This is England

thornberry_3113624bIn the first of a series of articles looking at contemporary English culture and politics in the run-up to St George’s Day 2016, Jay Griffiths reflects on stolen English indigeneity.

In the deserts, a woman is staring at the parched landscape of arid plains. Her heart is thirsty, she is downcast and homesick, yearning for the fertile lands where she was born, for its moist and tumbling leaves, for the cool mountains and rivers and the meadows of sheer and vivid green.

To console her nostalgia, her husband builds colonnades and arches, fills a garden with plants and irrigates it all with a filigree of waterlines until it flourishes with myrtles, until almonds bask in the sun, until date palms sweeten and pomegranates swell, until grapevines curl their tendrils to the touch of his beloved queen.

So Nebuchadnezzar created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for Queen Amytis and so, too, an ancient portrait of homesickness was carved, a love of one’s land so specific that its loss can make you sicken, hurt with the ‘ache for home’ as nostalgia means in the roots of the word. Homesickness is a longing for the place of your belonging, its exact contour and climate, where the land knows you and calls you by some deft especial name, where the heart finds its first hearth. The raw imperative of a first love.

It is as if humans are born with the capacity to love the land on which we first set eyes. It is as if we have an inner template for this home-land-love, which is then adapted to the precise landscape of our childhood. This is a parallel for Chomsky’s theory of the template for the grammar of language, by which a child is born with the ability to learn Language, an innate, pre-set template which is then tuned to the specific language which surrounds them. So perhaps we are born with an innate capacity to love our land, though that may be riverlands of wild garlic and bluebells or desertlands of catfish and hot springs; lands which talk with the brogue of heather or the vernacular of oak woodland; lands which speak the argot of snow or the dialect of the savannah. For, despite the diversity of landscapes where humans have dwelled, the one constant is the ready love in the human heart.

In this, more than anything, is a demonstration of the indigenous human being, where the foot is moulded to the land it walks, the language entwined with locale so that the human being knows its dwelling well, somewhere warm for the spirit, snug with the scent of dog-fox and desire.

When I wrote Wild, I was intrigued by many conversations with indigenous people, from shamans of the Amazon to Inuit people of the Arctic, about their love of land, its wildness and its sense of home. Indigenous people said repeatedly ‘We are the land’ and exile from their lands – through its destruction, through land theft – ruptures their identity so painfully that it causes a sickness of the heart, mind and body.

This is a birthright, this love of land. This indigenous nativity is a profound aspect of our human identity. But for the English, it is a contorted feeling, knotted with nastiness and silence, complicated by racism, guilt and empire. Yet, for many people, it is also the source of an almost unfathomable nostalgia, an ache of the heart which all the hanging gardens of the world cannot console.

This is a birthright, this love of land. This indigenous nativity is a profound aspect of our human identity. But for the English, it is a contorted feeling, knotted with nastiness and silence, complicated by racism, guilt and empire. Yet, for many people, it is also the source of an almost unfathomable nostalgia, an ache of the heart which all the hanging gardens of the world cannot console.

The English can be either envious of indigenous cultures or poisonously racist towards them. For the racists, contempt suffices. But the envious response invites questions. Where are our old gods and songlines? The genius loci? The spirit of place? Why don’t we, or can’t we, sing our own folk songs? Why are the English so obsessed with selected pockets of history and simultaneously ignorant of most of it? What are the causes of our exile?

If you are a Palestinian, the cause of your exile is only too knowable, as poet Mahmoud Darwish discovered when he was six years’ old and the Israeli Army destroyed his village, leaving ruins. He would become an ‘internal refugee’, a ‘present-absent alien’. In 2001, Israeli bulldozers ripped open his village’s cemetery for a road, churning up human remains from the ground, bulldozing the past. For Palestinians, memory is necessary, while for the Israelis, it is better to have a sketchy memory for atrocities committed. There was (is) a similar pattern between the English and the Irish, as Eamon de Valera noted, saying that the difficulty was that ‘the English never remember, the Irish never forget.’ The vanquished are left with nothing but exile and memory while the victors are left with land which does not speak to them. Within Britain, the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Cornish know a love of land which the English, so often, do not experience. Why so? In part, because the first acts of empire were internal, making Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall into colonies. But in the long run, it is the English who have become ‘internal refugees’ in terms of culture and home-land-love.

