Britishness vs Englishness

Bifes Mal Passados (which translates as uncooked steaks?): Portuguese academic describes English as ‘filthy, violent and drunk’. Anyone who has been to England has experienced at least two out of three with his or her own eyes, every single Friday is drink till you drop day; what’s interesting is the reaction in the UK to this:

Britishness: The world seen from a higher plane, stiff upper lip, fair play, the rule of law, self deprecating, sophisticated, dark sense of humour which is much appreciated everywhere, one of the important places in the world.

Englishness: The world seen from a much smaller place, feel outraged when faced with the obvious, lash out, pettiness, ignorant provincials from an island to the north west of Europe.

What they have in common: geography, truly, unmistakably and irredeemably dreadful food. When faced with the latter the British will shrug and accept it, think of the saving graces at Waitrose; the English will utter something about the great English breakfast (disgusting) or look to start a fist fight.

How did this sense of Englishness survive Britishness, given rising standards of living over centuries? Should the Union be dissolved simply on this evidence?

Education vs success (Heather Havrilesky)

Learned Helplessness (Bookforum, via Le Nouvel Observateur): “Do we want to populate our planet with self-concerned, ultracompetitive warriors, or compassionate citizens?”

The answer will be obvious and completely opposite when read in the US (success means money, everyone else is a loser) or France (success means a balanced human being).

The deeper question is the same for all children, and follows Elizabeth Spiegel’s approach: help kids be responsible for their actions; show them their mistake but don’t put them down, help them overcome obstacles; this goes against the cult of the rich, self righteous sociopath in the US, but also against expecting the State to provide the means to achieve “normality” as in France.

There is a further element: the weight of social / psychological issues: what if normality means failing? What if any sort of progress, social, cultural, monetary, is frowned upon by those around you? This is a reality at least in all of Latinamerica, African-American US.

Problem: Hollande seemed a nice guy, is now seen as incompetent; nasty but hyperactive Sarko still lurks.

Consequence: nice people need to learn how to put the nasty, dominating people in their place, show how pathetic their “success” is; this has an extension for social democracy caught in between vociferous extremists.

Consequence: tiger moms are particularly ridiculous.