The difference between Leavers and Remainers is perhaps one of a certain rather fundamental identity. The Leavers see themselves as primarily citizens of Britain, and the Remainers see themselves a citizens of the World (or at least of Europe).
We all have these identities. In fact we have multiple identities. Young and old. Man and woman. Black and white. And we were all born somewhere, and identify to some degree with that place. And we all primarily speak some native language. And we all worship one god or other… And so on.
And the identities can and do change. We start out young, and end up old. Very often we’re born somewhere, but end up living someplace else. Or we start out speaking French, and end up speaking English.
And there are gains and losses attached to all of them. There are benefits attached to being young, and different benefits attached to being old. And there are also difficulties attached to being young, and to being old. It’s easy for English-speakers to speak to each other, harder for them to speak to French-speakers. It’s easy for people to find their way around the town where they live, but an outsider is likely to get lost.
And most people do what’s easiest. So the English mostly talk to the English, and the French talk to the French, because it’s easier that way. And the English stay in England, and the French stay in France, because it’s easier that way.
It’s not just language. It’s also place. A few years back I was thinking that Wales has its own separate identity because Wales is a physically different place than adjoining England. It’s much hillier than England. Much of England is pretty flat, particularly in the south. And I thought that people living in Wales found it harder to walk around the land than English people did, and so probably tended to live in one place, while the English would more readily travel around. And this subtle difference perhaps informs and colours all sorts of other differences between the Welsh and the English. The same applies to Scotland, much of which is mountainous, and Scots divided themselves into highlanders and lowlanders, probably because they also were slightly different people.
Again, living in cities is a different experience than living in the countryside outside them, so city-dwellers have a different experience of life than country-dwellers, and so a different outlook on life. The pace of city life is much faster than country life. And there’s much more happening.
Schools in France will now by law have to fly the French flag in every classroom — along with the EU flag.
The French parliament passed legislation in February to make displaying the Tricolore and EU flags compulsory, the law coming into practice on Monday when French children returned to school. Classrooms must also bear the country’s motto, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood), and the national anthem, “La Marseillaise”.
I wonder what the French people will think of having EU flags in classrooms? Flags are symbols of identity, and I suspect that many of them will not want a European identity thrust upon them. In fact, they might not like having their own French identity thrust upon them either. Do the French need to be told they’re French?
In recent years I’ve acquired a new identity. I’ve become a smoker. A cigarette smoker. I never used to think of myself as a smoker, but when we English smokers were evicted from our pubs on 1 July 2007, I acquired this new identity. And it’s a very interesting identity, because it’s one that isn’t defined by age or sex or colour or language or nationality. You become a smoker when you light up a cigarette, much like you become a Christian when you are baptised with water. So there’s now a loose global network of smokers, that exists everywhere in the world, all of them sharing the same trait. And smokers are now experiencing persecution all over the world, and nothing better ensures the permanence of identity than persecution and struggle. It’s probably true of every country in the world that they all only exist in opposition to each other. It’s certainly true of Britain: the Scots and the Welsh and the English have been fighting each other for centuries, only being periodically united in fighting against some shared enemy.
This new identity – the smoker – is one that has yet to receive public recognition. Minorities like blacks and gays and Jews and women have all gained public recognition, always as a result of their discrimination or persecution or exclusion. And I think that smokers will, quite inevitably, soon join them in being publicly recognised. And I think that smokers will become a new and powerful political force in the world, given that there are about as many of them as there are in many religions. And as they grow in power they will re-acquire many of their lost rights.
Anyway, this new identity is so powerful that it’s what I primarily describe myself as being on this blog.
About Frank Davis – smoker
There’s nothing more that anyone need know.