One of the proudest boasts (albeit one that is a little tatty round the edges in the aftermath of Diana-wake) of the Brits is our stiff upper lip, that legendary sense of calm in the midst of crisis. Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, David Thomas takes a look at this phenomenon. His less than flattering conclusion:
“Maybe we are not so phlegmatic, after all. Maybe we are exhausted by the weight of our own history. Maybe, like our cheese-eating fellow-Europeans, we have become unwilling or unable to meet threats head-on, and defeat them. And that is where the advantage swings to America. You could say they panic – although it is only fair to point out that mockery of the Homeland Security department’s advice was at least as scathing in Middle America as it was in Middle England. But one could also say that Americans come from a culture which still believes in taking action.
If Americans think they are going to be gassed, they buy gas-masks. If they think they might go thirsty, they buy water. And if they think their country has deadly enemies, they expect their President – whoever he is – to find the person and blow that sucker away.
British phlegm is the response of a nation that has lost the capacity to mould events, and decides, instead, to endure them. Americans may not have so much phlegm. But they do have stealth bombers, aircraft carriers, and the 101st Airborne Division. And who needs phlegm when you’ve got all that on your side?”