I hope to return tomorrow to the theme I began yesterday.
I don't think 'the modern generation' understands how instictively tribal we all were, even, say, a mere seventy years ago.
Every peasant in England was either Oxford or Cambridge when it came to supporting a university in the annual Boat Race, depending on family affections (or otherwise) for Squire or Parson or Doctor. Every family was 'Labour' or 'Conservative' or 'Liberal'. My father was not protected from such tribalism by having Seen The World as a sailorman. Indeed, his primary prejudices arose from his loyalty to the Navy. In the Thirties he built an Art Deco house in the middle of the countryside ... and named it after his Ship!! The largest picture in it was a gigantic Victorian engraving of Viscount Nelson raising a wine glass; the caption was "THE TOAST IS: BRITAIN". Of course, he would use the N-word as everybody then did; but there was no animus in his unreconstructed lexical habits. Perhaps his greatest contempt for tribes which were Other was reserved for the British Army. Having grown up in a garrison town, he had strong views about their ridiculous preoccupation with Drill, the fatuous pomposity of their silly salutes, their generally absurd and class-ridden culture.
He had seen the world; so he knew for certain that Natives were happiest by far under the Btitish Empire. But after the War, when travel again became possible, and we went on holiday to a European country, I became aware of his dislike of armed police. That man, after all, could just take out that revolver and shoot someone dead with it.
He was convinced that countries with such phenomena as armed police did not count as "free".
After all, of the many gaps dividing human from human, the gap between the man who can (possibly even on mere impulse) shoot you stone dead within five seconds without even getting near you, and the man who can't, is one of the most radical divides.
In my teens, I sloughed off most of my paternal xenophobia fairly rapidly ... I discovered a fascination for languages, and you can't easily love someone's language while despising them. But my Father's loathing for gun-toting cops lingered in my mind. I recall a feeling of genuine, physical revulsion when, decades later, during a terrorism crisis, I saw a couple of plods patrolling Heathrow Airport, with guns.
As the decades continue to roll past, my inherited feeling that countries where the police wear side-arms do not really count as 'free' has (I am glad to be able to reassure you) gradually evaporated. But not, quite, entirely. Whenever I see ... for example, a video-clip on a news bulletin, showing police with fire-arms in their hands pumping multiple bullets at point-blank range into someone's back ... there comes, unbidden, into my mind, my Father's view that
That is not a free country.
I just can't help it.
C A P D