This post is cross-posted at Tom Paine's The Last Ditch. Does Tom need any introduction? Maybe to non-Brits. He's a Top 100 Blogger, geographically based in Moscow but primarily blogging on UK issues, he's a lover of fine machinery but above all else, he is a fellow Mac user. I consider it an honour to have been allowed to spread my verbage over there as well as here - don't know what he was thinking at the time. :)
There's an interesting group called Nothing British and the words I liked in their blurb were:
We believe in addressing the concerns of those people who feel alienated from their society by government failures on issues like immigration, Europe, religious extremism and job insecurity. This means campaigning for policies that work ... the British values of democracy, tolerance, fair-play and respect for one another.
In the light of the current state of our society, this is a conservative stance or rather "reversionist" stance, wishing to re-establish values which have been lost. Well, that part I embrace, as far as I can interpret it because it might mean different things to different people.
For example, tolerance and fair-play. I think I know how these particular gentlemen see this and they are as close to absolutes as one can get. However well the British did or did not embrace these values throughout the past three centuries, one need only go to people outside of Britain to have these values defined.
I wrote a post some time back, partly on British values and of the difficulty the relativists amongst us have in defining these, in terms of the new multi-cultural "tolerance" [that word again]:
Well, come with me and let me enrol you for a month in any English department in schools of extended English learning in Russia and you can learn what British values are, if you happen to have forgotten them. Because in these schools, in texts written by British educators from Cambridge et al, is set out quite clearly what British values are.
That's the thing - people outside have no problem defining them - it's only half of those inside and the government inside who have no idea at all. A look at the citizenship test and in there are things which were not taught at any school I know of and things omitted which really should have been in there.
I'm not tolerant of these things in the least and I'm even less tolerant of the tail wagging the dog, as in Imams and other extremists dictating alien policies to our elected government. This is our country, not theirs and they either assimilate or depart, as far as I'm concerned.
Let your not-so-humble blogger pause for one moment and state something about himself. I've had, in the last 13 years, a close to unique experience in having lived in Russia and embraced their values whilst I was there, whilst retaining my Englishness - in fact, it was required of me in my work to be more English than I'd ever been.
Thus I was an "Anglichanin", not a "Britaiski". In that sense, the language I taught was English. As it is really only us who get tied up in the Westlothian and the Barnett, which require resolution, it was certainly mentioned whenever the idea of British arose but at the same time, there is a common tradition in many ways, not least in the armed forces and in education.
Angus McIvor's First Aid in English is one of the prime texts of the last generation and that says something about our common traditions but of course, there are the differences and to speak of British values will annoy a Scot when we're speaking of English values much of the time. Again though, if you look at a Scottish town like Aberdeen, you don't see a huge difference, architecturally in layout to, say, Stevenage and ........ well, let's not get into this endless loop which doesn't help the foreigner understand.
For all our differences and don't forget that I am a Witanagemot member and believe in an English parliament, it is possible to go back into our history and point to certain outlooks, character traits and common upbringing which are maybe English but are also found in the Scots and Irish. My best mate is a Scot - not a 2nd generation but a "real" Scot, taken neat. He is just as much disgusted with this government as I am and as he can't very well call himself English, he's been here all his life and so calls himself British.
Britology Watch says:
I’m not totally, negatively opposed to any attempt to affirm and rally round the things that are positive in the British tradition, history and character. On the contrary, I’m proud to be English and, by that token, British.
As he also says, "Britishness" is being used by this government to slip other ideas over to newcomers to these shores under the banner of "British" but are really nothing to do with that and disguise other, nasty agendas.
This post can't encompass all of that - it tries to leave our own internal issues to one side and present to the foreigner what British is, as distinct from what Chinese is or what French is, the positive aspects we all embrace, the ones taught in foreign schools as to what it means to be from here.
One of those British values is how we muddle along and how this has been cynically played upon and twisted and quite frankly, to have departed these shores, leaving one Britain behind and to return to find a divided land was soul destroying, to put it mildly. Changes of the very worst sort had taken place.
I was the hobbit who departed The Shire and returned to find Sharkey's men ransacking what had been a realtively good place, give or take a few issues.
