I was listening to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 earlier. They were interviewing a soldier, Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, who has been awarded the George Cross medal after throwing himself onto a grenade, thereby saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. It is an amazing story, and his bravery is humbling and inspiring. How many of us would make a split-second decision to put others' lives ahead of our own in such circumstances? I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.
Also on the show, commenting on the story was a writer (I'm afraid I didn't make a note of his name), who said, 'It's the kind of story that makes you proud to be British'. His comment stopped me in my tracks. I had thought he was going to say, 'Proud to be human', with which I would have agreed wholeheartedly; proud to be human was how the story made me feel. Our strange species can be so selfish at times, but as this story proves, can also be incredibly generous and selfless.
But proud to be British? What does being British have to do with it? Did he mean that other nationalities aren't courageous? Is concern for your fellow beings determined by an arbitrary delineation on a map? I may be unpatriotic, but I don't see how being British has anything to do with the bravery of this act. I'm sure plenty of Brits in the same situation would have run for their lives. And plenty of Norwegians, Egyptians, Fijians, Peruvians, Ethiopians, Thais, New Zealanders would have done the same as Lance Corporal Croucher.
Perhaps the comment was about sharing in Lance Corporal Croucher's acclaim. But for myself, it seems more appropriate to share it as a fellow human being than as a fellow Briton. Don't get me wrong, I think Britain has much to be proud of - but I don't think we have a monopoly on bravery, chivalry, selflessness or compassion. And that's a good thing.