On Western Pride and the English Character

Introduction: Western Pride

There are two Europes, the Old Europe and the New Europe, that is, the Europe of the first millennium and the Europe of the second millennium, Orthodox Europe and Secular Europe. We belong to the First Europe, whose very existence is denied, deliberately buried and hidden beneath the Second. Whereas the main characteristic of the First Europe is humility, that of the Second Europe is pride. This came about from the millennial delusion that Western European peoples are superior to other races, as is expressed by the filioque – the boasting Western statement that the Holy Spirit proceeds from their human nature. Its consequences were first seen when the introducer of the filioque, the eighth-century Frankish barbarian kinglet Charlemagne (Charles the Tall – he measured six feet 3 inches), slaughtered thousands of Saxons when they refused baptism.

This became even clearer at the end of the eleventh century, after the official adoption and defence of the filioque, with similar massacres in Southern Italy, in the British Isles after 1066, in Spain and during the First Crusade. We can clearly see the various forms of this pride in the negative traits common among European peoples. Thus, at worst, France can tend to suffer from vanity, megalomania – for example, the ‘Sun-King’ Louis XIV, Napoleon or Mitterrand – narcissism and therefore chauvinism (Chauvin was a Frenchman). At worst, Germany can tend to suffer from the thirst for control and domination over others, the striving for perfectionism – nothing is ever good enough if it is not German, as we have seen most recently in two World Wars and in the history of the EU. But what of the English, often called the British?

English Vices

Without doubt the English form of this Western pride is national pride, the love of national honour, as we can see in the history of the British Empire or in today’s cult of show-off cars and one-upmanship, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. ‘British is best’, they say, regardless of how awful it may actually be. This false assurance of natural superiority breeds not only jingoistic xenophobia (encouraged by living on an island), but also the spirit of ‘since it’s British, it’s good enough’, when in fact something is either good or bad, never ‘good enough’. This encourages amateurism, ‘muddling through’, ‘coping’, ‘managing’, rather than doing things properly. And that in turn breeds narrow-minded pragmatism and practicality: if it works, it is good enough, we don’t care about the rest. Which is how the British car industry with its shoddy products destroyed itself.

It is true that there are other national failings, but these were or are the result of the deformations of Protestantism and are shared by other peoples who also became Protestant. For instance, there is the national weakness of always compromising – a vice that grew up out of the Reformation, neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant. Indeed, it was on this unprincipledness of always compromising that the State Church was founded, with a Roman Catholic exterior but a Protestant interior. Now, compromise is no bad thing if it concerns secondary matters and being good neighbours. However, on matters of principle, this is the vice of amoralism. You cannot compromise between truth and lie, between good and bad. As the Gospel says, there can be no compromise between God and Belial. Thus, I have heard one (atheist) Anglican vicar saying that his ‘Church’ is ideal because it reconciles those who believe in God and those who do not!

Then there is the obsession with money, as seen in the multitude of words like calculating, stingy, frugal, prudent, tight, mean and the Dickensian scrooge. However, this characteristic is the result of narrow-minded, tedious, boring, thisworldly, money-grubbing Protestantism, and is shared by ex-Protestant and Calvinistic European peoples like the Dutch, the Swiss, the Scots and the Scandinavians, all of them founders of modern capitalism and accountancy and all notorious for their banking systems. There is also moral hypocrisy – this too was caused by puritanical Protestantism, with its high moral standards, but anti-ascetic, spiritual inability to meet them, resulting in Victorian London being the world centre of prostitution and very high rates of infection by syphilis. Today, it has resulted in fifty years of the free-for-all, ‘let it all hang out’ depravity that has come from the reaction to the old Puritanism and moral hypocrisy.

Conclusion: National Redemption?

Any vice can be turned round. Thus, French vanity can become positive, if it is turned into the quest for spiritual beauty and good taste and German perfectionism can be spiritualized as the path of repentance, the quest for self-perfection through humility. Similarly, the English sense of defending national honour can lead to the desire to do things well, to break records, to meet challenges, to declare that there are more important things than money. Triumphalist English people are not to be courted, for the English have always done best when their backs are to the wall, as at Trafalgar in 1805 and during the ‘finest hour’ during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Challenges bring out the best, enabling people to break the mould, to fight back, to think independently. If this can be spiritualized, then the English can still do great things.

Finally, there is the question of English humour. Its origin is in the absurd and even surreal contradictions in English society between the foreign, Norman Establishment and the English people, which is why this humour is so derisive of the Establishment and its class system, as in Monty Python. Unable to fight back against the Establishment, all the people could do in their frustration was to mock it and the situation that they found themselves in. On the one hand, this humour can be bitter and cynical, such as that in political satire, but on the other hand it can show the ability to mock oneself. Thus, the graffiti of Banksy can be bitterly satirical, but it can also be amusing and lead to thought. However, most English humour simply revels in the absurd and incompatible, and that can show humility.