Home > Uncategorized > Wiff-Waff, China and Why I Hate the English

Wiff-Waff, China and Why I Hate the English

It’s been almost impossible for Chinese people to explain to me the overwhelming sense of patriotism that borders on nationalism in mainland China.  I have, after all, taken leave of my home country, and found happiness of a sort in the Far Eastern reaches of Beijing.  National identity and pride are alien concepts to me.   I go to great lengths to point out to people that I’m not English.  At the very least, I’m British, and at the most, I claim to be Irish under the same rules published by the Football Association.  I’ve been home for about 10 days now, and I can categorically say that I hate the English.

Much has been written about the uniqueness of British culture. What’s left of it is unique, which just shows you how much apathy there is in this country that I’ve spent the last three and a half years trying to avoid.     Parallels had been made while I was living in Japan that the British and the Japanese are quite similar – both are island nations, both had prominent roles in World War II, we both have odd, off-the-planet senses of humor, and both nations are known for their odd attitudes towards sex.

The Japanese have sushi bars where patrons can eat raw fish off a naked Japanese girl, and in the UK, politicians are found hanging from a door jamb, with oranges laced with amyl nitrate stuffed in their mouths.   Jeremy Clarkson thinks that British culture is watching The Great Escape on TV on Christmas Day, and that’s pretty much the extent of it – a British nuclear family huddled around widescreen TV, scarfing down their dinner that’s balanced on their laps.  At one time, British people were worried that technology was replacing British customs, so the Victorians made customs up and pretended that they’d been doing them for thousands of years.  Now we’re content with Simon Cowell.

There are other things that the English have in common with the Japanese.  Their contempt towards learning, their apparent complete ignorance of the geography and culture of other countries, the expectation that everyone can speak their language, and the assumption that national stereotypes are true.   The Japanese saying that “the nail that stands up gets hammered down” can just as describe the attitude that the British take to anyone who doesn’t conform.

One particular English custom is that of bullying.  The Chinese and the Americans will have little idea of what it is to have your entire future defined by what school you went to.  My parents had to go through the 11-Plus exam which essentially determined if people could continue onto grammar school, or if they should just give it all up and become a secretary.  Boarding schools – an essentially English invention where kids are sent away from home for their schooling – are famous for being hives of physical, verbal and sexual abuse.  The entire sense of English humour is based on the high school bully.

A laugh in England that isn’t made at someone’s expense is a rare laugh indeed.  The Chinese rely on wordplay and observation to get their laughs.  The English rely on finding anyone who is different and shining the world’s biggest spotlight on for as long as possible.  Only the English could go to a football match, and make hissing sound in order to unsettle the Jewish players in the opposing team by imitating the sound of carbon monoxide entering the slaughter chambers in a Nazi concentration camp.

The Chinese (and North Korean) sense of reliance and pride in their nation comes from being under the thumb.  The Japanese and the Mongols both took China from the Chinese.  The same can be true of England, invaded countless times by the French, the Vikings and the Romans – it’s why the language is such a mess – but the English have never really twigged the idea of self-reliance, the idea that you can outsell and outperform your oppressors was twisted into the idea that you can thumb your nose at the people that bastardized your country and your language by creating the black slave trade.  Americans are a watered down concentrate of English repression – the Puritans who settled America were kicked out by the English for being too uptight.

AA Gill wrote that the English have a default setting of angry.  I believe the English have a default setting similar to that of perpetual disappointment.  The English spawned the language (do tell me if I’m going too fast for you) and now, thousands upon millions are spending millions upon thousands to learn the language – not to speak to the English, but to speak to Americans.  There’s little in the way of English culture, heritage or even a sense of national pride.  There’s no other country where the national flag is more of a symbol of division than of unity.  The English invented cricket, and promptly were overtaken by their former colonies in almost every cricket competition you can care to mention.  And then there’s wiff-waff.

Boris Johnson, the current mayor of London says of Wiff-Waff:  “Other nations, the French, looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner. We looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to play Wiff Waff. That is why London is the sporting capital of the world.”

Wiff-Waff is probably better known as Ping-Pong, and it was invented by the English, and, given the current state of British-Sino relations right now, it might be time for another round of Wiff-Waff diplomacy.  It can only be hoped that they don’t try to hit the middle ground and try to call it Wiff-Pong.  Of course, Ping-Pong is something else that the English gave away to the world and haven’t seen since, let’s just hope the same isn’t true of diplomatic relations.

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