The paradox is that extremists can seize on our spirit of welcome and tolerance, more a state of mind than a set of government policies and when they start sounding off about what they themselves want then, when we oppose those things, there is this ludicrous situation where we are actually the ones accused of extremism, intolerance and racism.
One right prat who's good at pulling this kind of stunt is a man called Sunny Hundal who writes for some rag that another relativist, Polly Toynbee, also writes for. Their game is to call themselves "progressive", as if this is a good thing in itself. Yep - progress to a police state and the breakdown of Britain as a nation, Brown's chosen policy.
So tolerance is a double-edged sword, isn't it?
Ecclesiastes had it right when it spoke of "a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing". It's quite possible that many, especially those born in this country yet coming from an alien culture, don't know our values and once again, I say - go to English language schools around the world and you'll soon discover what these are.
Some of our homegrown lot too, whose family history goes back into the mists of time on these isles, have lost the plot and are coming out with this rubbish that there is no such thing as a Brit, that we actually come from Africa or wherever.
Anthopologically, perhaps a few thousand years back but since that time, I'd like to remind these people, we've actually created a society which has been recognized for one and a half millennia as being Anglo-Saxon and Celt and in recent centuries - British, by the common wish of those houses. That's what we are and that's what we've built. Even our very confusion over what is British ... is British.
What other nation has this problem? I also count myself a Northumbrian or Yorkshireman, for goodness sake but if I can put that to one side for the moment and look at these isles, there is something quite distinct from Namibia and Vietnam.
We're more than tolerant of new ideas, of innovation, of culturally diverse experiences - the Brits are well known for settling in other lands themselves - look at those in Spain and France for a start and I don't mean the summer yobbos. Cuisine is an area, for example, where there's been a distinct local cultural cringe for years. Readers of this blog know me to be a Europhile in where I've lived and in the culture of those places but that does not mean I'm going to be party to the totalitarian Europeanization of our home soil and the loss of all identity, something this government has worked so hard to bring about.
That's even why I have a lot of trouble on this very blog because it matters not whether you are a jailbird, Member of Parliament, white, black, Lib Dem, BNP or indifferent - your view can be put as long as you are not being extremist yourself. Telling someone I'm not putting up with their extremism is in no way, shape or form tantamount to me being extreme in not tolerating these things.
It's not extreme - it's being a brick wall and a stubborn bstd. That I plead guilty to.
There are absolutes, including moral absolutes and there is a thing called Britishness or even Englishness. It's how we were brought up, it's the values we embraced and the modes of conduct we adopted. Yes, I'm C of E, in the traditional sense and why not? Why should I apologize for that? In which other denomination can one have a good snooze on the back pews during a sermon?
It was once and shall be again, respect for G-d, Queen and country although the former is now denied by ostriches, The Firm is subject to much scrutiny these days and the latter has been decimated by the socialists. It has also always been the dissenting tradition of Defoe, the British philosophers, cricket and a cup of tea which define us.
So what's this rubbish about no Shakespeare in schools, no heritage, no pride in our nationhood? Have the French lost their Frenchness? Have the Russians lost their Russianness? Well why should we lose our Britishness and in our neck of the woods, our Englishness? Just look at the breakup planned for the poor old United States by Them and shudder because we're headed down that path as well.
One aspect of our Britishness is the bulldog strain and thus my chin juts out and says - you've very welcome here and we'll learn from you, we'll eat your food and read your literature, let me buy you an ale but if you live here, if you settle here, then it's our way or you're on your way.
Further reading on this topic from Tom here.
One other aspect of all this that grates with me is the use of the word 'tolerance'.
I looked online at the Merriam-Webster dictionary and found this:
* Main Entry: tol·er·ance
* Pronunciation: \ˈtä-lə-rən(t)s, ˈtäl-rən(t)s\
* Function: noun
* Date: 15th century
1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina
2 a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b : the act of allowing something : toleration
3 : the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4 a (1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor b : the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food.
As far as I can see there is nothing there about 'embracing' other beliefs or replacing your own culture with that of others.
I will tolerate things I don't like as long as they are within the law. But I should be free to articulate my dislike! Free even to actively protest (peacefully) against it.
