Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Saturday, 23 April 2011

014- England is a myth (The futility of St. George's Day)

Saint George. I have no idea who he was. That is in part due to never having been told who he was, and also in bigger part due to the fact that I have few links to Christian tradition, in spite of having been forced through church as a child. (In fact, I don't think that church once ever mentioned Saint George, or any other saint for that matter. Well it was Protestant...)

So beyond religious symbolism, I'm lead to believe that Saint George is the embodiment of Englishness. I think I've already made it clear that I find the concept of a cohesive "Englishness" dubious at best, for to believe in an English monoculture is to be in contempt of the vast historical and contemporary regional differences within the nation. It's a little bit like being surprised that not all of the world shares the fable of Father Christmas, or even celebrates 25th December in the same manner (if at all.)

Sadly, for those in England who do feel the need to remind themselves that they are English, they are left to their own devices to find a way to elevate a forsaken day to the same level as Saint Patrick's Day or even Chinese New Year. Poor guys. And whilst the likes of Cameron may encourage the masses to fend for themselves, there is something to be said for all people of a nation contributing equally to forging an identity, rather than leaving it to the most vocal, ostentatious grouping.

Looking to St. George

I believe that Saint George's Day is a futile endeavour because there is no institution in place for representing England and in turn prescribing a version of Englishness. Maybe this is why I and many others, find it farcical to have ultra-patriots forcing St. Georges flags, medieval knight armour and pints of beer down our throats. The last thing I want is someone else, and especially someone on my level, telling me how to be English. It's bad enough being dealt the catch-all term of British, when three and a half out of four nations have no desire to continue being subjugated by England the British Government, and the English themselves are offered tepid solutions to how they are represented. I must say, that though something like an English Assembly, or collection of English regional assemblies, forging a basic notion of English identity would do wonders for national pride, I will always remain suspicious of attempts to forge any "us versus them" mentality. The nature of the English has in recent times been regularly contested. Whilst many consider it a reaction of members of the White ethnicity normally residing in England, countering the near-parochial expressionism of the people of neighbouring British nations, the rest of us realise that there has to be and is, more to being English than being White, for we are a multi-ethnic society. An inclusive English identity must be embraced by all levels of society, if we are to counter the narrow world view of this particular bigoted rabble. (See also here.)  Until this happens, English-only celebrations will continue to give off an exclusivist air.

Additionally, it is futile because the English are not entirely Christian. As I mentioned earlier, my early contact with Christianity was of the Protestant persuasion, and so saints were pretty much a no go area. Furthermore, not every English person is religious. I wholeheartedly believe that many who claim religious affiliation, particularly with regard to Christianity, in a conflated ethno-religious manner, do so by virtue of failing to divorce spiritual philosophy from their person. (It was with much annoyance that I witnessed a relative of mine firmly tick the 'Christian' box on the 2011 census, having neither attended a Church regularly nor possessed a fundamental understanding of it in all of my years.) There is no reason in a country of such historically important scientific discovery and endeavour such as England, that we should continue to feel the need to include religion in every aspect of our identity, or feel the need to champion so-called christian martyrs. 

Finally, it is a futile endeavour because the English have nothing to genuinely celebrate. The French commemorate overcoming their monarchist system on Bastille Day. The Americans commemorate their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain on Independence Day. The English are encouraged to  celebrate the 'permanence' of 'their realm'. How you view permanence is of course, a highly subjective matter. England is a fractured realm and the British government has always favoured a divide and rule policy when dealing with it. This has ensured that no one but the London clique are able to affect change on a national level. This has also ensured that issues concerning anywhere rural or in the ex-industrial North of England, are of lower priority, for the administrations of these areas have been too fractured and have possessed little economic clout to bring about the change that the people in these areas yearn for.

This is the permanence that the English are told to celebrate, and it is glossed over by bunting, fêtes and romantic anachronism.

National political structure and provincial economic power may be the last thing that anyone today, enjoying a pint in a beer garden, in the midst of one of the most pleasant periods of weather this country has enjoyed in a long time may be considering, but this is exactly what the Establishment would have us do. As with the Royal Wedding, which will seek to gloss over the bizarre permanence of the undemocratic institution of hereditary monarchy, Saint George's Day fails to address the real plight of the English people.

We draw the short straw in the Barnett Formula, suffer the worst effects of overly-centralised governance and are in effect a pseudonation.

England is a myth, and will continue to be so unless the nature of the nation is officiated through either sufficient devolution or federalism.

Revelling in the myth of Saint George does nothing to remedy this.


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