There is such a striking difference between the way the British react to yesterday’s terror attacks and the way the Spanish reacted to last year’s Madrid bombings, that I am not the only one intrigued by it. We all know that Britain will not “do a Spain.” It is simply inconceivable that, in response to terrorists, Londoners would paint their hands white, hastily change their foreign policies and vote their government out of office. “Britain will not be cowed,” Tony Blair said, and this sentiment is shared even by political opponents of his Iraq policies, such as Ken Livingstone.
Jingoism is often considered to be a pejorative word. A jingoist is a “supporter of bellicose policy,” says the Concise Oxford Dictionary, but the term derives from an 1878 music-hall song by G.H. MacDermott.
We don't want to fight
But, by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships,
We've got the men,
We've got the money, too.
This attitude seems to be typically British. As in the 1930s, the British are often appeasers (because, as the song says, they “don’t want to fight") but when attacked, every willingness to appease is over and they fight to the bitter end. Other nations often tend to behave in exactly the opposite way. They brag, but when severly hit they throw down their arms. Perhaps that is the fundamental difference between the macho attitude of some peoples (like the Spanish?) and the jingoism of the British. Perhaps we need a reappraisal of jingoism. In a letter to The (London) Times, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, wrote today: “New Yorkers feel particular empathy, just as Londoners showed empathy to New York. In fact, I’ve mentioned many times that in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, I viewed the people of London during the air attacks of the Second World War as a model for how to remain courageous and strong during times of great trouble.” London did not “do a Rotterdam” in 1940. It did not capitulate. Because the British have something even more important than the ships, the men, the money; they have the fighting spirit.