Is Bloody-mindedness British?

I’ve been reading a very interesting article on the BBC News website, by Finlo Rohrer.

It argues that sheer bloody-mindedness, the desire to resist authority and overwhelming odds, is something that is quintessentially British. As much as queuing, in fact (try it when next abroad. Only in Britain do we REALLY know how to queue!).

Why be bloody-minded? It comes from a range of motivations. From simply to annoy, to standing up for what you believe in (there is a risk of nimbyism here), to the extreme of having to resist a foreign invader. It was felt by quite a few in 1940 that Britain simply does not give in to ‘grubby little dictators’. And in 1982, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Henry Leach told Margaret Thatcher that we SHOULD re-take the Falklands, as ‘if we don’t, soon we will be living in a country where words count for very little’. The politicians thought it impossible, as did the Army and the RAF. But Thatcher liked what she heard, and have Leach the order to send a Task Force.

It transcends into Military History. Look at the amount of British battles where men have had to hold on for grim death against the odds – Waterloo, Rorkes Drift, Arhem… it takes bloody mindedness to fight off a superior enemy. Yes, there is something very British about being the underdog.

Polls, or anything that is open to public participation, are game for bloody-mindedness, as the recent Christmas no.1 battle has shown. It is a thread that does seem to run through British society. Cultural Historian Joe Moran has some interesting things to say:

“There is quite a long British tradition of localism and scepticism towards state power, and after World War II this was refuelled by widespread resentments about the survival of wartime red tape and rationing.”

Funnily enough, as a country we do seem to enjoy queuing, and feel comfortable doing what we are told. But we’ll have a good moan while we’re at it. But not to the person who is responsible, oh no. We don’t do complaining…


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