"there is a thing called Britishness or even Englishness".ReplyDelete
James, most of what you describe as Britishness, I would describe as Englishness. As you say: "Even our very confusion over what is British ... is British" - or as I would say, the confusion over the boundaries between Englishness and Britishness (and hence, over what is English and what is British) is a peculiarly English characteristic.
You come across to me as a typical traditional Anglo-Brit: making no fundamental distinction between England and Britain but seeing the two as interchangeable. This is, in my view, an increasingly untenable position; not because one's English-Britishness and the values associated with that aren't something to be proud of and to defend (which they are) but because this government and the liberal establishment have a clear agenda to suppress and deny England and Englishness in the very name of their supposed Britishness and British values.
I feel that, with respect, you're perceiving the relationship between things like Britishness, this government, nationhood, multi-culturalism and Englishness in a somewhat 'arse-over-tip' manner. This government has quite deliberately set out to take all those cultural characteristics and values you see as British-cum-English and to make out that they are British-only, not English. And then they have also tried to make sure that people coming to England from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds identify as British, rather than English (taking British-citizenship tests and being inculcated with the said 'British values' that are really English-derived), under the false view that what you describe as the traditional English way of life and ethnicity is somehow exclusive and mono-cultural, while only a secular, liberal British nation-state (transcending both the traditional indigenous nations and the nationalities of the newcomers) can form the social and cultural environment for integration and tolerance of multiple cultures.
It isn't the 'British nation' that New Labour has set out to destroy, other than in the sense that it has indeed broken up the old 'Anglo-Britain': the unitary state that had England, and English culture and traditions, at its heart. It is, rather, the English nation that New Labour has assaulted headlong with the goal of fashioning something that has never existed before: an actual Nation of Britain. But this is a nation that would not recognise any of the cultural and social characteristics you regard as quintessentially British (and which I regard as English) as having any sort of privileged position as defining of 'the nation', which, instead, is seen as a purely secular and potentially republican entity wedded to the ideals of 'progress' (which you are rightly wary of), multiculturalism and globalisation.
You feel that and I feel that but I fear the education system's effect on people over these three decades has really eroded any concept of Britishness or even Englishness and replaced that with a mass of -isms and, as you say:
"As far as I can see there is nothing there about 'embracing' other beliefs or replacing your own culture with that of others."
"You come across to me as a typical traditional Anglo-Brit: making no fundamental distinction between England and Britain but seeing the two as interchangeable."
This was my error and I need to insert a paragraph near the top about it. I returned form Russia last eyar after 12 years away and thus say the changes Labour had wrought.
I'll put this in the post now.
So I was looking at Britishness from the outsider's point of view but of course, inside, I'm a Witanagemot and have signed for an English Parliament.
So what you say is valid in that it appears that way.
James, I think you'll find that the only place Englishness is being taught nowadays is overseas. If this report is anything to go by.ReplyDelete
Majority of teachers don't want to promote 'brainwashing' patriotism to pupils
I know of you and Britology, PvCt and it's just time and so many of us that has not got me over your way. Delighted.ReplyDelete
The issue. Yes - that article illustrates the problem very well - that so many teachers refuse to teach pride in one's heritage and all the efforts that have been put in over the centuries in support of this nation is criminal.
It's so easy to see where it comes from - they're brought up in PC schools with PC values and they are only selected for a position if they spout these PC values.
Make no mistake - I was actually asked if I was a humanist at one interview. That was outrageous.
What possible chance have kids in our schools got? None. Hence all the ASBOs and it being fashionable to be one.
This country has to be taken back by its people but when that percentage of teachers believe there's nothing in Britain to be proud of, I despair. I really do.
The irony in that article about teachers' attitudes was that some were saying they didn't want to 'brainwash' the kiddies with patriotic values, but that they are busily engaged in this very activity, but with a different set of values, that being the prevailing world-view of (I would say) Fabian state-worship.ReplyDelete
However, I cannot go wholly along with some of the sentiments expressed here, which are too conservative for my liking. The answer is not that the state school stop inculcating the values of 'progressive inclusiveness' or whatever nonsense name we can use and returns to celebrating Empire Day, but that the state school system is stopped. The current level of state power is harmful in itself. This power cannot be harnessed for good, it's like the ring in Tolkein's story.
