As much as it makes me uncomfortable to admit, I love my country. It’s a strange statement to make as someone living abroad who so readily hates the usual patriotism and politics that comes with being a ‘proud Brit’. But somewhere deep inside of me there is a confusing mixture of hope and joy that has always made me see Britain without the cynicism that often paints the rest of my world view.
My secret pride for Britain has always been something I was at ends with. All my adult life I have been surrounded by liberal-leaning cynics whose political views I embrace and often share. It feels like a dirty word to admit in public. No small part of this comes from the fact that British pride is something that for the most part often celebrates the nasty elements of our culture that we, the progressives, would soon rather forget.
For many of us to be proud is to cry God save The Queen atop a lion, while treasures plundered from colonial conquest decorate the establishment in glittering opulence. Pride is the army, the class system, the royalty and the tradition. Pride is something sinister and backwards that deserves no place in the modern world.
But for me this pride is not that which I feel. When I long for green and pleasant lands I am not advocating for empire, a united Kingdom, or any of the usual jingoistic things that patriots uphold. I am proud of the aspects of British culture which have always rejected these things. I am proud of the modern-facing multicultural Britain which has tried so desperately to move on to the future. I am proud of my friends who have stood up for their beliefs, or have tried to build a better world.
For me the best aspects of Britain have never been held in its traditions and history, but in its ever-evolving future. It is our innovation, our creativity, our inventiveness and ingenuity that has always been a point of proud. It is our humour, our culture, our strive for better things and all the generations that never fell for the lie of what made Britain great that is one of our greatest aspects.
At one point we stood with the potential to become world leaders in dozens of areas. From peace talks to scientific progress to sports and the arts.
I understand of course that Britain is not exceptional in this aspect. But as a nation we have the intelligence, the ingenuity, the creativity and the passion to influence and affect real positive change across the world. It is something which I have always maintained is the most brilliant part of our modern culture.
It feels a shame in many ways that in advocating this modern Britain that many young people feel unable to say that they are proud. But, of course, the reasons are somewhat obvious when you look at the history of our country, and especially the historical atrocities which were so often linked to the idea of British pride.
It was not empire that made Britain great. Just as it was not the bloody turmoils with neighbours or the exploitation of millions that we should be proud of. However Britain is great when it turns from its past and uses what amazing (and very much unfairly gained) potential we have to build a better world. The potential for wonderful friendships, for lasting peace, for innovation and world-leading brilliance exists just beyond our grasp.
When the news came in on Friday morning of a Conservative victory I was crushed. Until that day my long-awaited return to England had been an event brimming with optimism and enthusiasm. It was something I had grown to look forward to more and more with each passing month. But as I watched the live coverage announce what no one had quite expected everything changed in that moment.
The optimistic view I had held of my home country faded fast, replaced now by a harsh reality of austerity and privatisation. In that moment there was nothing to be proud of, and even less to look forward to.
Now, my naïve utopian vision is fading fast, replaced instead with foodbanks, unemployment and a growing population of disenfranchised poor who cannot be blamed for not sharing my rose-tinted view of the future.
We cannot blame the voters, as much as we would like, for falling prey to fear and lies. It is the elite, as always, that stifle our great potential for their own selfish whims. The NHS, the Royal Mail, university education, our arts, and dozens of other examples represent what Britain is capable of. And now, what Britain stands to lose.
It seems that as a wealthy elite strip the ill-gained wealth from our country all that stands to remain is our sour legacy and a future that is as bleak and as unworthy as perhaps we deserve. All that pride is then, is the outdated dogma and false idea of British greatness has always been used to mask the horrors that our establishment commits both home and away.
Our new government is nothing to be proud of. But there is still hope as long as our culture can turn its back on the evil politics that will claim to own our pride. There is still hope if Britain, and especially its young, can look forward to a day where we finally throw off the crumbling establishment that has brought us here and held us back for too long.
Tom Ana is a British charity worker and blogger currently living in Budapest, Hungary. He is the editor of Euroclash and an active human rights and equality campaigner. You can follow him on Twitter here.