Sign in to follow this  

I hate England.

Recommended Posts

I hate England


AA Gill looks English, sounds English, but he disowns membership of a tribe he feels is made ugly by its simmering anger


I don’t like the English. One at a time, I don’t mind them. I’ve loved some of them. It’s their collective persona I can’t warm to: the lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd of England.


Although I live here among them and have done for virtually all my life, although I sound like them, I’ve never been one. Never thought of myself as one. After more than 50 years of rubbing up against the English I still resist assimilation. I don’t stick out, but neither do I fit in. My heart doesn’t syncopate to Land of Hope and Glory. I don’t want three lions on my chest or the cross of St George on my windscreen.


The truth is — and perhaps this is a little unworthy, a bit shameful — I find England and the English embarrassing. Fundamentally toe-curlingly embarrassing. And even though I look like one, sound like one, can imitate the social/mating behaviour of one, I’m not one. I always bridle with irritation when taken for an Englishman, and fill in those disembarkation cards by pedantically writing “Scots” in the appropriate box.


I was born and part bred in Edinburgh. I only lived there for a scant year of my life, of which I remember not a thing. But still it’s the place that raises in me all that sentimental porridgy emotion that England can’t reach.


Scotland is a country and a people whose defining characteristic is built on the collective understanding of what they’re not. And what they’re not is English. But having said that I don’t feel English, neither do I recognise the caricature that the Scots make of the English to underline their Scottishness. That snobbish, stuck-up, two-faced, emotionally retarded, dim, foot-in-mouth prat and his good lady.


The truth is I don’t know what it is that makes the English so dreadfully English. So impervious to fondness, sympathy or attraction.


If the English could award themselves one attribute it would be fairness, whether it’s embodied in referees, High Court judges or gunboats. So perhaps it’s a good place to start. But actually I think it’s the wrong way round. What the English are eternally concerned with isn’t fairness, it’s unfairness. There’s a constant mutter of grievance at the deviousness, mendacity and untrustworthy nature of the rest of the world.


The thing that seems impermeably English is, in fact, anger. Collectively and individually, the English are angry about something. The pursed lip and the muttered expletives, the furious glance and the beetled brow are England’s national costume.


A simmering, unfocused lurking anger is the collective cross England bears with ill grace. I can see it in English faces, in the dumb semaphore of their bodies. It’s how they stand and fold their arms and wait in queues. It’s why they can’t dance or relax.


Anger has made the English an ugly race. But then this anger is also the source of England’s most admirable achievement — their heroic self-control. It’s the daily struggle of not giving in to their natural inclination to run amok with a cricket bat, to spit and bite in a crowded tearoom, that I admire most in the English. It’s not what they are, but their ability to suppress what they are, that’s great about the English.


The world is full of aggrieved people whose fury engulfs their land and lives. Places where feuds and retaliation have become the sole motives for existing. But the English aren’t like that. They live and have always lived in a comparatively harmonious and liberal country. There is more give and take and compromise in England than anywhere else you can think of, but I know as certainly as I know anything about this place that this is despite the nature of England, not because of it.


People with therapists will tell you that repressed anger is a dangerous thing that in the end will consume the repressor. That it’s a spiritual, emotional cancer. That it must be evacuated like trapped wind, transformed and metamorphosed. But the English are an uncomfortably living testament to the benefit, if not the pleasure, of repression.


They have come up with dozens of collective and individual strategies to deflect and contain their natural fury. Not least in inventing a bewildering number of games.


It’s not in the games that the English excel, it’s in making the rules that govern them, and the committees that oversee those rules. It’s in controlling the consequences of unbridled competitiveness.


Only the English could in all seriousness say: “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s merely taking part.” If the result is secondary, why bother taking part in the first place? But of course, for the English, just getting off the pitch without their opponent’s ear in their pocket is a personal victory over their natural national inclination.


It’s their anger that has made them arguably, over the long run, the most consistently successful of all the old European nations, certainly the most inventive and adventurous and energetic. Controlled anger is the great impetus to achievement. You have to do something with it. Anger simply won’t let you be comfortable in your own skin.


