Coronavirus Unveiled British Exceptionalism Myth


There is now the terrible possibility that Britain will even equal or surpass Italy and Spain as the European country suffering the most from the coronavirus pandemic. This tragedy has a political but also a biological epidemiology. Those looking to chart their course can remember a revealing moment – paradoxically when the government finally changed course and aligned itself with most other European countries.

On March 20, Boris Johnson announced the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants. However, while doing so, he made it clear that this decision constituted a breach of national character.

“We are removing the old inalienable right of people born free from the UK to go to the pub,” he said. “And I can understand what people think about this. Lest his anxiety be questioned, he stressed the point: “To repeat, I know how difficult it is, how it seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people. “The message was – what exactly? You don’t have to go to the pub but your right to do so is “inalienable” (that is, absolute and irrevocable). You have to stay at home, but if you do, you will be a shame for your freedom-loving ancestors.

The Sun reported the Prime Minister’s words quite differently: “Mr. Johnson said he realized it was against what he called” the inalienable right of free birth of people born in England to go to the pub. ” In this version, the freedom to go to the pub was conferred by genetics and history, not “the people of the United Kingdom” or “the British people”, but “the people born in England”. It does not apply to the Scots, the Welsh or the Northern Irish and certainly not to the 9.4 million people living in the United Kingdom who were born abroad. It is a special Anglo-Saxon privilege.


And since we are on the ground of ridicule, the version of the Sun actually made more sense. There is, of course, no ancient and absolute right to go to pubs and public houses have been regulated in England at least since the 15th century. But what Johnson was really talking about was a very special sense of English exceptionalism, a fantasy of personal freedom as a marker of ethnic and national identity.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here