Dispossessing, murdering and enslaving indigenous people, and removing them from their lands, was the story of empire. But if one mentions the reckless cruelties imposed for the sake of empire, the chances are that someone will sneer that one is suffering from a hand-wringing post-imperialist guilt, as if guilt is an unhygienic bad habit, a perversion, a personality-disorder. Should the British (and particularly the English) feel guilty for the atrocities of Empire? Of course we bloody should. To abuse people without a flicker of guilt is something only psychopaths would be proud of. After the empire, though, after a few guilty recollections, what then? We have, collectively, through neoliberalism, through corporations, through consumerism, through extractive industries and the arms trade, continued to crush the peoples of the world who we first impoverished by empire. Should the British feel guilty now? Of course we bloody should.

Dispossessing, murdering and enslaving indigenous people, and removing them from their lands, was the story of empire. But if one mentions the reckless cruelties imposed for the sake of empire, the chances are that someone will sneer that one is suffering from a hand-wringing post-imperialist guilt, as if guilt is an unhygienic bad habit, a perversion, a personality-disorder. Should the British (and particularly the English) feel guilty for the atrocities of Empire? Of course we bloody should.

The psychopath insists that one should not dwell on the past. Onwards, onwards on the road to the future! But the past is where the deep truths of today were seeded. The past plays cause to today’s consequence. Memory has become a political act and it is more radical to remember our history accurately than to don a balaclava and smash up a McDonald’s.

But for the English in particular, memory is difficult. We seem to want to remember Robin Hood, King Arthur and Puck perhaps, but Olde England seems to be visible only as some cheesy Avalon seen through the windscreen of a BMW, or some beer mug with the Green Man leering in the handle. For something more profound, deeper in the spirit of the land seems shy of us. The gods won’t play. Something in the land will not grant us an authentic dwelling for the soul, as if some shame palls the land for us, as if our English indigeneity is something we want and yet can’t find.

You can do a straightforward Google search which gives one answer as to why the indigeneity of the English is a contorted feeling. Type in ‘indigenous Britons’ and seven out of the first ten websites are BNP-related. ‘The liberal-left love to applaud Native Americans for their “soul and soil” approach to life, but we [BNP] reflect such an approach in our own Nationalist mindset,’ says one website. Blood and soil. No one in their right mind wants to be seen anywhere near the hateful BNP, so the territory of English indigeneity is stolen by the far-right. The human home-land-love is perverted into a hatred of other people’s pigmentation and a queasy calculation of blood quota.

Blood and soil. No one in their right mind wants to be seen anywhere near the hateful BNP, so the territory of English indigeneity is stolen by the far-right. The human home-land-love is perverted into a hatred of other people’s pigmentation and a queasy calculation of blood quota.

The ‘Nationalist mindset’ and nation-states are fake political constructs, used frequently to attack, demean or destroy others. Land, on the other hand, is unarguable and unartificial. By dishonestly merging those two concepts, the far-right has poisoned, for all the English, one of the sweetest wellsprings of the human heart. If the white underclass who support the BNP had any education about their own history, they might be able to see that the cause of their feeling of alienation and exile is massive wealth disparity and enclosure; that their true enemies are the odiously wealthy, and a legalised system of land thefts. What the British have done abroad, in the form of imperialism, has also happened within Britain and indeed to most of the English – the corporate colonialism and the colonising of common land by which the wealthy have made serfs of the rest of us.

