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A rare patriotic sentiment

I’m not generally proud to be British. It strikes me as absurd either to claim some sort of credit for an accident of birth, or to assume that the culture one is brought up in is ipso facto the best available to anyone. Nation is usually alien. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when someone says “we”, I feel like a “them”.

However, I must say I get great pleasure from the fact that nobody does self-parody like ‘we’ do. There is a great British tradition of highly competent people doing extremely serious things unencumbered by wild eccentricity or a very silly-sounding name. It is therefore a matter of considerable joy to me that ‘our’ defence forces are led by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup GCB AFC ADC DSc FRAeS FCMI RAF.

13 comments to A rare patriotic sentiment

  • Johnathan Pearce


    Guy, I know what you mean. Pride is the reward an individual feels for the achievement of a value, such as creating a business or the success in building a happy life and nuturing a child, not something that one gets by the lottery of birth. However, I think when people use the word “pride” in the usual sense, what they often mean is a sense of pride in supporting something they value, and in wishing to retain it. So, back when Britain was a broadly free country – unlike the mess it is in today – people could reasonably state that they felt proud of that freedom and wanted to protect it and give it to subsequent generations. So don’t be too hard on people who use the word pride in this way.

  • ian

    One of the characteristics of Italy – and to a lesser degree I think France – is the strong sense of identification with one’s specific region, as much or even more than the country. It shows up in the writings of people like Malatesta, who as an anarchist of course wanted nothing to do with the Italian state.

    This relates I think to the point Johnathon makes. I certainly identify with my home area of North East England as much as with my nationality and since that regional identity is broadly untainted by the excesses of government it is becoming more important to me, not less.

  • A quick Wikipedia check informs me that “Jock” is apparently a nickname. “Air Chief Marshall Sir Graham Eric Stirrup” wasn’t a silly enough name, apparently.

  • Niall

    I think I would respectfully disagree with the notion that we ought not take pride in our country simply because our nationality is an accident of birth. On the same grounds we might equally say that it makes no sense to love your mother or your siblings.

    For me, patriotism (as distinct from chauvinistic nationalism) is not a matter of “my country right or wrong”, but rather a recognition that, for all its faults and flaws, there is still a residue of something great and noble in the way we do things here. Liberty under the law; a great tradition of localism; a mixed constitution; tolerance and celebration of eccentricity and individuality – all under threat in modern Britain, but all recoverable, and all to be celebrated.

  • RAB

    I believe he married one Fiona Pump.
    They were going to hyphonate it, but wiser heads prevailed.

  • permanentexpat

    RAB: ……… 8-))

  • On the same grounds we might equally say that it makes no sense to love your mother or your siblings.

    And that is exactly what I would indeed say. You should love your mother or your siblings if they treat you appropriately and if they do not, to hell with them. I honoured my grandparents not because they were my grandparents but because they deserved it by virtue of their actions.

  • Jay Lewis

    “I’m not generally proud to be British.”

    Well, you should be.

  • john gibson

    Sir Jock was in the private eye last week, not in a bad light but as someone who help get rid of an idiot.

  • Midwesterner

    Does anybody else think Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup GCB AFC ADC DSc FRAeS FCMI RAF looks a bit like Terry-Thomas in a movie role?

  • comatus

    Stop that, Midwest. He looks every inch the modern Air Chief Marshall, and we’re fortunate to have him.

    Don’t forget that the US’s greatest air accomplishments were headed up by Tooey Spaatz and Ira Eaker (to the obvious vocative amusement of our allies). And we had both Jimmy and Johnny Jumper, couple of pretty good men, but no name for a pilot.

    I presume the lads will be referring to him as Big Jock–because we sure would were he ours. Now, if you tell me that “Stirrup” is a proud surname going back to Angevin times and is properly pronounced “STRAP,” all deals are off.

  • Anne's Omnibus

    There is no shame in having won in the lottery of life – so stand up and spread the word about the what has been bequeathed to you by chance so that others less fortunate may benefit. Keep telling everyone else how awful it is and how lousy things are then you and the nation you represent (whether you like it or not) will be treated accordingly.

  • guy herbert

    Does it not occur to you that British self-criticalness might be one reason Britain has remained free-ish until recently? It is our tradition of skepticism towards church, state, nation, that gave rise to much of the underpinning conceptions of liberal individualism everywhere. And it is that tradition that gives the soft-fascists such trouble that they work themselves into a frenzy about how to instill “national identity”.

    I’d like the British crown to be treated as wrong by the British population when it is wrong, and casually used or ignored as is convenient when it is right. I don’t care what foreigners think about it at all. Though I’d hope that a Britain run on my principles would be obviously admirable, it wouldn’t bother me if it were despised by fans of different ways of life.

    If you want to see an exemplar of national pride, where people are urged to withhold their criticisms for the sake of the reputation of the state, try China.