Friday, 16 August 2013
We'll Muddle Through
If the civil religion of Britishness has its pantheon of saints, then surely Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a candidate for canonisation. This British Stakhanov embodies three of the most sacred values of Britishness - hierarchy, endurance, and projection. Hierarchy is what helps to give Britain its sense of stability and continuity, and though it is very visible in British public life, it is not entirely inflexible - a blinkered devotion to pointless acts of endurance can often help one raise one's social status. Sir Ranulph's high position within the hierarchy is denoted by both his knighthood and his rare and effete surname, whose tonguey, airey quality denotes he is not from common Saxon stock.
Sir Ranulph is an endurance specialist, and it is in this vocation that he is a paragon of British civil virtue. Being British is, fundamentally, about enduring - about keeping calm and carrying on, keeping your pecker or your chin up, not letting the bastards grind you down, and maintaining a stiff upper lip. We are where we are. Gibraltar. The Falklands. Anniversaries. Austerity. Coronation Street. Dr. Who. James Bond. All going on and on and on just like Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Or Bear Grylls. Or Ray Mears.
Perhaps one day Dr. Who will jog backwards to the North Pole with a cannonball chained to his penis just like Sir Ranulph. He'll muddle through. And being at the North Pole, he will be embracing that third British value - projection - which is the idea that British people belong absolutely everywhere in the world, especially those places that are most remote and inhospitable. There is simply no environment in the world, no matter how parched, windswept, frozen or dangerous, that is not augmented by the presence of a lycra-clad Briton wiping his or her forehead with a water bottle in a status-raising act of pointless endurance. And it goes without saying that any nation that gets a bit testy about Brits running hither and thither across its blasted landscape, such as, say, Russia or Iran, must be both inscrutable and perverse.
Can they not understand what we are trying to do?