Start with some contemporary facts of land ownership; some 0.6% of the population owns 69% of the land, so we the commoners are fundamentally homeless in our own land. That is as shocking as any other statistic on the apartheid of land rights. Further, the wealthy landowners have also propelled the factory-farming agribusiness which strips the land of specialness; the hare, the ‘stag of the stubble’ becomes rare. The land is made dumb and speechless, cannot utter its idiosyncratic thoughts. And if it could, would we the commoners be there to hear it? The enclosures, by which the vast majority of us were made internal exiles, was an outright theft of land from which we English Commoners have never recovered. ‘Private: Keep Out’ signs warn us off our own land, even innocent strollers find that landowners set dogs on them and order the walkers off their own home-land, at gunpoint.

For the English (myself, I’m partly English, partly Welsh), one sublime measure of indigenous English culture is Shakespeare. Native to Warwickshire, his work is steeped in the countryside of Stratford, of remembrance and radish and thyme and rue. All of humanity is there in Shakespeare – lovers and schemers, soldiers and poets, priests, shepherds and fools. Well, almost all of humanity – one is missing, a representative of the tribe of fatuous shoppers, stampeding to get an Elizabethan IKEA sofa at half price. Now, in this age of consumerism, ‘Hamlet’ is a brand name and the ‘Forest of Arden’ is an expensive hotel with a golf course. Shakespeare didn’t put the consumer on the stage but in contrast, modernity puts the consumer centre-stage. People on trains are not ‘passengers’ but ‘customers’. People in therapy rooms are not ‘patients’ but ‘clients’. People hanging around on the streets are not ‘citizens’ ‘flâneurs’ or ‘flirters’ but always ‘shoppers.’ Everywhere, we are not people but ‘consumers’, the cash aspect of the relationship privileged over every other aspect of traveling, healing, mooching, chattering.

Consumerism causes cultural eviction, dislocating us all with bland shopping arcades, gigantised, off-ground and artificial, always the same, from the sameness of purpose, to the sameness of product, making every place the same as every other, evicting us from the especial nature of locale. Formed in the barrenness of numbness, this is a wasteland for the human spirit. Tourism has been famously referred to as ‘cheap holidays in other people’s misery’. If only that were all. Consumerism is lifelong holidays in other people’s misery; the global exploitation of land and lives for the sake of the pampered consumer. But consumerism, (‘because you’re worth it and they’re not’) will also give you the shampoo to wash that guilt right out of your hair, will give you the conditioner to recondition morality to continue the exploitation and extermination, guilt-free. And, yes, extermination is the correct term for the slow mass murders of consumption.

Consumerism causes cultural eviction, dislocating us all with bland shopping arcades, gigantised, off-ground and artificial, always the same, from the sameness of purpose, to the sameness of product, making every place the same as every other, evicting us from the especial nature of locale. Formed in the barrenness of numbness, this is a wasteland for the human spirit.

This is Babylon, the corrupt übercapitalism, the tidal waves of corporate takeover, commercial invasion, car parks and shopping malls across the green and singing land, roads on roads, built for commerce and consumerism, blanking out the songlines of this land.


For one long moment in my life, I heard the earthsongs of England. For one exquisite time, I saw the old gods honoured with an authenticity that left me in tears.

During the anti-roads protests of the nineties, the motley-wearers (artists, punks, shamans, squaddies, students, the homeless, pagans, and peasants) fought for their land, literally putting their lives on the line when the authorities issued orders so reckless as to risk murdering the protesters. They wore the feathers of birds for the flight of the gods, they lit the fires of the solstices and paid raw tribute to the earth. They picked up by ear the old songs, gentle as violets, tough as badger’s teeth. Crucially, in every aspect of the protests they created a distinction – and an opposition – between the state and the land. They loved their land and hated their state, defied it with all they had, when the bulldozers came, building roads through the homeland of history, ripping apart the beauty which had graced those woodlands for generations. The protesters referred to the world of consumerism, cars and capitalism as the ‘Babylon’ of today.

To me, the protests were extraordinarily significant, rare as hares, it signified how authentic belonging to the land was something which had to be earned. To belong is to love is to defend with your life if need be. Among the camps – grubby, feral, crusty, sweet-hearted, pissed-up, kind, angry – the gods, who are never for sale, played. I’m no deist, and to me the gods were metaphor and personification and symbol, they were expressions of the land’s indigenous psyche. And they were green to the teeth, rampant and gurning.

