Fṛm Đ Gardịn: Coronavirus has exposed the myth of British exceptionalism

Fintan O'Toole
Fintn OTūl
C’roṇvîṛs hz xpozd ɖ miʈ v Britiś xpśṇlizm

(Transcription of an article published in the Guardian on 11 April 2020)

Boris Jonsn’z frst rspons wz at odz wɖ ɖ rest v ɖ wrld. Bt ɖs vîṛs dz nt rspct hiz dluźnz v naśnl caṛctr

Fintn OTūl, Saṭde, 11 Epril 2020

A boarded-up pub in London, 9 April 2020: ‘Exceptionalism lies behind the assumption that there was something peculiarly unnatural in expecting Brits to obey drastic restrictions.’ Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock
A bōrdd-up pub in Lundn, 9 Epril 2020: ‘Xpśṇlizm lîz bhnd ɖ asumśn ɖt ɖr wz smʈñ pkłrli uņaćṛl in xpctñ Brits t obe drastic rstrix́nz.’ Foṭgraf: Jemz Vezi/REX/Śuṭstoc

Ɖr z nǎ ɖ teṛbl posbiḷti ɖt Britn me mać or īvn oṿtec Iṭli n Spen az ɖ cuntri in Yṛp ɖt sufrz most fṛm ɖ c’roṇvîṛs pandemic. Ɖs traɉdi hz a p’liticl, az wel az a bạlojicl, eṗdīmioḷji. Ɖoz sīcñ t tres its paʈ me lc bac on a telñ momnt – paṛdoxicli ɖ wn at ẃć ɖ guvnmnt fîṇli ćenjd cors n fél intu lîn wɖ most v ɖ rest v Yṛp. On 20 Marć, Boris Jonsn anǎnst ɖ cloźr v pubz, clubz n resṭronts. Īvn az h dd so, hvr, h md it clir ɖt ɖs dsiźn wz an asōlt on ɖ naśnl caṛctr.

“W’r tecñ awe ɖ enćnt, inełṇbl rît v fri-born ppl v ɖ Ynîtd Cñdm t g ɖ pub,” h sd. “N I cn unḍstand hǎ ppl fīl abt ɖt.” Lest hiz anḡś b in eni dǎt, h unḍscord ɖ pônt: “T rpit, I nǒ hǎ dificlt ɖs z, hǎ it sīmz t g agnst ɖ frīdm-luvñ instñts v ɖ Britiś ppl.” Ɖ mesij wz – ẃt xacli? Y mst nt g t ɖ pub bt yr rît t d so z “inełṇbl” (ẃć z t se abṣlut n ireṿcbl). Y mst ste at hom bt, f y so d, y wl b a dsgres t yr frīdm-luvñ ansestrz.

Ɖ Sún rportd ɖ prîm ministr’z rmarcs rɖr difṛntli: “Mr. Jonsn sd h riylîzd it wnt agnst ẃt h cōld ‘ɖ inełṇbl fri-born rît v ppl born in Ñgḷnd t g t ɖ pub’.” In ɖs vrśn, ɖ frīdm t g t ɖ pub wz cnfŕd bî jnetics n hisṭri, nt on ɖ “ppl v ɖ Ynîtd Cñdm” or “ɖ Britiś ppl”, bt on “ppl born in Ñgḷnd”. It dz nt aplî t Scots, Wlś or Norɖn Îriś ppl n srtnli nt t ɖ 9.4 miłn ppl livñ in ɖ YC hu wr born abrōd. It z a ptiklr Anglo-Saxn priṿlij.

N sins w r in ɖ t’ren v ɖ lūdicṛs, ɖ Sún’z vrśn acć̣li md mor sns. Ɖr z, v cors, no enćnt n abṣlut rît t g t ɖ pub – ínz n public hǎzz hv bn reğletd in Ñgḷnd at līst sins ɖ 15ʈ snćri. Bt ẃt Jonsn wz riyli ivocñ wz a vri sṗsific Ñgliś sns v xpśṇlizm, a fanṭsi v prsnl frīdm az a marcr v eʈnic n naśnl îdntti.

Ɖt xpśṇlizm z nt, alas, mir r’toricl slf-induljns. It hlpt t śep ofiśl poḷsi twdz ɖ Covid-19 crîsis. It lîz bhnd bʈ ɖ îdīa ɖt ɖr śd b a dstñtiv Britiś rspons t ɖs globl ćalinj, n ɖ asumśn ɖt ɖr wz smʈñ pkłrli uņaćṛl in xpctñ Brits t obe drastic rstrix́nz. Its leġsi z ɖ gloḅli dscredtd poḷsi v “hrd-iḿṇti” n ɖ lêt intṛdux́n, sqonḍrñ Britn’z hed start, v ɖ locdǎn.

