The English Way - A Peer into English Society

After reading a collection of photos from Martin Parr paired with the written commentary from Kate Fox (previously written The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour) it was interesting to find myself analysing the society of England and myself included. This recent read delves into the very fabric of English society and the norms we follow in everyday life. It is available to read in Vice Magazine's recent issue, Volume 11: No. 7, which features their favourite photograph collections over the year.

The first of three sections highlights the issue of national pride, titled 'A Nation of Closet Patriots'. It tackles why England, compared to many other countries, seems to have a distinct lack of national pride and the reasons why this occurs. Take the legacy of London 2012 for example, yes I do agree that our country's current economic state is crippling many families around the UK but the worry of financial decline and waste of money hung over the Olympics like a evil shadow throughout and to make it even worse the only glimmer of hope and pride was due to the sporting achievement and not the celebration of national culture that many countries forebode throughout their holding of the Olympics. 

For instance, the tourists and visitors of the Olympic sites should of been scoffing a vast array of English delicacies that the on-site fish and chip shop had to offer washed down with a lovely 'brew' or can of 'irn-bru'. However, instead of that spectators were treated to the global phenomenon that is McDonalds to provide maximum profit. Furthermore, the self-image of this country is something that takes a major hold in opportunities for national celebration, the English people do not want to be seen waving little flags around and they seemed embarrassed to be associated with the country at all. St. George's Day is another day that lacks oomph and razzamatazz but instead consists of the people going to the local pub for a quick celebratory ale then back home to catch The X Factor auditions, us English should take a leaf out of the Irish's book for Saint Celebration Days with their spectacular celebrations for St. Patrick's Day where Guinness flows through the streets of Ireland with the subtle overlay of Baileys and Irish Whiskey to make a concoction of sore heads the morning after.

All this leads to down to two of the most typical English social behaviours, Moderation and "Eeyorishness", us English do not do extreme well. English tend not to take to extreme celebrations and actions we would rather stay in with a quiet couple of cans and relax, we don't enjoy intensity at all. Our "Eeyorishness" means we would much rather have a therapeutic moan about how St. George's Day hasn't been celebrated well rather than actually doing something about it. However our lack of action as of recent can lead to a number of acceptable reasons from the symbol that the English flag represents sometimes with the symbolic nature of English hooligans roaming the beaches of the Costa Del Brava in their ugly England shorts and the racist manner it is used to symbolise the EDL. The once common feeling of patriotism in England has been replaced with a minority now associated with racism.

The only occasion that these barriers are broken come when a Royal Celebration arrives on our annual calendar. The Royals provide us English with something called "festival inversion" which makes society to turn off their social norms of being quiet amongst the neighbourhood and becoming part of a community for the first time ever. The Royal Jubilee brought back the street parties and past memories of national celebration but the tragedy of this is that this unification of one country ends as soon as the last drunken party-goer drops off to sleep! The day after brings back the social norms of introvert people and lack of pride. Tragic indeed.

The second part of the collection was all about the ever-so dreaded concept of 'Queuing' and how us English are one of the few countries not to react to the annoying action of 'Queue Jumping'. Throughout my life,  queues for nightclubs or for a drink has always laid witness to a queue jumper and that good old English 'Eeyorishness' creeps in and I must admit I also fall for this behaviour of excessively moaning my tits off all night about one scenario and yet doing nothing within my power to do anything about. The most shocking revelation that came from reading this was basically, if you need to queue you may as well jump the whole queue in England because the worst case scenario of your actions will be a few groans and frowned faces behind you... take note.

The final section of the collection brought me to the self-reflective stage of how British people treat their pet dogs. In England, dogs are basically kings and queens to us (not the corgis who are actual Royal Family) as we treat dogs with luxury and often personify our pets, the relationship between human and dog in England is an interesting evaluation indeed.

Our treatment of animals isn't just a recent endeavour however, with the fact that the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was created more than a decade before the NSPCC  (National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) highlighting who us English deemed more important in life. Kate Fox, the writer in this collection, made something called ENGLISH SOCIAL DISEASE to explain why we relate better with dogs than humans as it explains how us English have better social and emotional relationships with dogs as we subconsciously try and understand our pet dog automatically giving it emotion and we pair familiar facial expression of our dogs to understand how he/she is feeling whereas for humans any facial contact is deemed and taken completely different between two humans. For example, a glance between two humans in England is taken in either two ways according to gender and sexuality etc.... a glance can be either taken as flirtation or aggression. Honestly I did an experiment of my own in a crowded place and honestly most men who I shared a glanced at automatically frowned towards my direction in an aggressive manner.

This collection is honestly one of the best reads I have indulged in with its brutal yet truthful nature and interesting theories about English society and it is definitely worth a read for abit of self-reflection.


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