I had the continued pleasure of listening to Radio 2 quite a bit today – including the Jeremy Vine show. Hidden amongst a dreary line up, there was a hidden gem of philosophical brilliance – the “Violence against expats” bit.
Basically, it being an apparently slow news day, this was a discussion about a British family who were forced out of their house in Brittany, France as the result of what may be hostile locals. This was obviously such a high profile incident, I can’t find any links to it elsewhere on the BBC site. For all I know, the Jeremy Vine show made it up (it wouldn’t be the first time the BBC faked something…).
Anyway, the debate was pretty much as you would expect – lots of people saying there was no hostility, all the French people love the British etc. Until one Scottish woman phoned in. Now, given the BBC’s track record on faking phone ins, she may have been a plant to stir things up (she failed) but she actually seemed to reflect a common opinion I have heard elsewhere. The call came (around the 48min point if you are listening online) soon after a French journalist went to great lengths to say how the French people, especially in Brittany, are welcoming and friendly – even going as far as to specify how the French love the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Cornish. Hmm. This was followed by the Scottish woman, who phoned in to say how wonderful and friendly the French people she meets every year are. She built on this by saying how all the English people were loud, obnoxious, drunken etc., and how she can understand why the French hate them.
What an amazing turn of a stereotype. Scottish people calling the English loud drunkards. Wow. 😀
Sadly, over the last year or so, during my travels throughout the wonderful UNITED Kingdom, I have heard this refrain many a time. Fortunately for me it is normally aimed at “southerners” (specifically people from Essex and Kent) who are often described as trouble makers, violent, drunken, aggressive and so on, so I am safe! The show also went on about the problems overseas is when British (well, English mainly) expats go to a country and want to speak English and buy English food products, drink in English (well, normally Irish, but you get the point) bars and the like.
The problem with this, as with all stereotypes, is it is pure nonsense and goes a long way to encourage discrimination. It is entertaining that the “poor” English are being criticised for wanting to shop in “English” shops, when most cities in the England, if not the whole UK, have a broad selection of ethnic minority food stores – all the super markets stock a selection of non-UK foodstuffs, all part of our wonderful desire to allow foreigners to feel at home. Are these people, while saying how wonderful the French are, really saying they are actually much more insular and hostile to outsiders than the English?
Finally, the biggest issue I have with it (obviously, being English, these upstart tribespeople should be kept in their place, so it all offended me but I’ll try to stick to the point… 😀 ) is that the comments bandied around would be intolerable if they were directed against a skin colour, hair colour, gender, age group and so on. Take the phrase “The problem is not with British people but with English people” and replace English with “Black.” Does the phrase remain acceptable? Try the same with “Brittany was wonderful but it was full of English people” seems reasonable (especially if you are not English), but if it had been “but it was full of Black people” then it would be viewed as offensive. The caller on Jeremy Vine goes on to say about how the English children and adults are badly behaved and how embarrassing they are. Can you imagine any modern day, state funded radio show broadcasting such comments if they had been “Asian children are badly behaved” or “Black people are loud troublemakers.” It would certainly surprise me.
Given that the changed examples I have made above would not be acceptable (and rightly so), why is it deemed acceptable to make the comments about English people? As with all groups of people, there will be obnoxious BRITISH people everywhere you go, some will be English, some wont be. In the last month I have had two separate occasions where I have been surrounded by Scottish tourists who have been obnoxiously drunk and shouting abuse at passers-by. Does this mean that Scottish people are obnoxious drunks? No. It means those people were obnoxious drunks, and they happened to be Scottish.
The problems with racism, ageism, sexism and so on, stem from it discriminating against someone based on qualities which the person has no say over, no ability to change and which have no real relevance to the issue. Some black people will be lazy, but to extrapolate all black people are lazy is sheer madness. The same logical problem applies to making assumptions based on where someone was born and brought up. The comments made were apparently acceptable because English people are willing to take insults and offensive remarks – maybe it is because we are better than the Celts… 😀
Footnote: I dont for one second think that the pre-Roman tribes in Britain were Celtic tribes, if they were the Romans would have described them as Celts. I also dont for one picosecond think that the current day people living in Ireland, Wales, Scotland or Cornwall (Cornwall for Toutatis’ sake!) are any more genetically pure “Celts” than I am – at least I have a blood group associated with the Celts 🙂 .
[tags]Philosophy, Society, Logic, Reason, Culture, Celts, English, UK, Logic, History, Discrimination[/tags]