No other country enjoys looking at its history through rose tinted glasses.
Nostalgia is England’s greatest drug. On Wednesday, England did the unthinkable — defeating Denmark at the semi-finals of the European championships. This win meant that England would be playing in the finals of a major competition since 1966, when it defeated Germany —its vanquished foe, during the second world war — to emerge victorious at the world cup.
For those who have a scintilla of knowledge of England, its culture, its history, geography and politics, they will readily appreciate the role of sport (football and cricket)in public life, since the decline and fall of the British empire.
The victory against the Germans at the 1966 world cup was a vindication of everything that it stood for; its history, its exceptionalism, its self esteem, its cultural superiority to its militaristic neighbours (also referred to the Huns), at a time when the crown jewel of its empire — India, had become independent and vast swathes of countries in Africa were following suit.
Its failure to match its only sporting success, whether at cricket — one remembers the countless thrashings as the hand of the Aussies in the Ashes series — or at football — successive years of disappointments in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s easily come to mind — usually provoke bouts of post-colonial melancholy and national soul searching, in the newspapers and journals that the chattering classes love to read and talk about.
Its rare emphatic victories against the Aussies at cricket — the 1981 and 2005 ashes come to mind, are usually celebrated, far beyond its usefulness, as examples of English bloody mindedness and exceptionalism.
Its existential angst about its place in the world, with the like of China, India, Russia and the United States of America, leading the global race, has led to England and I write of England, not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, to indulge in its favourite past time —nostalgia.
When Margaret Thatcher chose to go to war with General Galtieri of Argentina for some God forsaken island in the South Atlantic known as the Falklands in 1982, she knew exactly what it was doing, she was tapping into the national English psyche and giving it exactly what it…