Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Et Tu – British? A post to tell myself and all of us that we are worth it... by Mari Howard aka Clare Weiner

So why are we shy, inhibited, formal, self-depreciating, lacking self-confidence? 

Several times recently this has popped up in different ways in ACW areas: on Facebook, or in the blog. Someone admits to their lack of confidence. Someone mentions how odd it was when they were told, by the performer before a concert, ‘You’ll enjoy this.’ Presumptuous, she thought, and pushy…  Many refer to themselves as introverted. Disliking large groups. Feeling an outsider.  
Another wonders why they fear rather than welcome the attention they may receive as an author or writer, maybe they are nervous doing a book launch.

In one way, I want to respond, ‘But nerves are normal!’ Nerves are our way of being alert and ready to make sure we perform well, remember all the details, present ourselves as … well, as not presuming, as not feeling we are ‘entitled’, as nice people who think about others and don’t push ourselves forward …

And be that as it may (an old-fashioned phrase my Mum often used), these characteristics, those feelings, are attributed, in this globalised world, to ‘being British’.

But, are they? Does each nation have an ingrained character living in its DNA? These assumptions, or labels, used to be the stuff of jokes, rather  than serious comment.  And if we’re talking ‘politically correctly’, isn’t it all ‘not said now’?

This is (you may already realise) a bit of a jokey blog: but something is behind the naming and shaming of the ‘Brit character’. For one thing, how Brit is a Brit?  We’re an island nation. For years we’ve mixed and matched: at least those of us whose family history leads out from the big cities and the ports. Look at my name: you could say, ‘She’s not British’: and no, I’m not, totally. 

By British we of course mean the ancient tribes, the ones the Romans conquered (see the simplified version, junior school history!). And they were Celts. (Whatever Celtic actually designates!) The Celts hurried off to the corners of the island, Cornwall,or Wales … or fled abroad. Some were lost … to Brittany …. and  became… ?French. With the Ooh, la la! characteristics of the French!  

I’m not a French Brit. My DNA actually includes (among the ?Anglo Saxon bits) a combination of the Rosteds (Danish Norwegians) and the Sakilarious (from the Greek island of Tinos). The Rosted genes are definitely as dark in character as a Nordic Noir, pessimistic and depressive. The Sakilarious, by contrast, I suspect are at fault for my non-British way of being ‘too loud and argumentative’ - or appearing to be. And those characteristics were probably  passed along not so much by cell division and combination as they were by … prevailing foreign-family culture.  Even so, immigrants prefer (or used to) to learn the language, copy the customs, and fit in. Education played its part in making them more English than the English.

Immigrants learned to drink tea with milk, and like Mariella Sakilariou, they changed their name. She married (at a Greek Orthdox wedding) a man from the Berkshire/Hampshire borders, her name changes in the Census to Mary Wheeler … She was nonetheless (it is rumoured) bossy and flamboyant, ruled the family, and kept her silver Samovar.

So, where were we? Education

My suspicion is, the education system, the way parents raise their kids, and the way schools treat their pupils, is/was ‘first make sure of obedience and then of submission’. Or the other way around. Years of ‘don’t draw attention yourself’, ‘do as the group does, and keep quiet’, ‘If you speak in class you will be sent out’ chip away especially at the more aware child, the child who (yes, you’ve got it) is thoughtful in the sense of having their own thoughts … creating worlds in their head, (which is what writers do). Being derided as ‘dreamy’. The child who actually does not want to stick out, but asks an awkward question, one the teacher hadn’t thought about in her preparation time. Help: squash that child’s curiosity! And yes, verbally abuse the one who is larger, or smaller, or darker, or wears specs, or is left-handed, dyslexic … or whatever. 

After all, we once had an Empire, and back then, we had a reputation to keep up, along with ruling the world! We must behave with exceeding politeness, be indistinguishable from one another, and not let down the side …

But it needs to be said, the educators of the culture have not always produced what they were aimed to: lack of confidence rather than a sense of calm membership of a group, shame rather than self-respect, or politeness, or consideration for others.

And, today’s youngsters are taught to self-promote: does that mean they aren’t Brits? 

I do wonder if other nations - cultures - cope better than the dear old ‘Brits’. 

This is a lighthearted piece with a serious side. I wonder who you are, and whether you are British? And if so, is your Britishness underlined and defined by the very ‘British’ character of the ‘C of E’? Not too keen, not too loud, not too unbalanced, not too anything? And even if your worship style is confident and Charismatic, is your ‘real self’  hidden away, only to come out with its self-depreciating humour and its fear at your book launch?

In the eyes of God, we are all seen for who we are. Hence: remember all the other adults are as fearful as you are! They’ve got their masks on. So, be what God sees …  your talented self.

Posted by Philologus on behalf of Mari Howard, on account of computer troubles.

1 comment:

  1. Some interesting thoughts here, Clare. I consider myself to be reserved, even by British standards, so it's been quite helpful for me to discover that I'm not the only one who wrestles with a lack of self-belief. It's good to be reminded that we are "worth it", even if I struggle to believe it at times.