The English aren’t people who strive for greatness, they’re driven to it by a flaming irritation. It was anger that built the Industrial Age, which forged expeditions of discovery. It was the need for self-control that found an outlet in cataloguing, litigating and ordering the natural world. It was the blind fury with imprecise and stubborn inanimate objects that created generations of engineers and inventors. The anger at sin and unfairness that forged their particular earth-bound, pedantic spirituality and their puce-faced, finger-jabbing, spittle-flecked politics.


The English have, by the skin of their teeth and the stiffness of their lip, managed to turn what might have been a deforming fault into their defining virtue, but it still doesn’t make them loveable.


Anger has driven the English to achievement and greatness in a bewildering pantheon of disciplines. At the core of that anger is the knowledge that they could go absolutely berserk with an axe if they didn’t bind themselves with all sorts of restraints, of manners, embarrassment and awkwardness and garden sheds.


War calls for people to go mad with axes. It’s a particularly risky business for the English as, once they start, they might never finish. It could go on until they’ve chopped up everything, destroyed themselves and the world, until they are nothing but frothing and gibbering monsters sated on bloodlust. But if you look at their war memorials, there is a serenity, a quiet reflection about the English at war.


They have a subtle and complex relationship with justified violence. There is a dichotomy at the heart of their pride at being good at it; it lives with the shame of being good at it. And a fear — not of death or failure — but that this might be who they really are, that opening yourself to violence and righteous anger, throwing off the restraints of the world, might be to throw away everything except for the fury. And they might never be able to get it back again. It’s like being a superhero in reverse. The real strength is not in exercising your shattering power, but in keeping your underpants inside your trousers.


The reason the English disband their forces with reckless haste after wars, why they won’t allow their soldiers to walk around in uniform, why there is so little state-sponsored glorification of battle, is because they know where it leads. Far better to do the business as brutally and efficiently as possible and then get back to whatever you were doing before, as fast as is decent.


It’s become a truism of the great war that the men who fought it came home and never spoke of it. Their silence has become a mark of collective English pride; this generation of witnesses to the abiding horror of the century kept it bottled up, muttering it only to each other. They held the horrors and the sadness and the loneliness to their chest. That is such an aridly English virtue: the telling silence, the deafening unsaid.


My grandfather, who fought all through the war and was wounded and lost his best friend beside him, was in the Tank Regiment. He never mentioned the war, though we all knew it was always there, hidden in the rosebeds, hanging in his wardrobe with his regimental tie.


Even as a small boy I knew all about Grandad and the war, and knew not to mention it. On Sundays he’d stand at the sideboard and sharpen the carving knife and slice the beef, and after that he’d fall asleep in his armchair, and at four o’clock he’d wake up and peel an orange with a silver knife and put brass-band music on the gramophone. And I’d march up and down carrying his walking-stick like a rifle, and he’d teach me the drill.


He died when I was nine and that’s my strongest memory of him. That, and when he carved the beef. He would dip a square of bread in the warm blood, sprinkle it with salt and give it just to me. He was a man who would have been deaf to the symbolism; he didn’t deal in similes or metaphors, he had a head full of the real thing.


A German I know will on occasion tell you that his father died in a concentration camp. He waits for sympathetic faces and then adds that his dad got drunk and fell out of a watchtower. Europeans find that rather tasteless; the English love it. It’s a proper joke, and a German telling it is double bubble. The surprise is that it’s not a joke at all. His father really did fall out of a watchtower.


English comedy is war by other means and it still is the actual last war. The rest of Europe looks on with growing exasperation and incomprehension at the English’s ability endlessly to bait the Germans for losing the war and consistently tease the French for losing it as well.


Europeans can’t understand the English inability to move on, to get over it. But that’s the point. Their reaction, their visible irritation at being called “a Hun” 60 years later is what the joke’s for. It’s supposed to provoke that reaction and this is the fundamental difference between the English sense of humour and that of almost everyone else. Most people share a joke, the English aim them.


A sense of humour is as necessary to being English as a sense of the past. To accuse an Englishman of lacking or losing his sense of humour is to question the very id of his being. To banish him from his tribal Blightiness.


Now I should declare an interest here. I write humour for a living. There’s no reason why you should have noticed. I don’t do comedy or jokes. I suppose you might call it wit, and the definition of wit is a joke that doesn’t make you laugh.


