conspicuous displays of British patriotism are most likely to come from boozed up sports fans and UKIP politicians. Perhaps this is the biggest challenge to liberal patriotism: our national icons have been hijacked by the right ... None of those things of which Britons are supposed to be proud relate to my experience of this country. John Major’s warm beer on the village cricket green sounds suspiciously like a world that vanished decades before I got round to being born ... I’m not saying that there isn’t much in Britain’s history to be ashamed of: Suez, Dresden, and the fact we unleashed both the concentration camp and Jim Davidson on an unsuspecting world, to name but four.He goes on to list a few of the things that he is proud of. As a flag waving liberal socialist, I guess I ought to contribute a few ideas as well. How about...
- The BBC - despite its flaws, the Beeb remains a great institution, a fine example of (mostly) impartial(ish) news coverage that is beholded to no advertising vested interests and isn't cowed (directly) by the Govt. It also gave us Doctor Who, need I say more?
- A history of radicalism - From the Levellers through to the Chartists, the Tolpuddle martyrs and the Greenham Common campaigners, Brits have never been afraid to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of the Govt. We may disagree with them, but the Brian Haws and Maya Evans of this world are part of what makes this country what it is
- Acceptance of evolutionary change - There's no great plan to Britain, no founding document, no "manifest destiny" hyperbole. We just get on with it. If it works, we keep going, if it doesn't, we (eventually) fix it. We've come close to revolution a few times, but since 1707, Britain hasn't actually had a radical change of Govt, just many, many gradual improvements to the way we're governed. It may sometimes take awhile for Parliament to catch up, but it gets there, eventually.
- Parliamentary Democracy - none of this separation of powers, all power to an elected executive claptrap that some new democracies go for; Parliament allows for a pluralist system, and one that does keep the executive in check in a mcuh more effective way than any President with an independent mandate can manage. That the electoral system creates minority Govts with overwhelming support in the House is a different issue
- Science Fiction - think about it. Arthur C Clarke, H G Wells, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville. Brits, all of them. Sure, other countries have decent sci-fi, but Wells started it all, and Clarke led the hard science way. Geostationary communications satellites? Online newspapers? Yup, our ideas
- The World Wide Web - The Yanks may have created the Internet, and Gore may have pushed the enabling legislation through Congress, but it took a Brit to make it actually usable to the avarage non-techie. And his initial browser assumed user generated content, so we can claim Web 2.0 as well, all at the same time!
- Dissident thought and socialism - seriously, while authoritarian centralists may have hijacked the ideals and created statist monstrosities, the analysis of alienation and the need to give power to the working man were valid concerns. We let Marx into the country, alongside many other political exiles. That we've a proud traditition of allowing dissidents to speak freely is something I find enlightening, even if, at times, they are crackpot loons
- English - a language with no effective rules, a mess of a grammar structure, a mongrel hybrid that picks up words from everywhere, constantly. Theoretically, it's one of the hardest to learn, reality is, it's the global language of commerce, and some of us make a living of the worlds desire to learn to speak it better. We've never felt the need to codify it, and find, for example, the French desire to 'protect' their language somewhat quaint. Although, let's face it, we do wish the Americans would get it right. Al-Yoo-MIN-EE-um. It's not hard.
- Philosophy - OK, we can't claim to have really created it, but what would modern thought be without John Locke, Isaac Newton, JS Mill, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith et al?
None of this mythical "thousand years" claptrap, no false appeals to "king and country" or "faith, flag and family" - let's be proud of what has made this country great; the people, in all their eccentricities, with all their disparate backgrounds, from all corners of the world. The British Isles are the original melting pot, from pre-Roman times onwards people have come here and added to the place. That's what makes me proud to be British; we just get on with it.