The British Club

What are British values? You asked Google – here’s the answer
David Shariatmadari

The secret about the British Club is that you don’t talk about the British Club.

We know that we have won first prize in the lottery of life by being born British and foreigners either envy us for that or are too stupid to realise it. At which point we do not sing Rule Britannia or any other such ghastly symptom of superiority or even glee at our position. We simply know and that’s enough.

54 thoughts on “The British Club”

  1. “I think that the reason for this is that in the old days – you know, the good old days when I was a boy – people didn’t, we didn’t bother in England about nationalism. I mean, nationalism was on its way out. We’d got pretty well everything we wanted and we didn’t go around saying how marvelous we were – everybody knew that – any more than we bothered to put our names on our stamps. I mean, there’s only two kinds of stamps: English stamps in sets at the beginning of the album, and foreign stamps all mixed at the other end. Any gibbon could tell you that.”
    Mick Flan, England.

  2. First prize? Dunno about that. Switzerland is richer, Australia has better weather, America has more to offer, etc. At best we’re no better than France.

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    We simply know and that’s enough.

    We used to know because we were an ethnically homogeneous society that was the product of thousands of years of evolution. What it meant to be British evolved out of those thousands of years and so did not need explaining.

    We are becoming an artificial country like America. Or France. A country that is unsure of its origin or meaning. And so needs to teach it to its own people, to explain it all the time, and to worry it will vanish.

  4. Or France. A country that is unsure of its origin or meaning.

    The French know exactly who they are. When was the last time a chunk of France held a referendum on secession (Corsica excepted)? One thing you’ll not find from ordinary French folk is the reflexive, indignant defence of the shitty bits of France (i.e. prefectures) like you see with the nationalities from young countries (America, Australia) or shitholes (Nigeria). They’ll agree with you instead.

  5. SMFS

    When did ‘we’ use to know?

    And Tim, do you go around Portugal and wherever feeling superior, and so lucky that you choose not live in England?

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “The French know exactly who they are. When was the last time a chunk of France held a referendum on secession (Corsica excepted)?”

    They have never been allowed one. The French state has waged war on their own provincials since the Revolution. They are not going to give them a choice.

    “One thing you’ll not find from ordinary French folk is the reflexive, indignant defence of the shitty bits of France (i.e. prefectures)”

    Prefectures being good examples of attempts to wipe out the real regions of France. The French need to do things like the Tour de France – which started out as nation building and still is. The British didn’t. They need to put the flag everywhere and constantly remind the French of what their country is because it is not obvious that the people who live in France agree that the people who live in other parts of France are their countrymen.

    Hence, of course, their constant military defeats.

  7. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    I used to be asked ( often by Irish newcomers) when I lived in Germany if I ever suffered from Auslaenderfeindlichkeit.

    I explained that it was never a problem for me, because I’m not foreign, I’m British.

    “But surely if you go to another country you’re foreign there ?”

    No, I’m pretty sure that wherever I go in the world, I’m still British.

  8. The point is simple but overlooked; the sense of “us” is a sense of common history. All human communities define themselves not by what we are, but that we were. This often manifests as an appeal to a literal common ancestor as with the Jews and “seed of Abraham”, but may be just a common history. This history may have a specific starting point such as a revolution, the founding of the colony. It’s not just “we are here” but “we were there”.

    It is also often an imaginary history (Abraham never existed, nor the Exodus, nor David and Solomon). But that doesn’t matter, because the feeling that you have a common history is what defines you as part of the group.

    Once you haven’t got that, you end up with this “values” twaddle, which is typical puritan “moral community” crap where you try to define your ingroup as the Good People.

  9. Dawkins came up with a term that I think describes being British quite well, cultural anglicanism.

    To me that means you should be sufficiently well integrated that you go to an Anglican church a few times per year, weddings, Christenings, funerals, maybe Christmas or Easter; your kids might be in Cub Scouts or go to the local CofE school. You don’t have to be Anglican yourself of course, it’s just that it is there as a background to your life, to be dipped in and out of and anyone taking their religion (whatever it maybe) a bit too seriously should be viewed with suspicion, it’s the British way.

  10. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    SMFS

    Really “crushing the regions” in France dates back to Louis XIV. He chucked out the Fifth Column ( ie Huguenots) and went about inventing Frenchness and imposing it on the more obstrep… obsterp… stroppy regions like the Franche Comte.

    Napoleon and subsequent governments had to redo all this work when the revolution lost control, with constant reinvention and relaunches ( eg the Joan of Arc mythologisation).

  11. They need to put the flag everywhere and constantly remind the French of what their country is because it is not obvious that the people who live in France agree that the people who live in other parts of France are their countrymen.

