Patriotism for the Brits

Today is St. George's Day. Did you know that? And if you did know, do you care?

A recent YouGov survey has shown that patriotism is decreasing amongst young Brits. Only 15% of 18-24 year-olds are 'very' patriotic. In fact, when YouGov tested Brits on the 'Life in the UK' exam that all immigrants must pass to have citizenship, 51% of young people failed.

The lack of pride has also been revealed in the British Social Attitudes survey. The survey found that in 2003, 43% were “very proud” of their nationality. A decade later, in 2013, 35% expressed strong pride.

Britain has occasional moments of flag-waving patriotism...during World Cups and Jubilee celebrations. But, on the whole, I have found that we're a cynical bunch. We're very unlikely to have a Union Jack waving outside our window and, outside of primary schools, St. George's Day is pretty much ignored.

This is especially startling when you compare it to St. Patrick's Day. In my office, we have three Irish employees, and they ensured that we all celebrated in style. We went out for drinks at an Irish pub at lunch and after work, and they gave a talk about Irish history. You could feel the sense of pride as they spoke about the Easter Rising, and the fact that Ireland was the first country to approve gay marriage through a national referendum. It was infectious - demonstrated by the fact that the street around the Irish pub was closed after work, purely because so many people were spilling out onto it. This sentiment is reflected all over the world, with huge Paddy's Day parades across the planet, especially in the US. It is the sort of celebration you cannot miss.

Similar levels of patriotism are found in America - 65% of Americans boast of being "very proud" of their country, and the star spangled banner is something you cannot fail to miss. Whilst this is something that has its darker side (hello Donald Trump and your fun Mexican-blocking walls), you cannot deny that America is proud of its heritage. Independence Day is a public holiday every year, and their constitution is something very dear to their heart.

So what makes Britain British? We don’t shout about how great we are. In fact, we are much more likely to complain about the weather. We don’t boast about our achievements. In fact, we are much more likely to put ourselves down. We are cynical, grumpy and self-deprecating by nature, and these qualities don’t lend themselves to any form of patriotism.

But we are very good at coming together. Think Remembrance Day – a day when the whole country comes together, wears a poppy as a sign of respect and takes a minute to remember the sacrifice our countrymen made. Think the day after the London Tube bombings – a city walking in solidarity to work. Think the diversity and exotic mish-mash which makes up our nation. Whilst the bitter taste of racism and conflict remains, it is a small minority. For the most part, and comparatively to other major cities, all sorts of cultures and races live alongside each other in harmony and respect. Brixton Village, Kingsland Road, Chinatown - they all represent different cultures that I, for one, am proud to have on our soil.

So this St. George’s Day I would like to celebrate British ‘coming-togetherness’. We may not care that much about waving our flag or stating our superiority, but we come together when it matters most.


Author:Vicky Noble

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