For a while at least everything seemed to be going our way. The sun was shining and it seemed that everyone was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of England in a World Cup Final.
Then after England flew out of the traps but failed to bury their opposition (Croatia) it all began to unfold in a fashion that cynics suggested was always going to happen as optimists went into denial. Some said England were brilliant, others said they were useless when push had come to shove and were totally outclassed as soon as they met a team of discernible quality.
The truth as usual, probably lies somewhere in between but I won’t have my enjoyment of the competition dampened by negativity as England, were at the very least, the best of the ordinary teams and nearly as good as the better ones, which is more than anyone predicted.
There was also the consolation of shutting up the nationalists who were slowly but surely emerging throughout Russia, with the sound of “Oh Tommy, Tommy Robinson” being heard emanating from Red Square last Wednesday evening. Why do we, or the England team have to listen to these cretins? Do they really think Gareth Southgate will think they are great supporters?
The World Cup already seems ages ago, engulfed in the drama surrounding the visit of Trump, the collapse of various Brexit deals and politicians stabbing each other in the back whilst Leave voters cling desperately on to their claim that they did the right thing in June 2016. Attempts at a fudged deal by a PM terrified of economic collapse would suggest otherwise but the ‘will of the people’ has to be recognised even if it does mean loading the barrells and blowing off both feet.
One thing that did intrigue me whilst I was away on a short break in Latvia, was a friend of mine making a claim that I was anti-English. I found that a bit alarming because as someone who indulges in the most English of things, such as walking in the countryside with my dog and running a cricket club, I think I am someone who enjoys my surroundings and hobbies that England offers me. As you are also aware from these blogs, I also enjoyed watching the progress of the English national team at The World Cup in Russia.
If there is one thing I don’t like, it is the potential direction that UK and the rest of the world is heading after a recent surge in populism that in a similar vein to the post depression 1930’s era, has been steadily on the rise since the financial crash of 2008. The key difference is that in the 1930’s, multiculturalism had not yet taken off and it was (I am guessing a bit) probably easier to manipulate the masses towards fascism and to target a race or religion to blame for economic woes.
There are certainly groups and organisations who are English that I don’t like but that applies too many other countries as well, such as Italy, France, Germany and Holland, who have all had a surge in right-wing populism in recent years. However, they are all countries I have enjoyed visiting, so I am not anti any particular country, I am anti a rise in populism that can lead to fascism. The Brexit vote, whether we knew it at the time or not, has complicated things even further.
By no longer being at the table and adhering to regulation, we could be subject to a damaging and deregulating populist movement in the UK whilst no longer having a say in crushing it in countries belonging to a union we are no longer part of. Personally, my concerns of a domino effect in the European Union are as much geopolitical as financial. Putin must be loving it, that’s why Russia has been influencing elections in the UK and the US, a country that is currently led by a madman threatening to cause a biblical trade war.
In my opinion, being anti-English is to NOT be concerned about geopolitical boundaries moving but I also realise how little people know about 20th Century history and how, if it goes unchecked, can be in danger of repeating itself as seen in the dystopian drama, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I think if more people knew the basics of 1930’s history, we wouldn’t be heading into such uncertain times. Populism can look appealing in its early stages but it always ends in disaster.
Being proud to be English or patriotic is a curious thing to me. Some say that it means knowing the National Anthem, loving the Royal Family, hating Jeremy Corbyn and celebrating wars of the past. It can be all those things if you are that way inclined but it can also be a desire to be Republic, having left of centre views, remembering and learning lessons from wars and having a forward looking approach to how the world is shaping up, rather than a nostalgic longing for the past.
The media and the establishment have created their own rule book on being patriotic and fed it to the masses by using terms such as ‘Christian Values’ but it is all a load of bollocks when you think about it and it is merely put out there to protect themselves from ever being overthrown by a People’s Republic. I can understand why they do it (they’d be mad to protect themselves) but it’s still a load of old bollocks.
As an example, a couple of years ago, an old friend of mine suggested on Facebook that he didn’t care about Syrian kids being washed up on Greek beaches because they didn’t hold our ‘Christian Values’. I asked him when he last went to church and what his Christian values were and well…he went absolutely bananas about one of the parents of a dead child having a mobile phone (heaven forbid) without being able to answer the question.
Now, I’m an atheist, so I am no expert on Christian values either, but I am pretty certain that if there are any kind of values that are worth upholding, they wouldn’t include pouring scorn on a dead three year old lying on a Corfu beach. Hating fellow humans for their misfortune and chance of birth doesn’t make you patriotic either, it makes you a bit of a sad case.
For what it’s worth, I love England and its rolling hills and quintessential pubs and cricket grounds. I like swathes of people as well and I think that Gareth Southgate showed us how to behave in the World Cup by being humble, polite and not afraid to have a laugh at his own expense. However, I don’t feel the need to sing anthems, wave flags and post a picture of a bacon sandwich on Facebook and claim a Muslim reported it as racist.
I just don’t see the point in it all, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like England, I just want people to be aware, however unlikely it might seem, what it could become.