Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What happened to the stiff upper lip?

It used to be the case that Englishmen were proud of the fact that in any adversity they would demonstrate a stiff upper lip.  I have to wonder what happened to our sang froid as it seems we no longer possess it.  These past few days demonstrate that fact.

Tower Bridge and the arch at Wembley Stadium have been floodlit in the colours of the tricolore.  Many of us have changed our Facebook images, even if only temporarily.  Yesterday, we English joined with the rest of Europe in holding a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the atrocities in Paris.  Even banks and shops stopped work to join in.

There was a time when, faced with any sort of tragedy or disaster, Englishmen would have, perhaps, paused for a moment and then gone about their business.

This did not mean a lack of care or empathy.  It was exactly the same if the disaster was personal.  It was simply considered 'bad form', selfish exhibitionism even, to show grief or pain in front of others who, possibly, did not share one's pain.  Men would do no more than wear a black armband in the event of the death of a relative, although women - the gentler sex - were expected to don mourning dress, 'widow's weeds'.  Nowadays we are expected to wail and gnash our teeth - just like hysterical Frenchmen.  And as for the flowers and toys left at the scene of a death...

It seems to me that it all started with the death of Princess Diana.  It was in 2007 that Jonathan Freedland, wrote in The Guardian, "The conventional wisdom [now] holds that Diana week was an outburst of mass hysteria, an episode when the British public lost its characteristic cool and engaged in seven days of bogus sentimentality, whipped up by the media."

It appears that we are still enthralled by mass hysteria.

4 comments:

joeh said...

I still believe in the stiff upper lip; sometimes showing grief becomes a contest. I did not change my Facebook, I still am as angry about the atrocities as anyone else.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I'm with Joe, except, of course I did the tricolore on f/b.
I'm not aware that there's anything more than a feeling of solidarity, though.
I know what mourning and grief are.
In this instance, I went straight to anger.
I shall try to let go of it.
But it won't be easy.

#1Nana said...

Nothing wrong with a stiff upper lip, but perhaps with age comes a little wisdom and we have recognized that it is healthy to show our emotions. We're not wallowing in emotion, but showing our feelings. We all need the bonds of humanity now. We don't get a better world until we recognize each others humanity.

Sarah said...

I think I agree with Nana - I think we show our strength as much in reaching out to others as we do with a stiff upper lip. It's not the traditional British way but I don't think it does us any harm to show our emotions a little. I do think though that there is a time and a place and a point where we have to set out emotions aside so that we can deal with things logically, calmly and with determination.