Ɖ prîm ministr himslf hz loñ cultvetd ɖ nośn ɖt h dz nt jst ispǎz ɖs frīdm-luvñ xpśṇlizm – h imbodiz it. In ɖ rli stejz v ɖ crîsis, Jonsn’z admîrrz cd si it az hiz Fînist Aur, ɖ momnt ẃn hiz Ćrćiłn posć̣rñ wd bcm riyl n h wd sev hiz cuntri. Ẃn ɖ prîm ministr wz hospiṭlîzd, hiz ovŗòt frend n fan Tobi Yuñ cnfest in ɖ Spectetr t “a cînd v misticl b’lif in Britn’z gretnis n hr abiḷti t oceźṇli brñ fʈ rmarcbl indivijlz … hu cn srv hr at criticl juñćrz. I’v olwz ʈt v Boris az wn v ɖoz ppl – nt jst sspctd it, bt noun it in mî bonz.”

Jonsn’z Ćrćl imprṣneśn hz olwz bn a we v clemñ ɖt hiz ǒn weẉdnis z nt mir slf-induljns bt ɖ marc v a speśl (n idịsncraticli Ñgliś) desṭni. In hiz bc, Ɖ Ćrćl Factr, h rout v hiz aidl: “Ɖr z a sns in ẃć [Ćrćl’z] xntriṣti n hymr hlpt t xpres ẃt Britn wz fîtñ fr – ẃt it wz ol abt. Wɖ hiz lūdicṛs hats n romprz n sgarz n xes alc̣hol, h cntrîvd fizicli t repriznt ɖ sntṛl îdīa v hiz ǒn p’liticl f’loṣfi: ɖ inełṇbl rît v Britiś ppl t liv ɖer lîvz in frīdm, t d ɖer ǒn ʈñ.” Ges hu ɖs wz mnt t brñ t mînd fr cntmprri rīdrz?

Biyñ drunc on frīdm z wn we fr ɖ ćozn ppl t “d ɖer ǒn ʈñ”. Adoptñ a dstñtiv naśnl aproć t a globl pandemic z anɖr. Ɖ miʈ v a ynīc n dfînñ luv v prsnl frīdm az a baj v neśnhd unḍpind a pṛfǎnd rluctns t impoz lîf-sevñ rstrix́nz on muvmnt n sośl gaɖ̇rñz. Uɖr ppl mt pt p wɖ ɖt sort v ʈñ, bt nt ɖ Ñgliś. On ɖ ōltr v ɖs xpśṇlizm, lîvz hv bn sacṛfîst.

Ɖs inet, jnetic rzistns t cnforṃti z a miʈ. Ɖs z obvịs fṛm ɖ psistns v an īql n oṗzit clīśe v Ñgliśnis: ɖ cȳ. Jorj Orwél cd rapṣdîz “ɖ jntl-manrd, undimonstṛtiv, lw’bîdñ Ñgliś” n “ɖ ordrli bhevyr v Ñgliś crǎdz, ɖ lac v pśñ n qoṛlñ, ɖ wilñnis t form cȳz”. Ɖ anʈṛpoḷjist Cet Fox rout: “Jrñ ɖ Lundn rayts in Ōġst 2011, I witnist lūtrz formñ an ordrli cȳ t sqīz, wn at a tîm, ʈru ɖ smaśt windo v a śop ɖe wr lūtñ.” Ordrlinis z jst az prominnt az weẉdnis in ɖ Ñgliś slf-imij – ẃć sjsts ɖt nɖr v ɖz truizmz z enćnt, inełṇbl or wrʈ a dám ẃn y r mcñ poḷsi in a tîm v pleg.

Ɖ xpśṇlist “frīdm-luvñ instñt” hz litl t d wɖ hisṭri n mć mor t d wɖ cuṛnt poḷtics, sṗsificli ɖ poḷtics v Brexit. Jonsn dscrîbd az “mgnifisnt” a 2014 bc bî ɖ arć-Brexitr Dańl Hann cōld Hǎ W Invntd Frīdm – “w” biyñ ɖ Anglo-Saxnz. Hann xpresli rclemd ɖ îdīa v xpśṇlizm, ɖ frīdm-luvñ Anglo-Saxnz biyñ ɖ xpśn ispeṣ́li t Yṛpiyn sleviśnis. Brexit, az h argyd, wz wn impeṛtiv v ɖs dcoṭmi. Trajicli, a nośn ɖt ɖ YC cd ignor ɖ Wrld Hlʈ Orġnîześn n d its ǒn ʈñ wɖ ɖ vîṛs wz anɖr.

Covid-19, az Jonsn himslf dscuvrd in ɖ most ōfl we, dz’nt mc xpśnz. Ɖ ʈret z yṇvrsl. N ɖ śīld agnst it – ɖ NHS – z cozṃpoḷtn n globl. Ɖr r 200 difṛnt naṣ́naḷtiz reprizntd in its rancs bî 150,000 doctrz, nrsz n ansiḷri staf. Wn conṣleśn in ɖs dzastr z ɖ rịlîześn ɖt Britn z xpśṇli luci t hv ɖm.

Fintn OTūl z a coḷmnist wɖ ɖ Îriś Tîmz

Instroduction to Ñspel

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