There is something uniquely British about moaning. We are sceptics. As George Orwell once suggested, the reason no one ever goose-stepped down English streets is simply that everybody would laugh. There is a sense of distance that you don't see in the 'we-are-the-greatest-nation-on-earth-and-can-do-anything' USA.

Perhaps we are temperamentally 'glass half empty' nations rather than natural 'can do' optimists.

And maybe that has something to do with our climate, it's changeability engendering an innate caution that whatever we an might get stuffed by the weather.

Or, maybe it has to do with a mature recognition from our history that any glimpse of greatness is always temporary – that empires come and go and that they often appear in retrospect to be less great than our rhetoric or transient glory seduced us into believing.

Anyway, we can only hope that for the next couple of weeks the media might be sidetracked from looking for all the holes (of which there will be many – but when did the commentariat last organise anything for which they would be held eternally accountable?) and celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime communal party of pride that will be the 30th Olympiad.

Jonathan Freedland hits the right buttons in this morning's Guardian. I might not get to see huge amounts of sport during the next couple of weeks, but I feel proud of what has been achieved in even getting to this point.

Yes, seconds after the closing ceremony the commentariat will start to question everything – and the 'legacy' questions will need to be asked – but I hope we might first celebrate before we criticise.

I know I bang on a bit about the linguistic incompetence of the English, but toady I read something on the train to London that pushed all my prejudice buttons.

In today’s Guardian Jonathan Freedland has a good go at the (usually untested) arguments for the massive pay differentials in some of our businesses. The usual rationale has something to do with the assumption that our ‘best’ talent would go abroad if we brought what the boss of Barclays called the ‘compensation’ levels down to something that resembled ‘earnings’. In other words, we would be left with second-division executives who lack the ambition or the hunger to up sticks and emigrate.

He responds to this by recognising that rare skills can legitimately demand rare salaries – but also that the skills of those who earn huge amounts are not exactly rare.

?… Our objection to telephone-number salaries goes deeper. What it comes down to is desert – a notion so deeply ingrained that, yes, even a seven-year-old can grasp it: the belief that people should deserve the rewards they get.

… Most people have long accepted that there will be a differential in pay that, in the hoary example, the brain surgeon will earn more than the dustman. People understand that some skills are rare and therefore command a greater premium. They even accept that this can result in extreme outcomes, with the likes of Wayne Rooney trousering £250,000 a week. But none of that logic applies to the current state of corporate pay.

Rooney is truly a one in a hundred million talent; there might be just two dozen people in the world who could match his skills. But with all due respect to Bob Stack, that is not true of him. Nor can it possibly be true of the 2,800 staff in 27 UK-based banks who, according to the Financial Services Authority, received more than £1m each in 2009. Whatever these people are able to do, it’s clearly not rare.

Ah, comes the reply, but these are the cream of the international crop, among the very best bankers in the world. The commission report blows a hole in that tired argument, revealing there’s hardly any cross-border poaching of corporate talent. Not many of our monolingual high earners could work abroad and even fewer would want to. They like it here and do not have to be paid lottery jackpot money to stay.

Notice the (almost) aside? ‘Monolingual’ high earners? We consistently underestimate the economic cost of our linguistic incompetence – to say nothing of the cultural and experiential deficit.

So, those are the buttons Freedland pressed for me: critique of the absurd and unjustifiable differentials, a sideswipe at our linguistic incompetence, and some myth-busting about the ‘market’.

And beneath all the fun a serious question about how we value people, what they do, why it matters, and how we need to recover some connection between work and reward.