Traditionally, an Englishman doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve because he knows that organ will eventually be caked in grime.
In fact, one of the most endearing characteristics of Englishness is emotional restraint, reluctance to pour one’s heart out into a willing, or at a pinch unwilling, ear.
This is closely linked to another innate English trait: respect for the individual. A problem shared is a problem doubled, is the implicit understanding.
Others have enough problems of their own; why should I burden, possibly embarrass, them with mine? Their privacy (a word, incidentally, that exists in neither Russian nor French) is more important than my urge to communicate.
Not for the English the Russian habit of sharing innermost feelings with all and sundry on those interminable train rides. Not for the English the American custom of talking to bartenders and fellow drinkers about personal concerns, large or small – loudly, on the assumption that everyone within earshot will be keenly interested. After all, all men are created equally interesting.
This has nothing to do with inner warmth and capacity for friendship. In the good old days after which so many Russians are hankering, cardiac outpourings were routinely reported to the KGB. And the same American who talks about his wife’s frigidity to strangers may never invite a neighbour of 10 years over for a drink.
Traditional English traits are exactly the ones modernity is busily trying to expunge. The English aren’t supposed to be English any longer. They’re expected to go against their nature to emulate lachrymose Russian incontinence and loudmouth American effusiveness.
The quintessential English stiff upper lip is now seen not as an admirable quality to be praised but as a psychological problem to be solved. Psychobabble has infected the English language, making a mockery of it and perverting the English character.
Englishness itself is under assault, and its last bastions are crumbling away. For even the royal family, whose principal function should be upholding traditional continuity, have become turncoats joining the enemy.
First it was Harry sharing with every media outlet his grief over his mother’s death. His Sensitive Highness had struggled to come to terms with that tragedy for 20 years until finally getting counselling. Presumably he’s sorted now, but crestfallen about his countrymen’s reluctance to attend group sessions. HRH stopped just short of advertising his therapist: “Just tell him Harry sent you, he’ll give you a good deal.”
I wonder if 602 years ago his royal namesake had to talk to some mountebank shrink about the tragedy of having been responsible for so many deaths at Agincourt and his resulting erectile dysfunction. Probably not: progress hadn’t yet arrived.
The English hadn’t yet learned about the post-traumatic stress disorder for which not only today’s soldiers but even war reporters have to be treated. They just got on with their lives and kept their emotions to themselves.
Now Harry’s elder brother Will has joined the battle to put an end to the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture. He promises his children, our future king among them, will “grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions”.
Mental health charities, which in common with most other charities today serve mainly their own administrators, are ecstatic. But then they would be, wouldn’t they?
William, along with his father and brother, makes me reassess my belief that the royals should have a say in government. If all they can say is sentimental rubbish, perhaps they’re better off silent.
To wit: “Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course – we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”
HRH obviously counts himself among the successful and strong, which betokens laudable self-confidence. But I’d rather he kept his wounded soul and bleeding heart to himself, instead of exposing them to millions of people.
Share your little tragedies, most of them trumped up, with your family and friends, Will, and spare the rest of us those tasteless displays. Learn from your grandparents; they do have something valuable to teach you.
The prince also speaks of his children and the determination he shares with his wife that they will be able to share their feelings urbi et orbi.
His hope is growing “that things are changing and that there is a generation coming up who find it normal to talk openly about their emotions. Emotional intelligence is key for us all to deal with the complexities of life and relationships.”
I’d suggest doing some more work on developing cerebral intelligence. That would help HRH realise that there’s no such thing as emotional intelligence, certainly not the kind that’s manifested through gushing sentimental incontinence.
But then he and his brother are modern men with their ears attuned to the Zeitgeist, which they perceive in every tonal detail. And the dominant tune is solipsism run riot. Nothing higher than self exists, which makes the tiniest quirks of the self’s psyche all-important not only to self but to mankind.
Unable to think, modern men pride themselves on their enhanced capacity to feel, not realising that they’ve replaced sentiment with sentimentality, emotions with emotiveness – and Englishness with a bad caricature of foreign character and alien mores.