One day, representatives of an indigenous community from Bolivia, similarly campaigning against a road (the Pan-American highway) visited one of the sites. ‘We salute you,’ said the indigenous representatives to the protesters, ‘as the indigenous people of Britain. Your fight is the same as ours; you are fighting to defend the land.’ It was honey to hear that idea of indigenous Britons used as far from the BNP as it is possible to get.

There is a word so ancient that you can hardly say the word in sneering metropolitan circles. It is honour. The protesters honoured the land which came alive in their honour. The drums befriended the trees, the bells woke the woodlands. With their treehouses streaming ribbons, flowers and webs, the protesters created the Hanging Gardens in the Babylon of concrete and tarmac. From Babylon which, both ancient and modern, represents corruption, power and wealth, they wrested a corner for the mead moon, the Green Man of the woods who here was neither toy nor relic but reignited, arising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Beltane fire.

It is as if there is a kind of earth-ethic, an underground morality in this, whereby in order to experience one’s home-land-love, in order for the indigenous human heart to belong profoundly to its land, there is a necessary sacrifice. It was exemplified, for me, by the sacrifices made by the protesters; the exposure, ill-health, injuries, stress and burnout, but those are not the only people who know sacrifice to stay true to their lands. The hillfarmers of Wales, the crofters of Scotland and the smallholders of English farms (almost rubbed out by supermarkets and large landowners) also know the high price of fidelity to one’s acre.

But for those who steal the fat of other people’s lands, who take far more than their fair share, and then ask for a taste of mead or the melody of the Ash Grove: those who gobble the resources of others and parade their lives of high consumption and then search for the god Lugh or the spirit of the woods, will find, simply, that they can’t have both. You cannot take without giving, and if you refuse to give, then something will be taken from you, probably in the coin of the soul. All religions are wise to this: where there is guilt, the gods flee.

What indigenous cultures seem universally to recognise is that every act has consequence. Where something is taken, something must be given in exchange. Everything is in a state of balance by which there is a price for everything, a measure for every measure in the scales.

You cannot change the laws of physics, but I’d add that you cannot change the laws of metaphysics either. For high-consuming lifestyles (which indirectly but certainly rob other people of their home-land) have a boomerang effect, causing a loss of belonging to the consumer.

I have tried to look at this in moral terms, but our language of morality (so good on person-to-person morality) seems to gloss over collective morality, and wholly omit an ethic of earth. I am searching, then, to describe some truth of the psyche so profound that it is not only a psychological truth but also an ethic grounded in the mind’s land and the land’s mind, some irrefutable and intrinsic geometry of earth-kind.

For the English to have back our deep, lovely Englishness, we need to remember our past soberly, and to stop repeating its iniquities today through the devious reach of corporate colonialism. If we want to experience our home-land-love, we need to honour other people’s home-lands. We need to educate ourselves about our real history. We need to oppose our nation state for its racism, dishonesty and greed. We need to renounce the political and financial gains made from our nation’s exploitations and wars. If we want our English identity back, if we want to belong to our lands, we have to take our hands off other people’s. And at home, the wealthy, if they want to belong, have to return the lands to the Commoners. They won’t, I know, but what they lose, without question, is the true belonging of the human heart.

Indigenous people frequently say that they belong to the land. Landowners claim that the land belongs to them. Ownership is the opposite of belonging and for the large landowners of Britain, the more they own, the less they belong. Some of these large landowners evade tax by calling themselves ‘non-domiciled’. Intended simply as a tax category it in fact carries a far greater (and sadder) poetic truth.

Aboriginal Australians often speak of belonging to their land, and when there is any sense of ‘owning’ land, it is an ownership which involves not money but knowledge. The knowers of the land, the knowers of the songlines, are the true owners of it. Hedge by hedge, hare by hare, stanza by stanza and grove by grove, the land of England is there to be known, and there are those whose nostalgia for it hurts them. But as it was the very wealth of Babylon which both seduced and exiled Queen Amytis, so it is the wealth of a modern Babylon which seduces and exiles us all who, yearning for a sense of home, find that all the power, wealth and corruption of a consumer Babylon will not console this yearning unless some powerful restitution is made.

