scene of so many Scottish triumphs- is a foreign city?

Alice Goodman, the librettist, who has good reason to hold the opinion thinks  "the most dangerous thing in the world is romantic nationalism. Not religion, but romantic nationalism". I think she's right.  The smaller the tribe, the cosier, the tweer, the more parochial and bloody-minded. There's part of me that would be very happy to wrap itself in the flag of St George and damn all foreigners, but it's not the best part. 
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