It amazes me that I haven't included this among the many things I am long before. I suppose I think it must be painfully obvious to anyone who reads three words together on this site or the LJ. In case it isn't, though, let me make it clear that I am in fact British, and that this is indeed a quality in which I do a fair bit of modest rejoicing on the quiet.
Why? Good question. I can see why it might be odd for someone to be happy about belonging to a nation the approximate size of a small town in the American Midwest, whose people went and conquered huge portions of the globe and compelled the inhabitants of those regions to stop fighting each other for several decades (fortunately they seem to have picked up quite easily where they left off), a nation notorious for smugness, arrogance, intolerance and having remarkably powerful sphincter muscles, a nation that couldn't even win one war without help from the Americans, let alone two, and a nation which is now governed by as hapless a bunch of clowns, scoundrels and maniacs as ever managed to wangle their way on to a ballot. What could I possibly like about being British?
Well, let's see. I like living in a small country, that's one thing. Not that I know everybody here, I hasten to add...but it's nice to know that I can get almost anywhere in this country without having to drive for two days straight. We're theoretically never more than seventy miles from the sea, though that doesn't necessarily mean there'll be a nice beach. But I see people driving in American films, across this endless flat brown plain under a baking dome of sky, and it's just too much. We have East Anglia for that, and it's a decent size, but it ends, thank gods.
The landscape, that's another thing. I've seen beautiful places in other countries (mostly on telly, of course, but I've seen them) but I haven't seen anywhere that looks like England that wasn't in England. I love the fact that we have so many different types of landscape all pushed into this tiny island. It concentrates the geography, much the same way as only having two centuries of it concentrates the history in America. I'm sure bigger countries have rolling hills that would put our rolling hills to shame, but I'll take ours any day, because I know that just beyond them is something else again, heathland or mountains or wetlands or the coast. It took me a long time to come to love the English countryside, but I'm glad I did.
Historically, I like the fact that we've been on top and aren't any more. It gives the whole thing perspective. Imperialism? Been there, done that, we don't need to do it again, thanks. And we didn't get it all taken away from us by a bigger country either. We gave quite a lot of it back to the people who had it before. (All right, sometimes we had to, but even so.) I'd hate to be still having to justify being in charge of most of the world. And I like the fact that we managed to come up with one or two useful inventions and discoveries along the way, like steam power and electricity and the theory of evolution.
I'm on record as saying that there is no good reason to initiate aggression against another country, and I stand by that. Having said that, though, aggression takes many forms, not all of them readily apparent, and once a country has initiated it, then it's a not altogether unsound idea to stop them. And I'm glad we did, twice. And while I'm also glad we had help, because it was, I believe, getting a touch difficult there, I do wonder whether the people who kindly helped out at the end would actually have weighed in at all if we hadn't. I don't suppose we'll ever know, but yes, I'm reasonably proud of us for that as well.
And then there's our culture. That car advert that was on a while back, with the French lass reeling off the names of all the great French authors, and the English bod simply saying “Sssssh...akespeare.” That did, I have to admit, give me something of a buzz. I really do think British culture is something we can be a little bit proud of. Our science fiction, of course, and our comedy, before we got complacent and invented Ricky Gervais and forgot how to be funny. Even in areas where we're just among the crowd, like music or painting, I think we make a fairly respectable showing.
I'm sure if I were French or German, or even American, I wouldn't be sitting around saying “Je voudrais bien être anglais,” or “Ich möchte gerne englisch sein.” A lot of this is because, well, I am British and there's no help for it. But I believe that even taking that into account, and even with all the undoubted negative factors, I'm lucky to come from the country I come from. And that's why, in my imagined futures, implausible as it may seem, the Nyronds are imperishably British to the core, every man Jack of them, and so are most of the humans...even six thousand years on, long after the Earth has become just another small planet among millions, a post-imperialist backwater that everyone knows about and nobody bothers with.
Rather like Britain, really.