Skip to main content

Entitlement: the most destructive force in the universe

Well, it's been a day.

I'm not about to go into grindingly tedious hand-wringing about the reasons behind Brexit. Nor am I going to bewail its finally being set in motion. Doesn't seem a lot of point, anyhow I'm a bit too busy battening down the hatches for the shitstorm which will ineivitably ensue. Now is not the time for gnashing of teeth. Particularly because your dentist bills will go up once that nice Polish nurse is told to do one.

But I will reflect, grimly, on one of the aspects of the national character which has led us to this point; and it was illustrated rather beautifully today, for shortly after Theresa May breezily told a house full of braying white blokes that trade negotiations would happen in parallel with the exit talks, over on the continent Angela Merkel was smiling thinly and saying nein. And I thought yep, that about sums it up.

You see, just because you say something's going to happen, doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to. This is a lesson which the British, more specifically the English, and to be more specific The Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (though, to be more accurate: England, bar the odd rogue outlier) have always struggled to learn. Particularly as we spent the last thousand years jolly well telling Johnny Foreigner what was what, whilst rarely stopping to consider that they may want some say in the matter.

This sense of entitlement has led May to believe that Europe will simply roll over and do her bidding (or rather, as she's not that thick, she's allowed the more knuckleheaded elements of the English press to believe that this is the case). It's the same sense of entitlement which led us to have the referendum in the first place, as Cambo thought it'd be totes fine because he was backing remain so chillax guys, I've got this. It's this obstinate belief, in the face of all prevailing evidence, that we somehow matter, are still relevant, which is a glaring flaw in the national character. This incapacity for self-reflection has inevitably led to a politcial class which values gesture over nuance. It is the root of our blind tub-thumping at every football championship (and part of the reason why the new manager thoughtfully pointing out that we're not actually that good has made him the spittle-flecked target of every phone-in warrior's ire). You could call it arrogance, but I don't think it's as active as that. Arrogance implies some self-knowledge, some preening belief that we are above the norm. This is entitlement. The simple fact that the world should be ordered this way, and if anyone else thinks otherwise, they're wrong.

And so we've arrived at this point, on a road paved with soundbites and shrugs. Of David Davis admitting he's not looked into the economic consequences. Of Boris Johnson's airy "it'll be fine". We've got here because well, we're British, and therefore the world will arrange itself to suit our best interests. Why on Earth wouldn't it?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

This is not campaigning

A few days ago, I was speaking to a local Labour Party worker. He was shrugging at the Tory effort around our neck of the woods, wasn't too worried about retaining the seat at the election; the theory being that they weren't trying hard, because nobody major had turned up.

Then two days ago the Prime Minister turned up.

My first thoughts, when I found out, were of that functionary, his confidence in retaining the seat must have taken a dent from the news that the biggest gun of them all had come calling. The funny thing was, though, nobody knew. I found out on the Today programme the next morning.

The constituency in which I live, West Lancashire, is a place of contrasts. I live in Ormskirk, a reasonably (though increasingly less) prosperous mix of market and student town. We're surrounded by blandly pretty countryside, some reasonably picturesque agricultural land and some chocolate box villages. Down the road, however, is Skelmersdale, the main reason that West Lancash…

The colour of passports

Is this what it was all about?

Andrew Rossindell M.P: "it's a matter of identity, having the pink European passports has been a matter of national humiliation"

Now, leaving aside that my passport is a fetching shade of maroon, rather than pink (and that Rossindell's recoiling from that colour, imagined as it is, speaks to lengthy and expensive analysis required), and leaving aside the observation that I really don't understand why it matters what colour a passport holder is, given that it's the information inside which is important, and leaving even further aside the fact that we were already free to choose the colour of our passports (EU member Croatia's is a perfectly pleasant blue) I am forced to ask:

National humiliation?

Going cap in hand in the seventies to the IMF was a national humiliation. Our spiralling rates of child child poverty are a national humiliation. The fact that cancer survival rates in the UK are lower than most other comparable coun…

The sparrows outside the window

I am, I confess, a birdwatcher.

Not in the traditional sense. I rarely go out with the express intention of spotting birds, rather it's something I do when already out. I'll own up to keeping a list, but that's mostly for the benefit of my son, who didn't display much interest in the natural world until he realised there were lists where you could tick things off, that it could be quantifiable: like collecting football stickers. I hope that having been sucked in by ticking boxes he'll end up just appreciating them for what they are.

This is the simple pleasure I've arrived at. And, to be honest, I don't have room in my head for every variety of bird (I used to, it's how I bonded with one of my oldest friends), these days I'd struggle to tell my sedge warbler from my reed warbler, and whilst I do follow rare bird twitter accounts, and was excited by the arrival of black terns at mere sands wood last summer, that's not really what gets me going.

I…