Tuesday, 1 May 2007

What does it mean to be British?

I get a really uncomfortable itchy under the scalp feeling when politicians try and define Britishness. Their oddly naive faith that having a specific understanding will make any kind of difference to the way people behave, or view themselves and each other, is pitiable. Their apparent belief that a statement from on high on Britishness actually means anything beyond provision of dinner table fodder confuses me. " We have to be clearer about what it means to be British" was Jack Straw's comment at the end of last week. Why? How does that help? What will it do? The man just can't keep his hands off this unresolvable debate. He keeps pecking and poking at it as if the answer is lying somewhere just outside his grasp. As long as there is clarity about the bounds within which you can or cannot get a passport, does a political stance on Britishness actually matter?
Being first generation British, I have a particularly wary view of the underlying rationale for the persistence in picking at this political, religious, cultural and racial scab. Straw talked about "core democratic values of freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality" as if they were somehow uniquely British and by inference that British people were somehow superior. The man is jousting with wind, wrestling with clouds, and jingoism is but a trot around the corner.
Flag courtesy of Vivienne Westwood.

4 comments:

I Beatrice said...

I'd have liked so much to have been able to agree with you Mopsa, given that you were kind enough to post a comment to me.

Alas though,I do believe that those who choose to make this country their home should do us the courtsey, at least, of seeming to understand our values.

Values that I do believe in by the way - being a naturalised Briton (originally from New Zealand) myself.

I have no wish to quarrel with you over it, mind - being a devotee of the really rather British concept of Freedom of Speech.

There are limits to tolerance though, and it seems to me we have probably reached ours.........

I Beatrice said...

I did however wholly appreciate your 'virtues of the lime' piece - and have copied the recipe for iced tea into my favourites.

I remember too that I some weeks ago spotted your piece about 'Miss Pettigrew' living for a day. I found that little book once too, and thought, a-ha, here is something after my own heart! Alas though, it wasn't. I was bitterly let down and disappointed by that little book.

It wasn't the thing I was looking for, at all...

Mopsa said...

Hi IB. I think you could best describe my feeling as: anything that suggests not only that British = decency but therefore decency = British makes me very scared indeed. But yes, I relish my freedoms very much indeed.

Freedom for Scotland! said...

Being British is not having the right to choose your own destiny. Instead, we have bunch of elitist pseudo-liberals, in the House of Lords, deciding everything. These unelected snobs can veto democracy whenever democracy threatens their elitist way of life. So, it is yes to a cheap immigrant workforce to work in the houses of the rich, yes to stupid and wasteful art projects but no to anything that might really empower the underprivileged and of course no to a water tight ban on fox hunting.

I would not be surprised if Zimbabwe becomes a democracy before the UK. What do I care, I live in Scotland and we will be free of this mess in a few years time, anyways!