………………

Jay Griffiths is the author of ‘Wild: An Elemental Journey’ (Hamish Hamilton) and ‘Tristimania: A Diary of Manic Depression’ (Hamish Hamilton). This article was published first in Dark Mountain Issue 1

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  1. Robert says:

    Thank you, Jay Griffiths, for this genial exploration of Englishness. I wonder why it has to appear on a Scottish website?

    But let me ask you this. What about those of us (and we are many, and many more every year) whose national identity is not simple and clear-cut? Hybrids by birth, migration or upbringing? Even someone like me, born in England of an English father and an American mother: growing up I always felt like I was not 100% English, like I was excluded from “belonging” to my native land. How much worse, of course, for those English-born people whose “non-belonging” is visible on the skin rather than hidden inside.

    Later I realised that this non-belonging is the very essence of English culture. Whether it’s because the way you speak or the way you write or the way you dress, someone will always be ready to make you feel unwelcome in “their” place, whether it’s a working class area of Coventry or the Royal Opera House. No wonder English people don’t talk to each other unless introduced.

    But yes, you’re dead right about that longing for home. I’ve lived outside England for fifteen years and still feel that out-of-place, home-longing nearly every day.

    But longing for what? A land where I never felt I truly belonged; a land that, even as I was growing up under Thatcher and Major, was in the process of being stolen out from under me.

    “We have, collectively, through neoliberalism, through corporations, through consumerism, through extractive industries and the arms trade, continued to crush the peoples of the world who we first impoverished by empire. Should the British feel guilty now? Of course we bloody should.”

    No, I don’t agree. Can you remind me, please, when I was consulted on these policies by British state or its corporate partners/masters? No, I don’t remember it either. No, I refuse to carry a burden of guilt for a system I never signed up for, in addition to the burden of anger I feel at the loss of a homeland. I feel regret at missed opportunities to challenge the system, not having done all I could to fight it; but collective guilt? No, I’m not biting that hook.

    1. Angus McKinnon says:

      As per Robert, I too “wonder why it has to appear on a Scottish website?”

      That the English are a wonderful people, are our neighbours and a peoples Scots should be good friends with will never change – I could go on, but I wanted to place that up front!

      That England is run by a bunch of elite chancers who view Scotland as a possession and exploit Scotland for their own ends, must change, for Scots sakes, soon!

      England has lost an empire and is looking for a role, never a truer phrase. Sadly many now see the purpose of that role to keep Scotland subjugated to prevent them losing face further or cascading down the perceived roll of importance in world standing. The last vestige of empire! What is depressing is that the labour party are supporting the English ruling elite in their endeavours, not only in keeping Scotland, but trident too and a reversing of the benefits of the welfare state.

      Can England not stand on its own without bullying its smaller neighbours into a phoney union?

      Resting on, or paying great importance the laurels of Shakespeare or Milton, is irrelevant, this is 2016, the best read intellect in the cabinet of English millionaires that is the uk cabinet is Boris Johnson.

      England needs to find a role soon, within a few months it could become clear that future role is without Scotland and outside the EU. I’d prefer Scotland’s largest neighbour to remain within the EU, but for me first and every time Scotland comes first and what the English do is up to them, as it should be.

      Lastly you state:

      “Dispossessing, murdering and enslaving indigenous people, and removing them from their lands, was the story of empire.”

      Sadly not a story of distant empire in Scotland, this is a story of the uk government’s policy in Scotland called the Highland Clearances, a policy of ethnic cleansing that lasted for over 150 years, prior to that we had over 500 years plus of unwanted incursions!

      A lesson for you to take away from this blog is that England should remain within its own borders whilst having good relations with its neighbours!

