Saturday, 11 August 2012

Non-art post

Hello. This is a bit different to what I normally post, but I wanted to address something.
You may or may not know that I’m British. Now you know in any case. And in Britain at the moment, a debate has started regarding national optimism, pride in our citizens and an attitude considered atypical of the Brits being made quite obvious to the world. Of course, this is tied into the London 2012 Olympics and our undeniably impressive haul of medals.
The debaters, by and large, are the media. The media got their hopes up about the games in 2005 (when London won the bid) and are now facing a huge comedown and they’ve only got themselves to blame. Fine, seven years ago, we weren’t in a recession and didn’t have a cartoon bad guy with a Tefal forehead in charge, but still, a lot of Brits looked to the Olympics as a massive watershed moment. Now the games have just about ended, how do they react?
Why, they say things like “Now that Britons are facing the stark reality of life once again, can they keep this can-do attitude up indefinitely in the face of the worst financial crisis in decades?”
Well, let me explain my position:
I’m a Briton by default, as I was born in Yorkshire in a little town called Bridlington. I am, by some people’s definitions, a Briton, an Englishman, a Yorkshireman and a Bridlingtonian (seriously, they call themselves that). But this does not define me. It actually perplexes me that man’s instinctual need to guard his territory has resulted in man-made borders and walls, separation of peoples, war and political spaghetti.
As a person who was born and therefore has to abide by the protocols set decades or centuries past in ‘my’ country, I have been conditioned. Sometimes it can be a good thing - despite my apathy towards national pride and sport in general, I found it hard to deny the entertainment value and outpouring of goodwill and positivity created by the success of the Olympics and athletes such as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Sir Chris Hoy - but as a rule, it means that I constantly have to check myself to see whether who I am is a product of stereotyping, bad advice and a bottlenecking of opportunities owing to some faceless individual or group’s rules. This sounds dramatic, but that doesn’t mean I’m going through an identity crisis. It means that when all the whooping and hollering about BRITAIN IS HOSTING THE OLYMPICS started, I was ambivalent at best (for one thing, London is not Britain - it’s London).
If any population are to remain upbeat, optimistic and ‘can-do’ about their lives, they need a few things.
  • The ability to look beyond their bubble and be inspired by the wider world. Olympics examples: Usain Bolt, Oscar Pistorius and Sarah Attar. Not British, but important for their personality, courage and determination and hugely deserving of the ovations they received in the stadium.
  • The strength to ignore negativity. Much as I dislike the concept of division into countries (beyond the obvious geographical borders, like… the ocean), I have to admit that I hear so much negativity in Britain, more than seems to be apparent in many other nations. ‘We’ love to complain. So much so that it’s part of this false identity, but it can be changed around if people push on through it. You think Pistorius and Attar listened to the negativity around them?
  • An ability to find pleasure in the everyday. You’re not going to have an event every day of your life which makes you want to start running, learn tennis, take up swimming or write the Great _____ Novel, so don’t let the average days be average. Every day could be the best day of your life.
So, in answer to the media, we can remain un-British and optimistic, but - and here’s the thing - you vapid arseholes aren’t going to let us. You’ll go back to your stories about the worst of humanity. Scandals about which we can do nothing other than rage. Crimes which make us fearful of neighbours. Scares about superbugs and actual front page stories about when it rains quite a lot.
Stop it.
You expect us to be happy when the Queen has an anniversary, or when her grandson gets married. You expect us to be proud when ‘our’ athletes perform well. So assume that we are capable of being happy, proud and inspired and give us the chance by telling us about good things.
People can be amazing.

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