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.