As an Englishman, I don't care about 'Britishness', and don't feel any particular overt pride in our history. I certainly don't believe we should allow our culture and history to be denigrated and undermined, as it seems to be by the so-called progressives, but I would caution against being provoked into a reactionary sentimentality with regard to such things.
However, I cannot go wholly along with some of the sentiments expressed here, which are too conservative for my liking.ReplyDelete
Well, of course. Empire, G-d, Queen and country is not everyone's bag and how many great radicals have there been - Byron springs to mind.
Again, I gave an impression I didn't wish to but to keep it focussed on what you said about the turning out of little Fabians.
There's a centre ground of middle-England/Britain/whatever and that's where the battle is being waged - the soft battle which doesn't dare speak its name for fear of one side being called out on what they are doing, which is what we're doing to them now - calling them out.
Other issues like Empire etc. are something else again. Personally, the smaller the government the better.
The thing is, if you're not careful you'll end up fighting on their terms and on the ground they have chosen.ReplyDelete
Schools are a very good example of this. There is little point in taking on the so-called progressives and trying to seize control of the state system with the aim of directing it in a more traditionalist direction. You would be trying to roll back a slow-motion revolution which goes back a hundred years. We must break the source of their power, not try to take it over.
Another example is 'Britishness'. They have taken that term and defined it in their image, so let them keep it.
There is one point in which the English seem to me to differ from ourselves, and, indeed, from all other nations, so widely, that they form almost a distinct species of men. There is often scarcely any connexion between what they say and what they do.No people carry so far, especially when speaking in public, violence of language, outrageousness of theories, and extravagance in the inferences drawn from those theories. Thus your A. B. says, that the Irish have not shot half enough landlords. Yet no people act with more moderation. A quarter of what is said in England at a public meeting, or even round a dinner table, without anything being done or intended to be done, would in France announce violence, which would almost always be more furious than the language had been.We Frenchmen are not so different from our antipodes as we are from a nation, partly our own progeny, which is separated from us by only a large ditch. --TocquevilleReplyDelete
I bought a book recently called England my England which which is a little treasure trove celebrating England's rich heritage in prose, poetry and song. It celebrates Englishness in the way that the Scots, Welsh and Irish celebrate their customs and cultures.ReplyDelete
There is some very good stuff in there, I intend to post bits and pieces out of it every now and then.
Thanks Trooper, Xlbrl and Cherie.ReplyDelete
I was born in the British Crown Colony of Singapore - just before Singapore’s independence.
I am not “white”, but suntanned and definitely am not looked upon as British until I start to speak. Then the Americans and others ask me if I’m from England.
I lived in England for many years, starting with my A levels through college and a job.
Even in the ‘70s England was still quite British; although you did have difficulty finding someone to give you directions in English if you were in London.
I do not understand why we tolerate immigrants refusing to learn and speak the language of their host or adopted country. This goes on both in Britain and in the USA. It is unacceptable and we need to voice our feelings collectively without fear of being branded as “racist”, etc.
Perhaps we should also gather those Brits “of color” who feel the same way and collectively confront the government.
People immigrated to other countries because they preferred the culture, politics, lifestyle, etc. of their chosen country – NOT to try and change their host country into the homeland they had left.
Let everyone know that when you come to Britain, you WILL learn English - we are not going to provide information in a dozen languages just because you refuse to put in some effort.
In the USA, when you call a government office and get a recording, you have to listen to every oriental dialect on the planet before you can get to the next step. Not only are there several Chinese dialects, there’s Thai, Filipino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Farsi (Iranian) … the list goes on.
Interestingly there are no Indian dialects because the Indians actually learn English (or American!!).
Anyway, rather than ranting and raving (which is fun every now and then) what can we do to get things changed?
Thanks for this venting outlet.
Jeff, thank you for stating that and it's right. It cuts both ways - when I go to another country, the very first thing I'd do is learn the language, starting by going to the shops and trying my first attempt on them. That's how it goes.ReplyDelete
In Britain, we have this PC idea that we might offend someone who doesn't want to assimilate? This angers me to the point I'd like to put them on the next plane back.
Again, though these are strong views, they're not directed at any particular group - I include me in that when I go overseas.