We’re better than you are!

I don’t buy into this ‘My country is better than yours’ crap.

070

Are we talking about the political systems? I suppose we are, because that’s what seems to be grabbing all the headlines.

Yet the countries that seem to be the subjects of this particular debate are all, on the surface, at least, democracies. So, no difference then?

Hmm…

It might be ‘Our country’s values’, of course, because that’s another hot one at the mo.

Hang on, though, what does that mean? People were banging on about that yesterday, but I’m more than a little uncertain whether such a basket of goodies actually exists. ‘We are against racism and misogyny!’ Sounds good to me, only that’s not true. Some of us are, certainly, but you only need to spend a reasonable amount of time in any pub on a Saturday night, to hear plenty of racist and misogynist talk. And not just pubs. In every walk of life, you can hear this talk: doctors’ waiting rooms, shops, offices, bus stops…

We’re hardly perfect.

If a country is the sum total of its citizens, then you will struggle to identify that country’s ‘values’.

Culture? Culture cuts across borders, it is not constrained by them. We read books and see films and plays that have been written and produced by artists worldwide. Frequently, we have no idea where they actually hail from in the first place.

‘But,’ I hear an angry shout, ‘it is our indigenous culture that makes us great!

Uh-huh? I am often bemused when a famous painting in a British collection is under threat of sale to a foreign buyer and there is a collective wail of ‘Our cultural inheritance is in danger!’ Bemused, because nine times out of ten the painting in question is by an Italian or French or German or artist of some other nationality.

If we only had British paintings in our gallery things would look rather different.

And the Elgin marbles? Ours, dammit! Our inheritance!

The treasures filling our museums from all the countries we colonised and asset-stripped…

Maybe it’s our religious inheritance. Christian, according to a lot of the stuff I hear.

In 2015, 42% of the British population identified themselves as Christian. (British Social Attitudes survey) Those who actually attend church regularly, however, number only 5-6% of the population.

The vast majority of the British population do not go to church, so how can we be a Christian country?

What about our history, then?

Well, good and bad, like most countries. We abolished slavery in the 1800’s – all well and good, but we had profited hugely from it in the years before. The lot of a slave in the British West Indies, for example was horrendously barbaric.

Empire? Pfft.

Votes for women? Eventually, and only after a concerted attempt to trample the movement underfoot, using a fair degree of violence in the process.

Everyone will have their own ideas of what we do well, of course. I am proud of the fact that we give our share of aid to projects designed to eradicate poverty and disease around the world, and disaster relief. I am grateful that despite the failings of the system (and they are many) we live in a country where our representatives can be thrown out and re-elected on a regular basis. We cannot, in theory, be held without trial, and we are not in constant danger of being mown down by gunfire in our streets and schools.

But, before we get too cocky about that, remember how things can change over time.

Vigilance, my friends, vigilance…

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47 thoughts on “We’re better than you are!

  1. An excellent post, Mick -very wise words indeed. I have no problem with people being proud of their country / race / origins / school whatever – in fact I admire civic pride and it helps maintain a (mostly) decent society when applied intelligently. But the minute people start thinking they are better than an other is when the problems start. We can be different – and, actually, we should be different – difference brings progression, learning and variety! There is no ‘better’ – just ‘different’.
    (Except in the case of Cambridge and Oxford, which is the exact opposite, where you have almost no difference but it’s quite obvious which is better 😉 )

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Naturally, I was steering clear of mentioning either Oxford or Cambridge by name – I know better than to fan the flames of an already incendiary situation!

      Differences – yes, we need differences. If everywhere and everything was the same, life would be unbelievably boring and there would be, as you point out, no progress, only stagnation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s one of those, “we are not as good as we thought but that doesn’t mean we’re as bad as we thought either” things.

    Except for Iowa. Minnesota is a hell of a lot better place than Iowa – other than no beer sales on Sunday. C’mon Minnesota, we can do better than that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My guess is that there are people in every country who bleat on about how exceptional their own homeland is. They may be right too. I’ll bet every nation is exceptional in some way, just not exceptionally exceptional.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I agree wholly with you; it goes both ways. No one has the monopoly on national or cultural good or bad, right or wrong. These things don’t fall into the objective truth category but opinions and as the famous graffiti has it ‘all generalisations are bad’. PS. Of course, you’d be mad to live north of the Thames in London as it’s full of heathens and ne’er-do-wells, but that’s the one exception to the rule…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well said, Mick. It’s the assumption of superiority (sometimes reinforced by what another blogger I follow referred to as “childishly simple narratives”) that gets us all into trouble. Mind you, the assumption of inferiority doesn’t do much for anyone either.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yeah, the whole tribalism thing gets old after a while; my country is better than yours, my religion is better than yours, my team is better than yours, my Dad can beat up your Dad. But if you looked into all of them you’d probably find they all have a similar proportion of a-holes and saints.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks Mick!
    I’m thinking we could all compile a personal list like this, to pull out when we start to think that we as individuals are better than others. How easily we sit in judgment–and funny, psychology shows that the more harshly we judge ourselves, the more harshly we judge others. So I addend my suggestion: make the list, review, and forgive thyself. Then move on and treat others with similar compassion. Hmmm, looks like s Rule of Engagement to explore further! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. When I was a teenager, I lived in rural Kansas, where everyone pretty much looked the same and had similar cultures. But we most definitely thought our town was better than the next town, five miles to the east, and they thought they were better than us. Gotta love human nature…..I guess!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you say, human nature. Yes, that is the more benign face of it all; there is always that sort of competition. The other end of the scale, if you like. The somewhat less benign part leads to interference in other countries’ affairs, whether by stealth or by threat or by force.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true…and sometimes that’s not even because one country thinks it’s better than another, it’s because one country wants what another country has. Depressing if we think about it for too long! On a more positive note, I finally ordered a copy of your book from Amazon! Should arrive soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post Mick. I think everyone has a little of that ‘my town is better’ just some more than others. Being proud of your heritage, culture, and nationality is a wonderful thing but so many people take it too far. For many it’s actually fear of strangers and the unknown manifesting itself as hatred and prejudice.
    As far as England is concerned, the more we travel and experience around the world the more we appreciate where we are from.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Very often people tend to cross the thin line and do things which are not meant to be by definition. So is the case between nationalism and protect-ism.
    I’m not surprised with how events have unfolded in the world over last few years…arab spring, Modi-ism, Brexit…Trump!
    People want change. They are fed up of things…So they are not bothered if their choice fails. Those whom they continued to choose over decades, also failed!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good observation. The idea of destroying present system is debatable and will spark many justification, both for and against. On the other hand, you come up with a new idea only when you are presented with a new system or new atmosphere. Even on an individual level, people are tired of present work culture and which is why people are living and opting for some alternative lifestyle and system. We see so many young, talented people abandoning high and well paying jobs because they are tired of work culture, work ethics and boredom….
        where this is leading us all, is a difficult question.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It would be great if it could lead to something better, and who knows, possibly it will? Then the old system would hopefully get replaced by the new, which is very different to tearing down one system but having nothing to replace it. That tends to lead to anarchy.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I guess when we look at history how things have evolved over the centuries, it gets very interesting. From kingdom to socialism, fascism, democracy….we have had many systems. Let’s see what’s next. There is nothing much we can do except contribute towards the change. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Thought-provoking post, Mick. My feeling is that any person, or country for that matter, who is truly secure within themselves has no need to try to be better than anyone or anything outside of themselves. If any person or institution or leader or country needs to build themselves up by keeping or putting others down, they aren’t strong to begin with and they probably never will be.

    Liked by 1 person

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