    Whereas in Britain flying the national flag is seen as racist and we allowed Tony Fucking Blair to brand the country “cool Britannia”. You sure it’s the French that have got this wrong?

  12. Prefectures being good examples of attempts to wipe out the real regions of France.

    I was referring to the administrative building rather than the region itself.

  13. magnusw, that’s rather a modern definition. Not only does it not work before the CofE, it also doesn’t work for the following couple of centuries or so, whilst Anglican conformity was enforced by law rather than custom.

  14. Most countries have their attractions – even Godforsaken places like Afghanistan where the tranquil beauty of the sunset has to be seen to be believed – but there’s nothing like a traditional English village. Even today there is truly no greater thing to be than a wealthy Englishman living in a Cotswold village with a dozen great pubs in striking distance, a dog with whom to walk to those pubs, a wife whose company one enjoys, children who are happy, and tickets to Murrayfield for the weekend and to the slopes over half-term. I’ve been around the world, more than once, and still I come home.

    – Smug Bastard.

  15. ” a definition of being middle class English.”
    Very perceptive Ian. The working class Frenchman has a distinct French identity to call his own. respected by the French middle classes. The definition of English is a definition, despises the English working class. Has nothing to offer them.

  16. Funny that.. In all my travels to the UK and other Former Colonies/Commonwealth I’ve hardly ever heard anyone identify as “British”. English, Scottish, or Welsh at best, usually more local.

    The ones who did identify as “British” were, without fail, more-or-less-insufferable pompous gits.

  17. Grikath

    I thought most UK ex-pats used to identify as British. Maybe that’s changing over time alongside changes in the UK?

    BnLiA

    “not foreign” +1

  18. even Godforsaken places like Afghanistan where the tranquil beauty of the sunset has to be seen to be believed

    Depends where you were. Both the Yanks and the Taliban spent much of their time disrupting the tranquility.

    I suppose Afghanistan (Helmand at least) is like much of the third world. It would be lovely if it wasn’t for the people.

  19. Where else in the world can you stand on someone’s foot and then hear them apologise to you? And no other country has developed queueing as such an important social lubricant. And British drivers are still the world’s most courteous. The cynical, the angry and the nihilistic will disagree, but Britain is still the most civilised country in the world.

  20. PF.. From what I’ve experienced “british” is a term used *about* people from the UK. Usually …. not in a very positive sense..
    Mind.. I’ve always avoided London like the plague, and preferred to go local when in the UK, so my experience may be skewed a bit.

    Australia… only real poms would admit to being “British”.. Let’s leave it at that..

    Intarwebs over the past 20 years… nope.. “UK” or English/Scots/Welsh, or more local, like Cornish or Yorkish.. Scouse even, before “British”.

    And in the two local pubs here catering specifically to expats/contractors from the UK/Ireland you’ll get Frowned On for even using the “B”-word.. And that’s from the white collar crowd..

  21. To be fair, Rhodes did state “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.”

  22. “Take” not “make”. And that’s the English, not British. And in soccer too, not a real sport.

  23. @smfs
    Hence, of course, their constant military defeats.
    You are perhaps a little too harsh on our gallic neighbours. They live next door to the English and the Germans, and that alone mostly explains their constant military defeats.

  24. That can’t be right Ted S.

    Us Brits are massive and persistent under-achievers at all major sports, and yet a very wide range of sports are taken very seriously indeed.

    Why this is deserves research, and we might very well learn something useful from it. Off the top of my head, two things occur:

    1) The crashing snobbery of a certain sort of middle-class Englishman (of the sort that infests or has previously infested the relevant administrations).

    2) On reaching a certain level of seriousness, we start giggling nervously and shuffling our feet. Show me an Englishman with the requisite focus and will to win, and I will show you either an immigrant or recent arrival, or someone with mental issues.

    (Btw, I think Tim was referring to soccer being inferior to Rugby Union. The exclusion zones erected between Rugby Union, Rugby League and soccer are gradually being dismantled, but their existence partly explains our failures in all three).

  25. “And British drivers are still the world’s most courteous.”
    Oh fuck off Theo.
    One of the features of my trips around the M25, earlier this week ,was the inside lane blocked by the assholes trying to join the queue for the off ramp at the front. Unlike you, no doubt, I do most of my driving outside the UK. Christ, the Spanish really shouldn’t be trusted with any form of transport doesn’t have a leg at each corner, but even they can’t hold a candle to the Brits when it comes to sheer bloody awful driving..

  26. Orwell had a good stab at it too…
    “We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official – the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the ‘nice cup of tea’. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above. The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker.
    http://orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/

  27. Ian B – working class people don’t go to church for weddings and funerals and their kids aren’t in cubs or church schools?

