Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

Bill and I don’t think we are really in favour of Nationalism. It creates artificial barriers between countries, regions and people. It is also difficult to fully understand. Take Scotland - the SNP (Scottish National party) seems to have one prime aim, to achieve independence from England and to become a separate nation but at the same time they want to remain in the European Union. Seems like a mixed message there.

There is a phrase, oft quoted, "My Country right or wrong!" to which you may not fully subscribe but is, nevertheless, easily absorbed in to your mind.

My Country . . . .

During two recent World Wars there was a great wave of patriotism, which is the feeling of love and devotion to a homeland and an alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. It is closely related to nationalism. But hang on, suppose you think of yourself as British, just what is Britain? A geographical location, in other words a lump of rock and earth sitting in the ocean? Or is it simply a Sovereign State? If it is a state it is hardly any more tangible than a state of mind, which is hardly a physical part of your body.

We always wonder how people react when their country is split or renamed. Take Czechoslovakia, a former country in central Europe encompassing the historical lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia separated peacefully into two new countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic's 10.3 million people are almost entirely composed of Czechs, Slovakia's population of 5.2 million includes nearly 600,000 ethnic Hungarians. All this rambling leads to the question ‘What is my nationality?’ In both the Czech Republic and Slovakia are there people who still think of themselves as Hungarians, Czechs, Bohemians. Moravians. or have they dropped their old allegiances and fully adopted their new home?

I am British. Which means I am part of the UK. The medieval annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. However, the deep seated National names go beyond annexations or conquests. Somewhere, in a dusty corner of my mind is
English. This is the answer I am inclined to write if asked to declare my nationality. I believe it is set even harder if you are Welsh or Scottish.

We all cling to these ‘tribal names’. Cornish, Lancastrian, Yorkshiremen etc. All this must be the result of a desperate need to ‘Belong’ - to a family, a tribe, a nation or just a group. The innocent rivalries between Yorkshire and Lancashire or Cornwall and Devon are amusing. But this tribalism at a National level is the breeding place for war.

Take the 1930s. We discovered (Or were told!) that Germany was a threat. Eventually,
WE declared war on Germany and all English and British people were directed to hate all Germans and I am sure all Germans were directed to hate the British. For about six years we bombed and shot each other and quite suddenly it was all over. Within a very short time we were allies!

It was even worse in Germany, in the '30s they suddenly discovered that people who had been friends and neighbours were Jews and consequently had to be hated, eventually to the point where they were to be exterminated. I know the holocaust happened and that millions of Jews were murdered but find it difficult to fully accept that human beings, very much like you and me, herded men, women and children into rooms and then dropped poison gas on them. Let’s face it, Germans are a race of people with attitudes and beliefs very similar to our own. They don't
look different and until you hear them speak they could be British.

It's when the strangers look different that we start to think they must be a threat, when they look like us they are OK until they speak - then they become 'Strange'! Just why we feel threatened I am not sure. I think it must be something very basic, perhaps to do with the preservation of our species. We start to fear that their 'foreign-ness' will rub off on us and we will, in one way or another, allow our gene pool to be come corrupted.

Immigrant queue

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