  2. ian says:

    Being Scottish and having left the UK seven years to live in France i have reached a crossroads where i feel independence for my country is now an imperative.I never believed independence was a possibility before i left but like many i was awakened from my slumber thanks to the independence debate.I have been left with a deep feeling of being “had”re the whitewashing of our history and the economic realities of Scotland.I have no wish to impose my way of thinking on England its up to them which path they take and they should respect us in the same way.If Scotland acheives independence its the best thing that could happen to ordinary people in England and maybe they could take their country back.

  3. Alan says:

    Becoming independent also means recovering our own history which requires coming to terms with Scotland’s role in Empire. Scotland did pretty well out of the Union for many years because the Union meant we got to participate in the British Empire and we often participated out of proportion to the relative size of our population.

    1. Gashty McGonnard says:

      Aye. If karma’s a thing, we’re screwed too.

      Or maybe that’s too harsh. The British Empire’s first colony was England – and the British elite managed to harm the English in a way they didn’t manage elsewhere – by fully replacing love of land, community and culture with servility to queen and empire as the mark of belonging.

      They tried to poison our Scottish well in the same way. Independent or no, well be bucketing it out for a long while yet.

    2. A different Steve says:

      I think this is a good point. I get the feeling that some people think that Independence will wash away the sins of the past and of Empire (nothing to do with me). But there’s no such thing as a clean break here. Much of modern Scotland was shaped by Empire (e.g. wealth derived from sugar plantations) and that should be recognised.
      And whilst it wasn’t necessarily ordinary Scots doing the damage, the same is surely true of ordinary English folk. Equally, I doubt that the slaves and indigenous people that have been oppressed would care much for the distinction either.

  4. Steven Milne says:

    Surely a contender for the Pat Kane Award for unreadable, pretentious twaddle.

    My law lecturer once advised me to think of an essay like a girls skirt. It needs to be long enough to contain the key points but short enough to be interesting.

    1. Alan says:

      There’s much better writing on Bella covering somewhat similar ground: Irvine Welsh on ‘Scottish Independence and British Unity’

      1. Hi Alan – Irvine’s essay was pretty good, true. But Jay is writing as an English woman and has quite a different perspective?

        1. Strategist says:

          It’s not a fair criticism to complain about a piece by saying it’s not as well written as one by Irvine Welsh – who is after all a highly successful professional writer.

          This is an interesting piece with some great insight and passion. The roads protest camps of the 1990s were really definitive experiences for a generation of people, and it is good to hear from one of their participants.

          Thanks for publishing this, and as an Englishman who like to read this site, I look forward to the next one.

          People who choose to go heavily negative below the line, really need to ask themselves a question: ‘who am I, and what good do I think I am doing?’.

          1. Alan says:

            I was just pointing out an earlier article in Bella that I felt had compelling things to say about Englishness. I wasn’t complaining that this essay wasn’t as well written as the piece by Welsh.

            I don’t share the some of the more harsh opinions expressed about the writing here. However, I’m not going to hold back on saying that the essay didn’t work for me. There are lots of essays posted on Bella that don’t appeal to me and some that I think is great. For example, I very much liked John Warren’s recent London First essay. With the writing above it wasn’t so much the quality of the writing as the depth of the analysis. I don’t buy the notions of “stolen” identity and “indigenous human being”. These have no essence. These are things that constantly being negotiated and fabricated. Scratch the idea and you uncover conflict, struggle, mythology, and selective history.

          2. Fair enough. I was just trying to explain why we were pleased to publish it.

            A lot of this is very subjective.

    2. Strategist says:

      Yes indeed, fair enough Alan. And to hasten to add, my criticism of people going over-negative under the line was not directed at you, it was directed at others who had criticised less constructively – I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear. Thanks to your comment, I have now re-read the Welsh piece, so that is great: a good example of making the comments below a Bella article a rewarding rather than depressing experience.

      I think you are right about the article, it doesn’t fully work in many ways, but I respect (a) Bella’s decision to publish it, in spite of the risks and (b) Jay Griffiths for having a go at writing it.

