June 25, 2021

Chapter 6 – Reflections on Englishness, Britishness and living in Europe

I jotted down a few thoughts about the above a few days ago whilst sitting in a field surrounded by horses.

I was born and grew up in the vicinity of Birmingham, England.

When people in Germany, where I live now, ask if something is “typically English”, I am often at a loss to explain and frequently say that it isn´t. It may be typical of a part of the population but not in a general sense for all.

I see England as numerous strata living in the same area. There is a priviledged stratum with access to good education, excellent further education, thereafter well-paid jobs which, in turn, allow access to good schooling and opportunities. There is a non-priviledged stratum with little to no access to the above and imbetween various strata with varying degrees of access and utilisation (in both senses). They appear to me to be an emulsion of fundamentally different things.

When I was a teenager I liked to explore the common island and found that, hardly a hundred miles from my place of birth, I could not pronounce place names such that the locals could recognise them from what I said. When asking for directions I had to prod a map and point to the place names. The local pronounciation was far from my attempts to replicate them.

An island with many different people and cultures.

After encountering the concept of “Britishness”, which is something I still find bemusing, I could only find sense in it by looking for unifying factors in a conglomerate of differences. As in a geological conglomerate, there is no unifying crystalline structure but more the fascination of a spring field with its myriad of differences.

England is not homogeneous. Britain is not homogeneous.

The only sense I can find in “Britishness” is a unifying concept of accepting and tolerating differences in, for example, religion, language, colour, beginnings and endings. Our history has not always been a glowing example of this.

As someone who has lived in Europe all my life and in continental Europe for most of it so far, I find the European idea more accessible as a concept. The concept of Europe in a political sense has always been an amalgamation of differences united by common aims and a desire for peace after a history of war and destruction.

When Europeans meet they first need to find their “best” common language and for this there are a number of candidates, interestingly, often English. Europe is, by definition, a community of neighbouring or nearby affiliated states.

This brings me round to the idea that English is a “common word set”, a way to communicate, it allows an exchange of perspectives and ideas between differences. It is a binding mass in a conglomerate. Britishness expands this to include numerous individual and different cultures. Europe is, by political definition, a community of individual and different states.


I have included below, for general erudition, first an excerpt from the Maastricht treaty with a list of signatories including a surprising number of monarchs and the general aims and motivations for the document, then a pdf of the treaty itself for those who would like to leaf through it:

HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS,

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF DENMARK,

THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY,

THE PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC,

HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF SPAIN,

THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC,

THE PRESIDENT OF IRELAND,

THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC,

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GRAND DUKE OF LUXEMBOURG,

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS,

THE PRESIDENT OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC,

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND,

RESOLVED to mark a new stage in the process of European integration undertaken with the estab­lishment of the European Communities,

RECALLING the historic importance of the ending of the division of the European continent and the need to create firm bases for the construction of the future Europe,

CONFIRMING their attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law,

DESIRING to deepen the solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their traditions,

DESIRING to enhance further the democratic and efficient functioning of the institutions so as to enable them better to carry out, within a single institutional framework, the tasks entrusted to them,

RESOLVED to achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a single and stable currency,

DETERMINED to promote economic and social progress for their peoples, within the context of the accomplishment of the internal market and of reinforced cohesion and environmental protection, and to implement policies ensuring that advances in economic integration areaccompanied by parallel progress in other fields,

RESOLVED to establish a citizenship common to nationals of their countries,

RESOLVED to implement a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence, thereby reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world,

REAFFIRMING their objective to facilitate the free movement of persons, while ensuring the safety and security of their peoples, by including provisions on justice and home affairs in this Treaty,

RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe ,in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity,

INVIEW of further steps to be taken in order to advance European integration,

HAVE DECIDED to establish a European Union and to this end have designated as their plenipoten­tiaries:…

from: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF


OJ-C-1992-191-FULL-EN-TXT

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