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Commonwealth Day

It was Commonwealth Day on Monday, a fact that passed me by completely. It's not the done thing these days to celebrate Empire.

However, the Huddersfield Examiner's Emma Davidson marked the occasion with some commentary from Huddersfield's own Dr Andrew Mycock:

Mr Mycock said: "Some countries do celebrate the day, particularly in schools, but there isn't really a common framework and people associate different meanings with the Commonwealth so different countries celebrate in different ways.

"For example, some African countries see it as a celebration of their independence from Britain. They see the Commonwealth as something founded on equality, while the Empire was founded on hierarchy.

"For some the focus is on cultural diversity and democracy and shared values.

"But while the Queen will give a formal Commonwealth Day message, the rest of our country will just carry on.

"When Empire Day was first introduced it was better celebrated, it was seen as a confirmation of the superiority of the British.

"But the Commonwealth was never really marked in the same way, because it was associated with the end of Empire and people were more reluctant to celebrate something that was seen to have failed.

"The legacy of the Empire is also so contentious. It has positive connotations like modern industry and democracy, but then the negative connotations like exploitation and slavery and the less edifying moments of the British Empire, so people tend to avoid it."

He said there was awareness of the Commonwealth in schools, but he felt people in Kirklees were more likely to find days like St George's Day and its celebration of Britishness more relevant.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 8th March, 2010

I'm sorry. Dr Mycock specialises in Britishness, so surely he of all people knows that St George's Day is not a celebration of Britishness. If anything its growing popularity is a reaction to Britishness.

Or perhaps not?

Sympathy for the Dragon?: Englishness and St George’s Day

A study conducted by Dr Andrew Mycock and Professor Jim McAuley in April highlighted that opinion concerning St George’s Day remains divided, though a majority of respondents to a survey of staff and students at the University indicated they would like to, or were going to, celebrate it in 2009. The research suggests that not only is there a growing recognition of St George’s Day and a preparedness to celebrate it, but that a more diverse and sophisticated conception of Englishness is emerging as debates about identity and citizenship develop in the UK.

The English language and literature, food and drink, landscape, music and history were cited to express a distinct sense of Englishness, though binge-drinking, racism and bad weather were also identified. However, many respondents felt it difficult or were unable to distinguish between English and British national identity, with many of the cultural and political values associated with Englishness overlapping. Conceptions of Britishness were articulated by the Government and others. This suggests that for many there was pride in being English and British, but with the lack of a separate British national day, St George’s Day is viewed as an opportunity to celebrate both identities.

Hmmm...Does it really suggest that, I wonder?

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Englishness???

Here we go again, ,only the English Nation have, binge drinking, racism,and bad weather,the mealy mouthed t***s!

Binge drinking - a national trait?

If these people think that binge drinking defines Englishness - then they have never been in Glasgow on a Saturday night. I have, often in my service days, and it is positively frightening.

I was also brought in in a small village/town (we couldn't decide)just across the Welsh border, where public houses closed on Sundays. Every Sunday we would host a bus load (or charabang full)of the God fearing Welsh at our local for the lunch time opening hours. Illuminating!! and I learned all the words of 'Men of Harlech' in welsh as well.

So to indentify 'binge drinking' as being purely an English trait says far more about those that accuse us.

Certainly Binge-drink Britain

Certainly Binge-drink Britain is a major problem as can be seen visiting any city at night. And I know from personal experience that many resorts in Europe have banned English tourists because of violence and excess drinking, especially in Greece and Spain. We seem to have a very unfortunate reputation which needs to be improved. Same goes for hooliganism and racism, there seems a great deal of irony lost on English hooligans who go around using the Nazi salute to the German police. England has a very unfortunate identity and we need to change it.

The Scots Binge Drink Too...

The Scots have a binge drinking culture too. I have Scots in-laws and the "carry outs" and carry ons over the years, good humour to fists and broken bottles, have been too numerous to count.

Of course, there are many more English people than Scots, and the difference seems to be blurred abroad. My uncle-in-law's brother complained bitterly when an Italian called him "English" when he holidayed in Sorrento in 1989. To many abroad, "English" and Scottish/British are hopelessly muddled.

And Scottish football violence in England a year or two back shows that in no way is binge drinking and holliganism confined to the English. The English and Scots have a problem. But, as usual, only the English are widely slated.

You are perfectly right

You are perfectly right Maria. People have always been hopelessly confused about Britain/ England and that hasn't helped us. From the 1990s onwards, England was always confused with Britain and before that Britain was confused with England.

Passed me by too. Gosh.

Passed me by too. Gosh. Wonder how much of the Commonwealth really noticed though.

Toque's picture

T'was ever thus

Take a look at Hogarth's prints over at Ana the Imp. It's hardly a new problem.

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