People on the political, international left, especially the young, Marxist revolutionaries and romantic utopians, proclaim that there is no such thing as English culture. Or they dismiss English culture as being expressed only through quaint minority hobbies like Morris dancing and bird watching.
Here is a list of achievements that are either distinctively English, or else they are “Helleno-Judeo-Christian” in origin and then shaped and combined and made into the foundation of Western civilisation by the English or – to a slightly lesser degree – by other European cultures.
However, these foundations of Englishness were laid in Anglo-Saxon times and have been built upon ever since:
- the freedom of the individual, within the framework of laws passed by Parliament, for individuals to order their lives as they please,
- the uniform enforcement of law independent of the executive and the church,
- the values for which Magna Carta is most remembered,
- habeas corpus,
- common law,
- representative democracy,
- freedom of expression,
- freedom of religion,
- critical thinking, rational scepticism, the Socratic method,
- dispassionate inquiry,
- our civil society,
- sexual equality,
- our science, technology and innovation,
- the English language and its literature,
- England’s Christian heritage and architecture,
- our regional cultures,
- our folk, choral and orchestral music, nursery rhymes
- our love of the natural world.
English culture is opposed by Islam – We don’t see a lot of support for these in Islamic scripture, nor in the public participation by British Muslims in English civil society. What’s more, in no Islamic society in the world are any of these features given priority. On this basis it is close to certainty that, as Britain becomes more Islamified, we stand to lose each of these – and to lose the whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Our list is bold and proud and looks beyond the clichéd media stereotype of Englishness that sets up a straw-man version of Englishness for ridicule – one that assumes Englishness began in the Victorian era and that it was middle class, and part of a recently made up jingoistic false memory of the British Empire. Our list shows it has a longer heritage and a serious, civilisation-forming, world-changing core.
It is an English trait to define Englishness by reference to catchy trivia: “hot-water bottles instead of a sex life …” is what Jeremy Paxman said timidly. We can do better than that!
To those who ask us: “English Defence League? What are you defending?”, we proudly show this list.