      I have great respect for anyone who stuck it out in the cold and the wet of one of the anti-roads protest camps. Their reward was to experience a relationship with the land and nature that few of us full time townies will ever personally get, so it is interesting to read a piece by someone who did it.

      1. Alan says:

        See response to the first question in this interview. It is much easier to play the polemics game than the dialogue game so a lot of discourse is polemical, a matter of investigation and conviction rather than one of critical exchange and, hopefully, shared discovery. And, I claim no superiority or innocence on this matter.

  5. Steven Milne says:

    It is somewhat disingenuous of Jay Griffiths to cite the BNP as being representative of England (they are mentioned 4 times in the article).

    The population of England is north of 50 million.

    In the last general election the BNP gained 1,667 (one thousand six hundred and sixty seven) votes.

  6. Robert Williamson says:

    King Arthur, English? I think not. Fought against the invading Saxons.

  7. Ian says:

    racist article

  8. Julia Gibb says:

    Another article that convinces me that some in-house power battle has taken place within Bella and the nut cases won!

    The site has gone from being a leading light in the Indy movement to something akin to a unionist propaganda parody attempting to undermine the arguement for nationhood.

    So sad to see the decline of a site that was once an essential read.

    1. Angus McKinnon says:

      Sadly we all note that, parodying the herald!

  9. Mitchie says:

    At least we can put to bed any lingering doubts about the bullshit of ‘civic’ nationalism. The xenophobia reeks.

    1. Steven Milne says:

      The civic nationalists in the Independence movement have been swamped by those who are motivated by extreme socialism and/or anti English bigotry.

      1. Angus McKinnon says:

        I have always thought it strange people like you don’t thank the Scottish Nationalist movement for the democratic and non violent means it has adopted, enforced and followed over these past 100 plus years?

        Have you an example, not just in Europe, but world wide, where there is a movement who has maintained such disciplined non violent means to secure freedom?

        We all note you can’t cite the country that you have allegiance too, you probably couldn’t cite a decade where they haven’t been at war in the past 60 years!

        1. Mitchie says:

          What you mean apart from South Africa? or the civil rights movement in the US, how about the Velvet revolution in the Czech republic or the Carnation revolution in Portugal? Iceland? Slovenia? The DDR? latvia? Lithuania? Estonia? Norway? Slovakia…??????

          Jesus, the ignorance is astonishing. And what do you want, a medal for not being the IRA?

  10. JohnEdgar says:

    Whatever Englishness is, it has nothing to do with z”King Arthur”. The Arthur mentioned was not English, he was a Celtic Briton who fought the “English”, the Germanic Anglo-Saxon invader.
    It is the English “historian” sho writes about Kings of Britain and mentions Henry VIII of England as one, or even worse Alfred the Great. The eternal confusion between English and British reigns supreme south of the Tweed. Hence the use of Anglo- in foreign relations between the UK and other countries!
    With EVEL, the UK parliament has been turned into a quasi English parliament.
    There is a crisis of identity in England and the UK, especially in the yoonies of North Britain.

  11. Robert says:

    Those commenters who have complained that King Arthur isn’t really English are missing the point the writer is making about the legendary figures that the English “seem to want to remember”.

    Yes, King Arthur is British, not English (and is also associated with Brittany, or Little Britain); that doesn’t stop the English claiming him as part of their own culture, too. The Arthurian legends of a British hero resisting the invading Saxons came to prominence in the middle ages, when the Saxons were resisting the invading Normans. No wonder they were adopted so fully into the English folk imagination.

    As for Puck and Robin Hood, some people think they are one and the same character, but don’t lets go there.

    1. JohnEdgar says:

      How can you claim Arthur for your culture when he resisted your ancestors who were trying to conquer the native Britons?
      That is the perennial problem with English historiography.The Arthur depicted in popular lore is a “Norman Knight”.
      Indeed, the English see William who conquered them as a ” good thing”. And then talk about the Norman invasion of Britain, which it was not.