    Around these parts church schools and cubs are as present in the poor areas as the rich ones.

  28. BiS,
    I also drive abroad mainly.

    I’d say Britain is relatively pretty good, but with added BMW drivers. What happens on the M25 is not representative of anything, least of all road-building.

    The French are fucking awful, New Jersians fucking awful and malevolent with it, while Illinoians are at least as courteous as Brits. Cypriots need to calm down.

  29. So Much For Subtlety

    Jack C – “Us Brits are massive and persistent under-achievers at all major sports, and yet a very wide range of sports are taken very seriously indeed.”

    The Six Nations is coming up. It is noticeable that the British teams don’t have much confidence in their own. The Welsh, Scottish and Irish teams have all opted for a New Zealand couch. The English have opted for an Australian, Eddie Jones. France has opted for a French coach and oddly enough so have the Italians. In fact I don’t think that the French have ever had a non-French coach.

    The stand-out there is Eddie Jones. The Japanese-American-Australian was Australia’s coach but he was fired after the disaster of 2005. After which his career dived. It seems to have destroyed his confidence. But then he was responsible for what was possibly the greatest performance in a World Cup ever when Japan beat South Africa. Now he is coaching the English.

    The interesting question is whether his confidence has come back or not. Tiger Woods has suffered a mental collapse and has not been able to play really well since his wife went bananas on his car. We shall see. I hope so. I like to think that Rugby offers second chances. Also I like what I see of Jones. And anyone who can coach Japan like that should be taken seriously.

    Which is all a long way of saying that British players all too often choke. And yes I am looking at you Andy Murray. Friendly competitive games are one of Britain’s many many gifts to the world. But win at them? At least we take part and lose like decent chaps. I think Jones’ appointment means that some people running the game are being very serious. They want to win.

  30. Where do you live, magnusw?
    Frinton?

    And worth pointing out, to SMfS, the French were militarily dominant from Gibraltar to Denmark & from the Atlantic to Russia when the British Army was losing wars to a bunch of under-equipped, poorly trained colonists.
    And it was the French staunch defence at Lille enabled the thoroughly trounced BEF to run away at Dunkirk. Taking with them rather more than their number of French soldiers, to fight on for their country.
    History can look a little different from other than the Good Old Brit perspective.

  31. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “Where do you live, magnusw? Frinton?”

    If you think British drivers are bad, you need to move east of the Suez. Seriously – there is no case for arguing British drivers are bad unless you are comparing them to the Dutch or the Swiss.

    “And worth pointing out, to SMfS, the French were militarily dominant from Gibraltar to Denmark & from the Atlantic to Russia when the British Army was losing wars to a bunch of under-equipped, poorly trained colonists.”

    Sure. What was that? Their last important victory?

    “History can look a little different from other than the Good Old Brit perspective”

    So it can. But it is hard to find a decent perspective on the French military that does not notice they tend to lose. A lot. Ever since the Revolutionary wars in fact.

    Now part of that is geography – if not for the Channel Britain would have lost a lot too. But some of it isn’t.

  32. Show me an Englishman with the requisite focus and will to win
    Heaven’s, how awful, like some american who knows no better.

  33. On driving… I’m not sure if we’re better than the Germans or the Swiss or the French, but we are certainly miles better at it than the Taiwanese (and apparently the Taiwanese are better than the Chinese).

    Go on youtube. There are compilation videos of bad driving in England which show drivers swearing at each other for parking on street corners, passing a cyclist at less than the stipulated 1.5m distance, or indicating too late before making a turn. That sort of thing.

    Then there are the compilation videos of bad driving in Taiwan which show cars flying through the air hurtling into windshields, people on fire, moped drivers falling asleep and crashing into each other at speed with bodies flying everywhere. And so on. I read one story recently in the Apple Daily about an old man riding his rickety old bicycle along a farm lane early one morning (i.e. 4 or 5 a.m.) only to get smashed so hard by a bloke in a Merc that his head came off and was found lying next to a farmhouse wall several hundred yards away. Just another day in paradise here.

  34. BiS,
    Now, that’s a logic fail.

    The British Army did indeed lose to British colonists in America, but that was the 3rd or 4th XI. The Army was distracted by the conquest of India at the time, along with much else.
    And the military dominant French were only militarily dominant until driven out and/or defeated by the British.

    It’s sport we can’t do.

  35. I’m surprised Belgians have escaped unmentioned. When I worked there one year I was told to drive carefully as when Belgians have accidents cranes are required to remove the vehicles from trees and second floor floor apartments. I was shown newspaper pictures of same.

