I wasn't going to write this post. Or not yet, anyway, but with the bloody World Cup coming up, I can't avoid it any longer.
Why don't the Scots like the English? Why does Clinically fed up write this, and Dear Scotland write this? Why is it acceptable to write off an entire nation, just because they're, well, English.
This isn't about football, or not really. I appreciate that anyone has a right to support whomever they like, and actually I don't give a monkeys about the football. In fact, there's a part of me that agrees with pretty much everything Mrs W and Billy Williamson say so well. To be honest I don't really want England to win either. Can you imagine how unbearable it'd be to have to live with the knowledge of Sir Ashley Cole and Sir Wayne Rooney for the next thirty years?.
Now, I clearly have no way of knowing what Mrs W and Billy Williamson think about the English, other than the eleven members of the football team. For all I know, they are absolute Anglophiles in all aspects of their lives other than their sporting allegiance and their loathing (which I share) of the tabloid press. But my biggest worry when we made the choice to move North of the Border was that I might find that I was disliked, and in some cases hated, because of the geographical accident of my birth, and it concerns me that this attitude may in some cases be the acceptable face of an anti-English feeling that goes deeper than just football.
Because you don't choose who to support. You feel it. And a significant number of Scots feel that they can't and won't support England. Anyone but England.
But why? And does that say something about how they feel about England and the English in general?
Because people don't do this with other countries do they? If I said I hated all the Germans, I'd be told to get over myself and reminded that the war ended nearly seventy years ago. If I said I hated all the Ethiopians I'd be told I was racist. But not the Scots and the English.
It seems particularly silly when you think how few of us are probably actually fully Scottish, or English or Welsh, or whatever. One of the great things about this collection of islands is, surely, how we're all just a bunch of mongrels, a mish-mash of different nationalities, races and tribes. Take me: My four grandparents were a mixture of German, French, Scottish and English. Oh, and two of them were Jewish, if you want to muddy the waters further.
So what does that make me? Well, British. But if pressed, I say I'm English, despite the fact that I'm no more English than I am German, by blood anyway. But my parents were born in England, I was born in England and I've lived in England for most of my life. So I'm English. For want, surely, only of any other obvious definition. What about those Scots who hate the English? How many of them can honestly say they haven't got a secret English Granny hiding skeletally in their closet?
And what about living somewhere? I lived in Russia for a while. I haven't been back since and I only have one Russian friend with whom I'm still in touch. But I feel a fondness for the country and the people, so if Russia were playing, say, Japan. I'd support Russia. In the same match, B, who briefly studied Japanese and had a good holiday there about seven years ago, would probably support Japan. So why then, don't Scottish people living in England, or who have lived in England, support England?
Every now and then I get told "my best friend/granny/sister-in-law's auntie is English, and I like her, so it's not all the English, I just hate the rest of them" and it's true to say I have not once since we moved here felt anything but welcome, and in all the years I've been with B, I've only once had someone throw my Englishness in my face. But then all the more reason that that argument won't wash. If you hold one person up as an exemplar of things that are good about the English and you're capable of being pleasant to the English people you meet, then surely that should lead you to give the rest of the country the benefit of the doubt too. After all, if all the English people you know are nice, then surely we must all be nice? I've only ever known one Norwegian. He was lovely. I sort of expect all other Norwegians to be the same. Tall, not-as blonde as you might think, speaking perfect English, and nice. It's nonsense. I know it's nonsense, but that's how the human mind works. Except for the English.
To the untrained eye this could look like chippiness by the Scots, or jealousy. Or a small and oppressed country sticking one up to its cruel neighbour. But while that might have been necessary five hundred years ago, it just isn't now. Scotland's not oppressed and it doesn't need to be jealous. I'm not talking about funding, because yes, it is true that England funds Scotland, but only to the extent that Greater London funds the whole of the rest of the UK. You might as well whinge because Kensington and Chelsea funds Devon. It does, but no-one complains about it. This isn't about money. This is about power and influence. And the Scots have those in spades. Scottish people are very proud of the fact that the Scots invented everything from the telephone to tarmac, but it's more than that. It's more than historical. The Scots are great now. Scots make up less than 10% of the population of the UK, but they are everywhere in power: in government, in industry, in the arts. The Scots are amazing. They don't need to be chippy.
The thing is that neither of us is a great country any more. Today, we're two little countries in a backwater of western Europe, struggling to make our voices heard on a large stage. Isn't it time for a little bit of unity, three centuries after the Act that made us one? Aren't we better, more powerful, more influential, more civilised, artistic and fun when we're together? And isn't supporting each other in our endeavours, and yes, that includes football, a good place to start?
15th June. I have edited this post to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that either of the authors of the posts I mention holds any of these attitudes. I'm sure they're both perfectly lovely. They just made me think...
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