      1. Robert says:

        Arthur _has_ been claimed, not by me, but by British folk cultures in general, including the English. The historical Arthur fought against the Saxons, sure, but we’re talking about legend, not history.

        Arthur has always been depicted as a British king fighting the Saxons since the histories of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory. Who ever said he was a Norman knight?

        The fact that he _was_ British made it possible for the stories to circulate openly in the Middle English of Malory, as well as in the French of the Norman rulers, when stories of a Saxon resistance leader would have been suppressed.

        Where do you get the idea that “the English” thought or think the Norman conquest was a good thing, anyway?

  12. John Page says:

    Thanks, Bella…….another enjoyable article………I must move Wild nearer the top of my unread pile after this….I am particularly interested in this idea of consumerism and alienation from a sense of place/land.
    John Page

    1. Ian Wight says:

      I’d like to second this perspective… a very insightful and insight-filled piece on/at the intersection of indigeneity and belonging, and on the importance and significance of one’s ‘primal place’. There is much here to inform collective morality, that might benefit many ‘collectivities’ – not just England. I too will want to pursue her book, Wild, for more of her elemental wisdom. Thanks for publishing this…

  13. john young says:

    Teach Scottish history in our schools,this may then give rise to acknowledgement/respect of our countrymens achievements at home and abroad.As for the English rightly or wrongly they have pride in their country,whereas we have around 40% of the population that will have nothing to do with the land of their birth.

  14. Leslie E says:

    Congratulations on a fine piece of racism, you bampot

  15. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Could one of the eejits complaining about ‘racism’ in this article please explain their view?

    … No, I thought not.

  16. A different Steve says:

    Whilst there are some interesting points raised in the article around land ownership I found it a bit meandering.
    I think one issue with the premise of the article is that surely it must be difficult to have a single “indigenous” character in a country as populous and diverse as England. Throughout its history it has been invaded and settled. But I don’t see how this is a uniquely English phenomenon. Is England any different to other large Western states in terms of it’s folklore and connection to the land – France, Germany, Spain, USA?

    More unforgivable though is that the author is a very lazy with their generalisations about “The English”. For example “The English can be either envious of indigenous cultures or poisonously racist towards them” – really? That’s it, just that binary option in the minds of 50 million English people? Is a former Yorkshire miner or 2nd generation immigrant weighed down by this same guilt of Empire? And should someone in Newcastle bear more of this burden then someone in Dumfries as the title suggests?

    Whilst I think it’s true some English people feel disconnected from a sense of place who’s to say that’s true of everyone? After-all strong regional identities exist within England – Scousers, Geordies, Yorkshire, Londoners even despite the iniquities of land-ownership.
    Perhaps people feel more connected to their bit of England rather than as a whole?

    1. Alan says:

      And should someone in Newcastle bear more of this burden then someone in Dumfries as the title suggests?

      William Jardine, who engineered the first opium war, was from Lochmaben. He’s still popular in China.

      1. Mitchie says:

        I hear Dalhousie (who still has a street named after him) is very popular in Bengal

        1. Mitchie says:

          And the Chinese just adore Elgin…not the Greek marbles one (that was his son) but the one who burnt down the Summer Palace and looted the Forbidden city…

          Actually this could go on for a very long time…

  17. Jim says:

    There’s a problem with your menu. The pages several of the items link to are not being served.

  18. Ronnie MacAuley says:

    ‘For Palestinians, memory is necessary, while for the Israelis, it is better to have a sketchy memory for atrocities committed.’

    And here was me assuming that Jewish nationalism arose from the memories they had of their treatment at the hands of European powers. I know the English left has an issue with the Israelis (probably because of the chauvinistic regime of Netanyahu and his settlement policy) however it is worth remembering that the Jews’ fight for a state was one of national liberation – not colonialism. For a start, they were escaping genocide in Europe, not attempting to colonise Palestine for European powers like a colonial movement would have done. Thus to throw them in with the settlers of Australia and the plantation owners of Ireland is rather a crude comparison, and also an ahistoric one.

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