    As an expat I usually refer to myself as a Brit because English has no convenient contraction, although I also use Londoner when talking to other Brits and pommie bastard if Australians are in earshot.

    And twee Cotswold’s villages would be one of the things I dislike about England. My ideal place to live is surrounded by wasteland that you can drive out in to, build a fire, drink beer and then shoot the empties without causing offense or injury.

  36. “I’m surprised Belgians have escaped unmentioned.”

    The only time Belgium is mentioned is in the context of “things that always go unmentioned.”

    Their driving may just be attention-seeking.

  37. @SE

    Sangin, Nowzad, in the green zone or down in the foothills – doesn’t really matter. In the gloaming period, when it’s warm rather than hot and everything is bathed in a pinky-orange glow, it’s stunningly beautiful.

    @Roue

    Who said anything about twee? My village is very pretty but it’s mostly working farms and old Glaws people. Higgledy piggledy old stone houses, dry stone walls, trees, rolling hills and valleys, quietitude, and old pubs where they don’t play music, they don’t prioritise food over beer, and the beer they sell isn’t mass produced and the irritating shit level is minimal.

    Added to which, I’m surrounded by wasteland that you can drive out in to, build a fire, drink beer and then shoot the empties without causing offence or injury. There’s fucking hundreds of acres of it (though it’s pretty and empty rather than ugly and empty so maybe it’s not the trad definition of wasteland) and people do exactly that all the time (mostly shooting pheasant, partridge and deer).

    @JackC

    ‘On reaching a certain level of seriousness, we start giggling nervously and shuffling our feet. Show me an Englishman with the requisite focus and will to win, and I will show you either an immigrant or recent arrival, or someone with mental issues.’

    Depends at what. I don’t watch round ball football, but we’ve produced plenty of winners in rugby and cricket. We probably underperform because our coaches and administrators have tended to listen too much to our media and our politicians. (I think our media is among the worst in the world for turning on its own AND being influential.) In the military sphere we consistently produce young blokes from all sorts of backgrounds who do extraordinary things. We’re good at self-reliance in small teams, which is why our SF are so good (the best, around the world, in fact). What we’re not good at is the military/political interface, mostly because we also produce world beatingly cuntish politicians. Afghanistan would have been a piece of piss had the necessary people been let off the leash but our media and politicians care more about dead Afghan civilians (and probably combatants) than about our own soldiers.

    @SMFS

    Murray didn’t choke. He was and usually is up against an all-time great, whereas he is just an all time very good.

  38. So Much For Subtlety

    Interested – “Murray didn’t choke. He was and usually is up against an all-time great, whereas he is just an all time very good.”

    But what is the difference between the great and the very good except not choking? It is noticeable that most female tennis players lack the killer instinct. They do not finish the game off. They let the other girl back into the game far too often. Not, obviously, true of Serena Williams, but it was typical of female players before the Sisters. And one of the reasons Navratilova was good was that she did not do it often.

    Male players are not like that. Very good ones less so.

  39. “Depends at what. I don’t watch round ball football, but we’ve produced plenty of winners in rugby and cricket.”

    Only just enough to say, “blimey, we under-acheive at rugby and cricket.”

    Rugby: one 6 Nations title since 2003. Even that team was demonstrably English. Several Slams missed before 2003, then instant implosion following success.

    England cricket, meanwhile, is the very definition of sporting under-acheivement.

  40. Several Slams missed before 2003, then instant implosion following success.

    If you call “instant implosion” most of the 2003 team retiring at the top.

  41. A number of the key players either quit or were injured or had peaked (mostly through age) in 2003.

    If you’re going to be extremely pedantic I’ll refer you to your own comment:

    ‘Show me an Englishman with the requisite focus and will to win, and I will show you either an immigrant or recent arrival, or someone with mental issues’

    and give you all of the 2003 starting team, none of whom were immigrants or recent arrivals, or people with mental issues

  42. Interested,
    My “own comment” is, of course, quite a big generalisation. But, it’s really not far off.

    Jonny: certainly mental, bless him. And much more important than he’s given credit for (see results with, and results without. Two different teams).

    Jason Robinson? Mike Catt? Etc.

  43. “I’d say Britain is relatively pretty good, but with added BMW drivers.” – JackC.

    Now here’s a thing. I was over here a few years ago & was obliged to use my now late father’s Merc Kompressor. And i actually noticed, myself, how much my own standard of driving deteriorated. All the usual vices. Exceeding the speed limit. Tailgating. Undertaking on dual carriageways. Running red lights. Obstructive parking. Feelings of superiority to other road users. You fight it but you just can’t help yourself.. German cars. They want to invade Poland, with or without you..

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