Local pride as patriotism

January 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Posted in British Politics | 5 Comments

Because it’s New Years Day and I missed The Sound of Music, I’m going to tell you a love story.

yorkshire-map

This is Yorkshire. I like Yorkshire and Yorkshire likes me. We’re made for each other.

There’s a lot about Yorkshire that I like. I like the barren beauty of the Pennines, the lush pastures of the Dales & the neon glint of Sheffield and (grudgingly) Leeds.

I like food. In fact, I like Yorkshire food. I like the breads and the cheeses and the meats, the ice cream, wine and cider. I like Yorkshire Pudding.

I like trivia. I like that Sheffield has more trees per person than any city in Europe, and can stretch from just 30m above sea level to more than 500m.

I like trams and trains and cycle paths. I like the Penistone line. I like that the Penistone line passes through a village which celebrates great and historic events by building an enormous pie.

I like the people. I like Compo, Clegg and Foggy. I like Alan Bennett. I like slagging off Michael Parkinson.

I like the pick ‘n mix possibilities of our cities, and the rustic monoculture of our countryside. I like that folks from Leeds don’t like people from Sheffield. I like that people from Barnsley don’t really like anyone. I like that none of ’em really mean it.

Lastly, I like the fact that if I’d been born anywhere else, I would be just as gushing about that.

Whilst reading Sunder Katwala’s excellent piece on patriotism and the search for some shared symbols which identify us as English, I was struck by the following thought: what if we’re looking at this whole thing from the wrong angle? Instead of trying to boil down this great vat of difference & eccentricity into a few platitudinous bromides, why can’t we anchor our patriotism in a deep sense of local pride?

From my own experience of teaching, exploiting the inherent attachment most kids have with their surroundings can be absolute dynamite, and watching the enthusiasm they put into something like fundraising for a local charity would quickly dispel any gloominess you might’ve had about a loss of citizenship and a ‘broken society’.

Sure, all this difference is difficult to write a song about, and even harder to accept if you’re looking to reattach patriotism to an antiquated vision of what it is to be English. But it does at least do away with the old conundrum of how you reconcile the more traditional ‘Englishness’ with our increasingly eclectic society.

I don’t know, it’s a thought which might need expanding upon a bit more. But for me, my sense of patriotism comes from a deep love for where I’m from, and the happy acknowledgement that there’ll be millions of people who feel the same way about wherever they live or come from.

In fact, I suspect even Lancastrians feel some affection for their own strange, backwards part of the world! And if you can find common ground between two old enemies, then you know there’s something to it

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5 Comments »

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  1. To me, when people start having to define “patriotism” or “nationality” in some sort of specific, exclusive way, I think the concept is cheapened.

    • Yeah, I can understand that, and I’d certainly agree if (for example) someone was to start arguing that certain symbols or forms of behaviour are ‘patriotic’ or ‘unpatriotic’. That leads you down a pretty sinister path, in my book.

      Cheers for the comment

  2. Me and another one of your lot had a row (think it was on 1st August: blooming Yorkshire Day!) and it rapidly degenerated to the level of insult. I think I might have called him a ‘child prince slayer’. All good fun.

    It’s true though, local rivalries often run so close as to be ridiculous. Liverpool and Manchester take the place of Leeds and Sheffield in your example*. And people from those two cities are very sneery about anyone considered a ‘woolyback’ from living out with the sheep. Often you’re talking about differences that can be counted in tens of miles.

    Perhaps that’s why any appeal to Britishness or Englishness always ultimately fails? No one wants to be seen to join up with ‘that lot down the road’.

    * Although I confess to being overjoyed when Leeds did Man U the other week, so the loyalties can’t run that deep, can they?!

    • Y’know what, I always forget to actually celebrate Yorkshire day. Try finding an Irishman or a Scot who’d say the same thing. But yeah, I think you’re right that it’s this local rivalry which gets in the way of appealing to Britishness, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As perverse as ‘you’re not from round ‘ere, are you?’ can get at times, I think the negative examples of regional pride aren’t nearly as bad as the negative examples of national pride.

      And yes, I was delighted when Leeds beat Man Utd, and I bloody hate Leeds! :)

  3. That’s it: rejoicing in Man U defeats is the thing we all agree on!


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