Am I bovvered?

Or as a recent rather interesting, even illuminating, FT article has it “I can’t be arsed.

The author, an American, now returning to the US after writing FT editorials for a while thinks that “stubbornness is the secret to Britishness.” He thinks Brits are “stubborn, intractable and uppity.

So that could, perhaps explain Brexit, in part at least..

Personally I’d go for the secret to Britishness to be pricking pomposity, rather than stubbornness. But both share in common a desire NOT to be pushed around.

He continues “here is my secret for managing Brits: don’t. You can’t tell these people anything….I get the best people I can on to my team and then hide under my desk. The British, in sum, are not intrinsically polite. They behave politely, and frequently resort to euphemism, because in a country where people take their autonomy seriously, a little formality and deference is only prudent.  British humour, which is not defined (as is widely supposed) by irony, but by subversiveness, a desire to deflate pretenses of authority or control.”

(That is, I suppose, posh pomposity pricking.)

When he opines that the Britain of today is more like Britain in the 18th century; “unruly, fearless and probably drunk. ….  It is a Hogarth cartoon, or William Hazlitt’s 1816 description of John Bull (the portly English analogue to Uncle Sam) as a man who is “fond of having his own way, till you let him have it”. I think he probably nails it.

And yet, and yet, we have the Nasty Tory Party which has increased homelessness and poverty, and reduced services and benefits and we meekly seem to accept it. This is not fearlessness or unruliness, this is the opposite: the fear of destitution.

But perhaps it is only the very weakest who have been picked off. The ones who haven’t or won’t be – the ones who remain stubborn and unruly – probably proceed to make their way in the world by dealing drugs and smuggling tobacco or slaves.

About that we should be very bovvered indeed.


  1. Graham -

    I would think writers of editorials for the FT move in rather small circles and haven’t a clue about the other 60 million who are not FT Leader writers. I don’t recognise any of this. (see my comment on Public/Private schools from the other day for evidence)

  2. Peter May -

    I’m sure you’re right about the fairly small circles but I do nonetheless recognise much of this.
    I wonder if you’ve worked abroad?

  3. Graham -

    Never worked abroad. I don’t know if this was meant to be humorous, but I always find these monolithic characterisations highly stereotypical and don’t reflect the great diversity that can actually be found in even small populations. Of course, we all like to create myths like this, which on one level are harmless fun, but when we start taking them seriously – British Values for eg – then there’s a problem.

    Sorry, maybe I’m just feeling a bit … je ne sais quoi…

    1. Peter May -

      No deadly serious. I think if you had worked abroad you’d recognise that stereotypes usually contain truth. I feel this American’s ones also enlighten.
      I really do consider that ‘The vague and joking British’ are indeed often not direct and have a more than usual capacity to treat things unseriously – except, generally, Health and Safety.

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