Oh would some power the giftie gie us ...
"Oh would some power the giftie gie us,
To see ourselves as others see us."
Last week there was a terrible day when about forty people were killed in Iraq. I read about it in two different broadsheet newspapers, both of which are published round the world and influence how other countries see Britain. In each case you had to read at least three inches into the small print of the front page to learn that forty people in total had been killed.
But four of the forty were Brits - two soldiers and two British employees of a US Television crew. And their deaths were announced at the top of the front pages in big headlines - using a font in which letters probably covered twenty times the area of those used to record the deaths or ordinary Iraqi victims.
Let me make clear what I am and am not saying. As John Donne put it, every man's death diminishes me. Each one of those forty deaths meant an evil murder, a bereaved family, and a personal tragedy.
I do not critise those newspapers for giving particular prominence to the four UK citizens who were killed - they were UK newspapers. I do criticise them for getting the balance so far out that a non-British reader of those papers, particularly from, say, Basra, might get the impression that to us, British deaths are important but the deaths of ten times as many people from another country are a trivial detail.
Brits have the reputation in the rest of the world for being very arrogant and regarding the rest of the world as inferior beings. Like most reputations, it has some truth in it but is not entirely fair.
Of course, every nation on earth regards itself as the best in the world. Indeed most of us think it mildly unhealthy when we meet someone who is prepared to praise "every century but this and every country but his own". But it would be helpful if those of our newspapers which are sold round the world could refrain from reinforcing the stereotype that British people regard everyone else as second class humans.