You can divide humour into two schools. There is Jewish humour and there is English humour.


Jewish humour is a comedy of the oppressed. It is the escape of the bullied and is told behind the back of the bully, and it is often self-analytical, self-lacerating, inverted, doubtful and mordant. English humour is far more robust. It’s aggressive, bombastic and extrovert. Jewish humour is intimate and personal, English humour loud, gangish and general.


English humour is the sound of the bullies. The overtold story of the English underdog overcoming the big man with laughter is simply not true. The English constantly use their humour as an indiscriminate bludgeon. Jokes come one at a time and then gang up on victims, relentlessly pillorying Indians, West Indians, Jews, Gypsies, Scots, Irish, French, Germans, Essex girls, blondes, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, gays, northerners, southerners, Brummies, yokels, cripples, spastics, epileptics, midgets, lunatics, prostitutes, vicars, the Queen, the unions, Tories, chickens, dogs, donkeys, publicans, the devil and God.


There is hardly anyone who hasn’t at some point been slapped with the famous English humour. The bullying and teasing laughs pervade almost every aspect of life.


Newspapers are a constant patter of punning headlines, would-you-believe-it human interest stories and columns of unkind personal observation written to raise a smile.


The humour of embarrassment and the joy of classroom teasing is a national sport, and its very ubiquity is its open-palmed “What, us?” defence, because at some point everyone suffers for it. Obviously there’s no harm meant. If you beat up only Pakis, you’re a racist, but if you beat up everyone it’s only having a laugh. And anyway, they should be able to take a joke.


I do it myself. I have reams of furious letters from Welsh people pointing out that if I’d said what I said about them about blacks or Jews I’d be prosecuted under the Race Relations Act. In fact they’re right but wrong. The reason I won’t make those jokes about Jews and blacks is because prejudice against them has been all too real and the joke is the excuse for the brick. But no one’s actually put on a white hood to torment the Welsh — unless you count druids.


Political correctness and alternative comedy came as a reaction to old misogynist racist humour. But it wasn’t really that new or alternative. All it did was change the form, not the rules, and alter the focus. Instead of Pakis and mother-in-laws it became Margaret Thatcher and liberals. Comedy shifted from something northerners did to southerners to being something southerners did to themselves.


Still, the purpose was bullying and ridicule. There was barely a laugh in England that wasn’t at someone’s expense, everything and everyone the butt of a joke. The English are addicted to it, to the sound of themselves laughing. Laughter is often the only public emotion they feel comfortable with, and the English laugh differently from other people. Listen to them. It’s harsher and louder. It’s not a personal expression, but a public affirmation. It’s a caw of belonging. Go into any pub and listen to the groups of boys chuckling in circles. It’s not a sound you hear anywhere else.


The English teeter on the edge of not being able to take anything seriously. The ability to be solemn or even appropriate, reflective or sad in public, is so uncomfortably embarrassing that they’re forced to giggle or snigger.


I once asked an oncologist what was people’s most common reaction to being told they had cancer. After incomprehension and blank denial, he said, they make a joke. Quite often they go on making jokes till the morphine kicks them across the touchline.


The English are dulled to numbness by the constant resort to humour to deflate anything that might be painful or complicated. Those old English politenesses of “keep smiling, don’t forget to laugh” have been the only solace for millions of broken hearts. But it’s a terrible indictment of a culture that is really only comfortable with two public emotions — fury and sniggering. And that’s really the point of English humour. An awful lot of it is anger in fancy dress.


It isn’t just that a lot of English jokes are subverted anger, or that humour is anger’s minder, it’s that the jokes and the puns and the comic teasing get the rolling boil of English irritation into places where it wouldn’t normally be countenanced. You can be vicious with a laugh where you couldn’t without.


Football stadiums are the places where you really see the shitty end of the English laugh. I sat in the terraces at Chelsea and heard the crowd make a hissing noise as the two teams ran onto the pitch. They were playing Spurs. “Yid,” my neighbour said helpfully. Yes? “Well, they’re north London, Jewish and, well, it’s the noise of the gas going into the ovens, isn’t it.”


