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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Anyone but England ...

I will be enjoying the (probably brief) exploits of the English football team in the Euro championships over the next few weeks. I will be cheering them on against France on Monday and wondering whether this time we can go all the way. In short, over the coming days I will be a proud England fan.

When I was a young boy I remember being disappointed when England failed to make the '74 World Cup finals. I also remember the heroics of the Scottish team in those finals as I transferred my loyalties to another team from the British Isles.

As I grew up I couldn't understand why Scottish fans and Welsh fans didn't seem to want to support England when England got through. Indeed the apparently bigotted attitude of Scottish and Welsh fans meant that I became equally bigotted and, rather than supporting Scotland and Wales, I used to want them to lose - whoever they were playing.

Over the past four years I have come to realise why many non-English Britons want 'anyone but England' to win. Living in Cornwall has made me realise that the English mindset is one of arrogance, international snobbery and disregard for other cultures.

The thing is that English people aren't really like that. We have been brought up in schools which teach us about the achievements of the British Empire. We learn how England (all too often conflated with Britain) brought civilsation to the world. We have the mother of parliaments and the oldest democracy. At the same time we like to play by the rules and are inclusive and tolerant.

We have been taught to believe in ourselves and that our way is the right way. This is why we suffer from cognitive dissonance when other nations don't seem to agree with how we see the world. We don't realise that the truth of the British Empire is opression, the theft of other's resources and violent suppression and anhilation of other cultures. While the rest of the world see the truth we are shielded by our ruling classes and our education system teaches us that we are jolly good eggs.

I am in an extremely privileged position I can see how others view us English and I can understand and empathise with the reasons. At the same time I know that the average person on the Clapham omnibus is not a bad person. I am very proud of English people and their belief system - we do believe in the triumph of right over wrong, we support the underdog and we want world peace.

It is the English establishment that, even now, seeks to protect its wealth and privilege. It is the Westminster Unionists that thrive on petty differences and which seek to promote separatism and then blame it on nationalist ideals. The English establishment wants people in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland to support anyone but England because then it's continued existence is justified.

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