Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why you should not blame foreigners for mixing up England, Britain and UK.

For years it was just an annoyance, then it got worse. As I traveled to various countries over the last 12
years, I found that England was the nation I was from. Except it isn't, I'm from Scotland.

"Hey, do you remember back in England when..." was the start to many a conversation around the common table at hostels all throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia. I'd sometimes respond to such questions with "well, it was actually the UK I think, not just England, but yes I...." and so on. But admittedly, often I didn't even bother.

This is nothing new of course. Many of us are all too aware that people often consider England to be the same thing as Britain and the UK. So that means these are just ignorant foreigners right? Wrong.

Good ol England seems to have grown somewhat...
We like to make fun of Americans and their challenges with geography, but why do Americans never fail to call Canada anything other than, Canada? Why do they never refer to Australia as anything other than by it's name, Australia? What about South Africans, Japanese, Chinese? Have you ever heard them refer to Germany as anything other than Germany? You'd think that if this mistake frequently happens with the UK, that someone would have accidentally called Germany 'Bavaria' perhaps. I've never heard anyone refer to Germany as anything other than by it's actual name, either in English or German.

Ok I know what you're thinking, most of those are single countries and the UK is not. The UK is FOUR countries, so it's different. Well, I mostly dispute that. Bavaria was a country in its own right, just like Scotland and England were long ago. Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland like Bavaria or Ontario, are just components of a single nation state. In this case, the UK.

So, given that the UK has diplomatic representation across the entire world and via the worlds largest empire had great influence upon the globe, you'd think that people from the UK would be quite adept at 'recognising' the UK as a whole right? That's what I thought too.

English Exports?
You see, the UK has a bit of a challenge on its hands, a challenge it has never actually bothered to take on. That challenge is to promote the UK, not just England, not just Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but the UK as a whole.

So what's the problem here?

The problem is, it's just too damn difficult. You see the majority of people in the UK are English, and for whatever reason, many of them go overseas and refer to their home, their government and even sometimes their passport as 'English'. So when just about every other English person you meet talks about the UK England this way, how can you expect a Kiwi, Aussie, Canadian, American or anyone else to decipher it all? It's a convention, it's just normal, forget the UK, it's just England.

This person needs a wee bit help to renew their English Passport
"Your passport does NOT have the word 'England' written on it, unless you wrote it in there yourself" I once exclaimed to a dear English friend of mine that I met backpacking in Sydney. She actually had to run upstairs to her dorm room and check the document herself before she believed me.

I have never, ever experienced this type of thing with a person from ANY other country. I was going to label this behaviour as quite bizarre, but it's just not.

So we are talking about mislabeling a country and of course that is not a terribly awful thing to do. But I am of the firm belief that perception equals reality. If so many millions of people perceive the UK itself to be England and English and they heavily outnumber the rest, that will inform their opinions, their politics, their actions and in recent years their anger and frustration towards a country which might vote to leave the UK England in the next few months. Their perception is that the UK equals England. The so called 'union' doesn't really exist, no matter how much the Better Together campaign try to say so.

I hear all too often, even here in NZ, that the Scots will likely never survive without funds from the English taxpayer. And so round and round we go. Hardly a week goes by where I don't hear someone mixing up England, Britain and UK. It's just normal even among learned and educated people.

I will admit, that over the last few years, there's been an attempt to address some of these issues, but that's surely no coincidence that it's happened at a time when there's a serious threat to the fabric of the UK.
Mark my words, if and when there's a 'No' vote, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will soon return to it's traditional worldwide name. England.

So next time you're about to give the stink eye to some stupid foreigner who just referred to the UK as England, stop for a second and ask yourself, how could they have possibly got that impression?

England confused with UK / Britain / Is Scotland a part of England? / UK and England the same thing.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

British Unionism: An exercise in 'cringe'.

So I came across this little gem on my Facebook feed the other day and I'm happy to report that my computer monitor is still intact, but only just.

My keyboard on the other hand took a little while to reassemble after my fist pounded so violently upon it, sending an impressive fountain of of letters spiraling into the air.

Satire it may be, but having seen a lot of these clips before, there's no doubting that these things were actually said.

I wrote about this topic a while ago, explaining why, as a unionist I changed my mind in the first place from supporting union to independence. This video serves to confirm, in the most cingeworthy way, just how futile my exercise in unionism was, and how embarrassed I am to have once been a part of it.



Link to video.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jim Sillars on Scottish Independence.

Jim Sillars speaking passionately about Scottish Independence and his book In Place of Fear II.