It was so shocking, so astonishingly surreally nothing to do with football that I laughed and my neighbour smirked. And wagged a finger, “Got you.” And that’s what the English like about a well-aimed joke; they like to make you laugh despite yourself; to make you complicit in something disgraceful. That’s the joy, to have your laughter make some toff pillock, some liberal shirtlifter, a hypocrite.


Football terraces are really, really funny and really, really horrible both at the same time. It’s the volume and the power, the huge wattage of anger, sharpened with a malevolent wit. The monkey noises at black players, the bellows of abuse at anyone who’s admitted in passing that they read The Guardian; the relentless nailing of ugliness, of weakness, of foreignness.


At rich Chelsea, plumbers and kitchen-fitters look over the pitch at Liverpool fans and sing, “Sign on, sign on, with hope in your heart ’cos you’ll never work again.” They wave bulging London wallets at lads down from the northeast and shout “Loadsamoney”. Or they just do cosmic a cappella scat-swearing. Anyone who thinks shouting f*** and c*** isn’t clever or funny has never been to a football match.


The whole ghastly secret, vile, dark laundry basket of young Englishmen’s fears, prejudices and braggadocio is tipped out under the floodlights and bellowed at the top of their voices. It’s hideous and invigorating and group therapy, and it’s like watching a sitcom where the studio audience has all the best lines.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The English are dulled to numbness by the constant resort to humour to deflate anything that might be painful or complicated. Those old English politenesses of “keep smiling, don’t forget to laugh” have been the only solace for millions of broken hearts. But it’s a terrible indictment of a culture that is really only comfortable with two public emotions — fury and sniggering. And that’s really the point of English humour. An awful lot of it is anger in fancy dress

LoooooooL. The author is brilliant. Using humour in itself to show his anger LOL


That xplains my freind's skewed sense of humour.[You know who you be :D ]. What an angry woman icon_razz.gif

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoever wrote the article hit the proverbial nail on the head. England is the abode of boredom and bleakness. Everyone I know there is either going into depression, coming out of depression or is smack-dab in depression . And boredom must be everyones middle name since unboring Brits are scant. It's quite disheartening to see such monotonous joylessness.


Interestingly the author mentions the Brits being "dulled". What he/she neglected to mention is dullness is uniquely British invention to differentiate it from run-of-the-mill boredom. British boredom is so crushingly depressing, so pervasive and so enduring that it beggars description; thereby becoming an original form of boredom warranting it's own word.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't listen the olde enemey - bloody Scotish with his googarad!




you have been a dull and a listless british in your firt life before you become an energtic canadian

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Without English and creating British consitution where the scotsmen played a key role of the new imperalism,and importing an invading armies to steal any gold and worthy spoils of wars,while killing all the natives and owning their lands, Scotish were merely a clan based society where McDonlads used to kill Campbells and Vice versa, Just a typical Somali clan-basis, and never ending qurrel and skrimish. they should thank to the English by saving from themselves and opening an eye of opportunity for them.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The English, rule Britania and all that, tend to have a chip on their shoulders. They hate the Welsh, the Irish and the Scots and they all hate them.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

LOOOL Sharmarke I dare you repeat those very words (especially the last sentence) to the next Scottish nationalist you come across. It should be very entertaining. :D

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I hate England too. That's why I explicitly stated to my mum to move from there to Canada when she was 3 months old, so that I could be born in one of the best countries in the world.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

^I bet you hate England much less after the onset of an Alberta winter. :D Most ppl would put with any amount of boredom and dullness to get away from -40 celsius!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh c'mon now, Old Gill,who the hell wants to hang around a happy world dressed with kilts anyway? Matter of fact, the world when immersed in troubles and tribulations is more fun to dwell in. At least humour gets a good chance at being used in corney ways smile.gif .


I've lived in England's weather for sometime (and mind you today is bloody windy -10 people killed in N.Europe as a result) but thats what makes things more interesting, I say :D . Get killed by lightnening, or by a flying uprooted tree? Oh, that is very English! Isn't it? Just imagine how humorous it is to learn Mr. so and so has gone with the wind, litarally,tha is!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Bovvered? Trust the Brits to make up weird words. One more reason to hate those borish Brits.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this