It’s no achievement, after all, to be born in any particular place or time. I didn’t choose to be born in one of the world’s wealthiest and most developed countries. Rather than, say, Syria, or Ethiopia. Or in a famine or plague year. Or Jewish in 1930s Poland. Or on the brink of some future nuclear apocalypse – which, in fact, we may be.
It was none of my doing. It was just luck. Random chance. Nothing I could do about it.
It makes no more sense to be proud of our national heritage than it would to be ashamed of the slave trade or the worst excesses of the British raj. You and I weren’t there.
Still, I remember my headmaster when I was in primary school pointing out all the pink bits on the world map and encouraging us to be proud of them. Which is a sign both of how old I am, and how old-fashioned he was even then.
The first time we had a telly brought in to the school was so we could all watch Winston Churchill’s funeral and take pride in his greatness. Which is odd, looking back, because if his reputation hadn’t been buffed up by the war he’d have gone down in history as the nasty, bungling, empire-obsessed egotist he was.
If you find yourself bristling at that description of dear old Winnie, it’s because you too were fed the same jingoistic propaganda I was.
So much, then, for tribal pride. But we can agree we were lucky to be born British.
We can feel lucky in what we were schooled to feel pride in. That our little country, in so many ways, led the world.
But the trouble with being first is that sooner or later you get caught up and passed. And then you can be left lumbered with something no longer exactly state-of-the-art.
You can call it heritage. Stick it in museums, slap plaques on it and produce neat plastic imitations. Or you can just admit it’s past-it.
We led the way into the industrial age, but that’s over. We gave the world football, but it’s a while since we were the best at it. Our law is based, quaintly, on winners and losers, not seeking out the truth. It’s not just the fancy-dress wigs and gowns that belong in the 18th century.
And then there’s our political system. We’re living right now through another cracking example of just how fit for purpose it isn’t.
First-past-the-post is meant to produce strong, stable government. So that worked, then. Again.
Coalitions aren’t necessarily such a bad thing. Many countries – much of Europe, for example – live with them all the time. Those based on proportional representation, truly reflecting the range of public opinion, can work well, consensual politics avoiding extremes. Proper democracy, you might say.
Which is not what we have.
I’ve lived in safe Labour seats. I now live in an even safer Tory seat. My vote has never been worth a tuppenny curse. Under our system, most people’s votes are equally irrelevant.
But if just 16 souls had voted the other way in Southampton Itchen last week, they’d have elected a Labour MP instead of a Tory. And if 23 people in Richmond had ticked a different box, Zac Goldsmith would have been beaten.
If both those things had happened, it would have been Jeremy Corbyn, not Theresa May, piecing together a coalition government. On the say-so of just 39 ordinary people in two constituencies. Though, admittedly, just 11 Kensington constituents could have flipped it back the other way again.
As it is, we now find effective power being handed to the far-right Democratic Unionists, who got less than 1% of the vote.
The DUP got 292,316 votes and 10 seats. The Green Party have just one MP for their 525,371 votes – and UKIP none at all for their 593,852.
The Tories had an average of 42,979 votes for each seat they won; Labour got an MP for every 49,141 votes; the LibDems needed 197,648 votes per seat gained; the SNP just 27,931 – slightly less even than the DUP.
Those figures would all have been very different under PR. And we’d have a less tribal, more consensual coalition in which the smaller parties had a real voice.
But that wouldn’t be very British, would it?