Pride is something that has always worried me. I can understand the concept of personal pride, pride in appearance, pride in achievements, pride in one’s garden etc , even, perhaps, pride in one’s children’s achievements, although it is their achievements not yours, pride in one’s company or in one’s team, if you can feel that you have played a part in its success. But pride in your team if you are simply a spectator is more difficult to understand, what contribution to his team’s success has the fan made who sits in front of the TV swilling lager? One can make similar points about pride in national Olympic athletes. That gets us to the question of national pride and that is where my real difficulty arises.
I can understand how the British population at the end of the second world war would have felt some national pride in the way in which they had stood against the might of the Nazi war machine and stoically suffered the privations, damage and losses of the war to emerge victorious, and those that were born later might take pride in their parents part in that victory although, once again, it was their parent’s efforts not theirs.
How can we be proud of our nation’s history? We had no part in it. Fortunately, if you agree with that, we can also feel no shame for those events in our history of which our ancestors should have been ashamed. Of course to hold the entire nation responsible for the misdeeds of the past is unfair, it was an elite group that held power that ordered most of those events not the people, but to the rest of the world it was the ‘British’.
When we consider our nation as it is today I suppose we should feel some pride, or shame, as appropriate, since we are part of it. I am ashamed of our part in the Iraq war, but I did not go on the protest, if I had been one of the million marchers I would have had some pride in that. I am proud of the NHS, although I have not done much to make that a success. One could go on in that vein. I would be proud of our nation if we were a more equitable society and if we did more to better look after those in difficulties.
Many people, I know, take pride in our traditions and the pomp of formal occasions. It may be good to keep up some traditions, it does help us to know who we are, but there are some traditions that are not only pointless but verging on stupid. For example, it is, I understand, a tradition in our Parliament to drag a new Speaker to his chair, I think this may date back to about the time of Charles I, at that time it was the Speaker’s role to inform the monarch of the view of Parliament. If the king disliked those views the Speaker might find his life expectancy drastically shortened, understandably he might be reluctant to take the chair. Each new law has to be signed off in French, not modern French but Norman French, as was done in the days of the Normans. MPs have to attract the Speaker’s attention by standing up, or ‘half-rising’ but if there are several wanting to speak the result is that they are bobbing up and down like ducks. Snuff is provided for members. Traditions!
I am appalled by the confrontational nature of our parliament and the parliamentary behaviour. The farce of Prime Minister’s Questions when questions are never answered except when some MP from the PM’s own Party who has been primed to ask – “Does the Prime Minister agree..........?” How can we take pride in that pantomime?
I am, of course, pleased to be British – but proud?