They can’t stop mentioning “The War”

It’s interesting leaving your homeland for a decade and then returning – you see things through new eyes. You feel like a semi-stranger.  So much has changed and yet so much is the same.  But even the things that are the same are, in some way, new to you.

Since returning in 2012 from a decade overseas lots of things have caught my attention.  One of them is the almost-constant reference to ‘The War’.  The war in Iraq?  No.  Afghanistan?  No. The situation in Gaza?  Nope.  Perhaps something more historical like the Falklands Crisis?  No and no again. If a newspaper wants to sell on a slow week, they stick in an extra with some kind of feature on World War II.   Why? Because that’s the only thing anyone can think of to celebrate England being great.

60 years since then and the media and public can’t find anything concrete to celebrate about England.  Really?  Surely there are other great events, important moments that we could drag out once in a while instead of perpetuating some kind of myth that because we assisted with the ending of the last World War nearly three generations ago we are still a great nation.

In fact, if you Google “What is Britain Good at 2014” you don’t get a lot.  You get links to stuff about a television programme called “Good Morning Britain” and other scraps, but it appears that no one (or at least no one with decent SEO) is writing about what Britain is good at NOW.  Is that because we’re no good at anything, or we’re just too darned British to stand up and boast about it?  I suspect it’s somewhere between the two.  I suspect that those who are excelling in their field are struggling to get their voices heard in a media enthralled with soccer, ‘The War’, scandal, celebrity and how our politicians are failing us.

What’s the greatest UK success in the past 50 years?  I’d love to hear from anyone out there who’d like to add a comment about something great we’ve acheived as a nation. Or even that one single being within our nation has acheived that is great.

We’re not complete dunces – there are a few ‘quite useful’ (she says, being terribly English about it) things that Brits have done in the past half century.

For instance, in 1953 University of Cambridge scientists James Watson and Francis Crick’s discovered the he double helix structure of DNA – the genetic code for all living things.  Quite good, I’d say.

For instance, in 1961 Herchel Smith, a researcher at the University of Manchester, developed an inexpensive way of producing chemicals that stop women ovulating during their monthly menstrual cycle.  The Pill was born, saving thousands of women from unwanted pregnancy each year and an important factor in the heady 1960’s – which spawned…

For instance, The Beatles.  Though the media are kinda onto that one.  But WOW – without the British 60’s what kind of world would we be living in now?

And, for instance, before that in the 1950’s Ian Donald invented the use of ultrasound for unborn babies at the University of Glasgow.  Brilliant.

For instance, in 1971 the first Mr Men book was published.  Leading writers and parents like me to over-use the phrase ‘for instance’ (one of Roger’s faves).  IMO the Mr Men started out great but went downhill when the great Roger Hargreaves died. And those Little Miss books are largely repellant – as products aimed specifically at girls have tended, and unfortunately (not mentioning Lego ‘Friends’ at all) still generally do tend, to be. And what that says about writers’, toy makers’ and marketers’ attitude to women is quite terrifying. Still…

In 1991 marital rape was made illegal in England and Wales.  Thank god for that one.  A little late on the scene, but we got there.
Harold Hopkins showed in 1954 how a bundle of tiny pin-like glass fibres allowed light and images to be transmitted along them even when they were curved – fibre optics!  Over the twenty years from 1947 when he began as an optics lecturer he emerged as one of the foremost authorities in the field of optics.  I’m no physicist but I gather fibre optics has come in very useful over the years in a multitude of applications all over the globe, and no doubt off it as well.

There are gazillions of examples of amazing inventions in the UK since ‘The War’ ended. I’d like to see a few more headlines celebrating those, and giving present day England more reasons to feel proud of things that are happening NOW.

Crystal Palace, Great Exhibition on blog post by Naomi Madelin

Time for another ‘Great Exbibition’?

Rolling out WWII doesn’t make anyone act in a way that suggests they’re proud of this country, or really care about it at all.  I see shoddy workmanship and workwomanship all the time.  British Telecom engineers who leave little bits of wire all over the pavement when they’ve been working on a junction box (you wouldn’t get that in Germany, or Switzerland), the guy who came to change our gas meter left wires, old bits of meter casing and torn-open plastic packaging in our meter room. Electricians can’t seem to screw a light switch on straight.  What happened to pride in a job well done?

The government just love wasting our hard-earned taxes doing things like repeatedly requesting ‘Research’ on whether drugs should be legalised and then binning the expensive report when they don’t like it, only to request another five years later.  They are frightened to make bold, impressive, daring changes that could make Britain great, that WOULD give us something to be proud of.  They appear to be self-serving ninnies who perhaps long for the chance of a war to get stuck into. Well, we have a fight on our hands.  There is a war.  The fight is to change a culture that has sunk into self-obsession and an attitude of ‘I can’t be bothered’.  It’s a war on lethargy.

It has been scientifically proven that people who engage in their community, and have a concern with a cause outside of themselves are happier.  That taking pride in your work, whatever it may be, and doing it to the best of your abilities makes you feel happier – and a happy nation is a more successful nation.  Let’s take at least a small leaf from Bhutan’s book – a country focussing on creating a nation of happy people rather than money-grabbing at the expense of happiness.  How about finding ways to get individuals to engage in their community, to care about their neighbours, to seperate the glass from the cardboard and put it out on recycling day, to sign that petition for the school…  Happy people do better.  Britain would do better if everyone made a bit more effort to smile and be nice to each other.  You wouldn’t think it would be so hard.



Thanks to carnagenyc on Flikr for the photo and Banksy for the art and insights.  Photo reproduced under Creative Commons license.



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