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Why are we angry?

7 February 2008

Anthony Barnett (London, OK):  In an entertaining article in yesterday's FT, Maurice Saatchi reports on a new Ambassador just appointed to Britain who was last posted here ten years ago. He is shocked to find that the English are much more angry. Grrrr. Who IS this ****ing guy? Bring him on and we'll give him some real anger!! Seriously, though, it's interesting because Saatchi asks 'Why?' His answer is a bit pompous. He parades a theory of Freud's that we have become structurally "ambivalent", driven to this near clinical state by devolution, globalisation and immigration. Like we have not been made angry for having been ruled by a liar and a spiv for ten years and now the leader of the opposition  wants to emulate him and attacks the current PM for not been as good a liar and a spiv as his predecessor, and we shouldn't be angry? However, to get back to Saatchi's up-side, he has a point. The big forces for change present a kind of double-bind to England/Britain, punished either way. He is especially good on devolution,

Take devolution. Like humans everywhere, the Englishman is patriotic. He rallies to his country’s flag. He is distressed to see it at half mast. He is overcome with feeling when it flutters to the sound of his national anthem. It chokes his breath to see it draped over the coffin of a hero or heroine. As Stanley Baldwin, a former British prime minister, put it: “These things strike down into the very depths of our nature ... our innermost being.”

But for the Englishman today, which flag is supposed to touch his heart? The Englishman is the only man on the planet who is asked to salute two flags. When he encourages his football heroes in the World Cup, he rallies to the Cross of Saint George. But when he cheers his athletes at the Olympic Games he hails the Union flag.

The Englishman loves his Union flag. He fears that his United Kingdom might be cut up into bite-size pieces. But, on the other hand, why should the Welsh and the Scots not have more say on their own affairs? That is only fair. Result? One country. Two flags. No other society on earth inflicts such schizophrenia on its citizens.

What are your theories? a) What is the evidence that the English/British are much more angry now than ten years ago, anecdotal or statistical, and what is the evidence that we are nicer, happier, more honest? b) Either way, what are the causes?

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