Tuesday, 15 February 2011

People who hate their country either hate themselves - or everybody else

Richard Hammond’s recent Top Gear tirade against Mexico and how awful it must be to wake up every morning and remember you’re a Mexican set me thinking. I know it was just a deliberate anti-PC wind-up, designed to outrage liberals, but the simple fact is that human beings are programmed to love the country they grew up in, whatever its faults.

How awful it must be to live in a country whose traditions, customs, institutions, political system, religion and history you despise. How terrible to spend your life wishing your homeland was just like, say, the United States or, more usually, Sweden (I wonder which country Swedes wish their country was more like).

Obviously I appreciate that people spend time abroad because of their health, or to earn a lot of money, or because their talents are more appreciated elsewhere, or because they prefer a warmer climate, or have chosen to start a new life because there aren’t any jobs where they live, or because their town has been over-run by immigrants who hate English people, or because their nostalgic longing for their country as it used to be has become painfully acute (who could blame them?), or because their retirement income will go further in some pseudo-Third World sun-trap: others are simply drawn to other parts of the world because they’ve fallen in love with the people and/or the culture (or, let’s be honest, because of the ready availability of sex).

But the one thing that unites English friends who’ve gone to live abroad for a long time – or even permanently – is that they continue to love Blighty. And that’s not surprising, because none of them left here because they hated the place.

I imagine it’s exactly the same for Mexicans, no matter how awful parts of their benighted country may appear to outsiders (I personally have less than no desire to visit it – but it’s the holiday destination of choice for our vicar and his wife, so there must be something to be said for it.) 

Hating your own country is a very odd thing to do– or being incredibly selective and eccentric about the bits you claim to like, which amounts to the same thing. Soon after I left university, the Spectator ran articles by prominent politicos from my year on what they loved about England. The only one I remember was by a very middle class 22-year old Labour-supporting hopeful (who I’ve never heard of again) claiming that eating fish and chips down by the Liverpool docks was his thing. The rest of the article comprised the usual tedious catalogue of working-class pursuits – beery East End boozers and standing on the terraces at football matches and a host of other things the silly, deluded twerp had obviously never experienced: his was an imaginary Britain which his upbringing and education would guarantee he’d never get close to in the flesh – lucky thing! There was no mention of his expensive prep school, or the countryside, or the monarchy or Wimbledon or Anglican church services or Ascot or art galleries or sailing or the opera or any of the things he actuallyhad experienced – he was evidently writing a CV for the working class constituency he’d be standing for one day.

Ask a Liberal what he loves about his country and he’ll either (a) tell you he feels himself to be more of a European, that international borders are a mere distraction, and that, as we are all brothers under the skin, he doesn’t believe in national characteristics - so the question is meaningless in any case, or (b) he’ll start banging on about the Tolpuddle Martyrs or the Poll Tax Riots or how marvellously warm immigrants are or Liverpudlian fish and chip shops or (yawn!) football matches (or cricket, if there happen to be a lot of oiks in the national team,  but never – ever! – rugby, which is disgracefully middle class and therefore deeply divisive), or (c) he’ll start cataloguing this country’s myriad faults – lack of enthusiasm for Europe, class divisions, the way the South-East owns and runs everything, snobbery, greed, racism etc. – i.e. the usual old bollocks. 

In this matter, Liberals prove once again how abnormal they are – there’s plenty to love about this country without retreating into pure fantasy; the idea that there’s no such things as national characteristics is ridiculous; and nothing about England is so terribly wrong that the most imaginatively stunted amongst us couldn’t think up a dozen marvellous things that they love about it – even if their  bizarre political views prevent them from admitting pride at these positive aspects.

Hating your country is really a displacement activity: it either means you hate yourself (who knows – you may be right to!) or it means your mind has been so warped by political fanaticism that you actually hate normal human beings, who, naturally, do love their country.

Remember what Michelle Obama said about her husband running for office? “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is making a comeback.” There speaks the true liberal (although whether this ghastly woman hates herself or just everybody who feels a welling of emotion when they salute the Stars and Stripes, I can’t tell - maybe a bit of both.) 

I’m not that crazy about myself, but I love both the countries I grew up in – Norway and England – and I’m absolutely delighted not to be a liberal!


  1. "I wonder which country the Swedes wish their country was more like".

    You are never forgiving us for the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, have you? Passed along by the defeated Danes via Bernadotte to us Swedes,like some Scandily-clad plaything protecting your virtue! We treat you good, don't stop you being free, leave you to it in 1905 and still not getany grateful words.

    Norway, my Scandiwegian friend, is not being the country any Swede would choose to turn Sweden into. Have you seen the price of herring in your homeland?
    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 09:44 PM

  2. My Norwegian relatives weren't half amused by the fact that Swedes - having allowed Socialism to wreck their economy - now pour into Norway to do all the crappy jobs the Norwegians can't be bothered to do any more. Clog on the other foot, huh? And Norway has managed to become wealthy without turning into a crime-ridden, high-immigrant hell-hole. And all because Norway stayed out of the EU. Bad luck, Torsten, old boy!
    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 10:00 PM