There has been a great deal of talk in recent weeks of what it means to be British. Many people cry out that we have lost our identity or that our identity is being taken away from us. The Government is on a campaign to right this terrible wrong. Christianity is to be put at the fore, bibles are to be issued to every school child in Britain whether they welcome it or not, the Forward being written by non other than the Godly Gove himself. History of Empire will be taught with greater gusto in schools and our children will feel proud to be British. We shall turn our faces away from un-British things such as poverty and homelessness, we shall celebrate the mighty Olympics and worship our sporting heroes and ignore the fact that people are being priced out from their rented accommodation for this occasion, that people's homes have been destroyed and allotments given to these (not well off) people in perpetuity have been concreted over. There will be no such thing as increased human trafficking and prostitution, the 'riff-raff' are to be cleared from the London streets as I write. We shall ignore the approximately 14 billion it is costing in these times of austerity, which is more than enough to save welfare and the NHS. But I'm sure it will be a grand spectacle, I don't know, because I will not be watching it. But no one does pomp and circumstance like the British eh?
Still, it's an interesting question, at least to me. I'm a 'people watcher' and social history fascinates me particularly in regards to the 'working man (and woman)'. Britain is experiencing great change at the moment and no one is quite sure how it's going to turn out and this makes people very uneasy, we become like fractious children and point fingers (wrongly) at whose fault we think it is. I feel this is not helped by our politicians rhetoric nor our biased media who fan the flames of distrust and fear. I am genuinely interested in what people think it means to be British and I hope people will comment and share their views and opinions.
It is also interesting to me because like many people who were born in this country but may not have a long line of Britishness on which to call upon it feels slightly strange. A lot of this talk seems more 'English' to me. My Grandparents were Irish immigrants from the Republic of Ireland, while I am classed as white British and there is a shared culture, it still has its differences. And one thing I do share with other cultures in my Irish ancestry is the oppression of State Britishness, the starvation induced Britishness, the unpleasantness of Britishness. I don't want to be forced into being proud to be British to adopt the Government's idea of what it is to be British. I can form my own opinions thanks. I do not wish to celebrate the same 'heroes' as others, many of these so called heroes were warmongering, genocidal pirates.
Britain has two faces, the inventive, the innovative, the rule of law, wonderful language, incredible history, sense of fairness, the folklore, our quirkiness, beautiful isles, grit and determination, architecture, music, protesting, the radicals, the Levellers, the Chartists, the diversity, the idea of tolerance, freedom of speech. I admire our brave men and women who brought change, helped to abolish slavery, cared about the poor and infirm, that stood up to oppression of the Monarchy or the State and knew they may lose their lives. I would like to celebrate them. I would like to see that taught in schools more often. I studied history at school and it tends to be mostly about our brave men and their battles. Slightly one sided. We learn about the Industrial Revolution, how wonderful, but the grinding poverty, the people becoming wage slaves, the greed that ravished a quarter of the world under Empire is only briefly mentioned, if at all. I'm not doing down the achievements of Britain, we have contributed much to the world and quite rightly these things should be taught in school, but it should be with balance and in perspective and we shouldn't shy away from our darker, more unpleasant history. My fear is that this renewed call of Proud to be British is nothing but an attempt at patriotism as those in power bang the drums of war.
Every one of us will have their own feeling on what this question means. And I can only express my feeling from my point of view, and many may not share it. Culturally I am British with Irish ancestry and all that entails. As a human being I am not British, English, Irish, Western or anything else. I do not believe in drawing imaginary lines in the sand, I do not believe that we own the earth. That isn't to say that I don't feel a connection to the patch of earth I was born on, that this small island in the middle of the sea doesn't hold magic for me, it does and if I went away I would miss it.
I am thankful for my ancestry and thankful for some of the influences of being brought up within the cradle of Britain, the freedom to explore my faith and compared to where I could have been born, I feel very lucky. All these things have enabled me to be who I am. I'm o.k. with that kind of Britishness. But it is diversity, not uniformity that enabled me to be....well to be me. This is the closest to what I could describe as anything akin to 'Britishness'. I would like to see all people from all cultures be given the same freedoms that I have enjoyed and for them not to just be allowed to feel British but to feel part of the wider community that makes up this country. My feeling is that harking back to years gone by and using a one size fits all approach is cloying, inhibits growth and could under the right (or wrong) circumstances become positively dangerous. Some people would argue that having a sense of national identity is unifying, that is does bring all peoples together under one benevolent umbrella. Hmm, I'm not convinced, social cohesion comes from the communities and the people themselves, we are the only ones who can make that happen. Only understanding, acceptance and celebration of our differences and working together and living together can make that happen. Having someone's idea forced upon us won't bring us together, it may even cause resentment. Oh, on the surface it may seem all bright and shiny, but really it's just bread and circuses.
Now if someone wants to go to church on a Sunday, pray before a meeting starts, not pray before a meeting starts, worship the Queen and wave a St. George's flag (yet another adoption by the people of this country) lay down their life for Queen and country that is entirely up to them. That's the great thing about Britain - choice, but equally I reserve the right not to do any of those things. This is Britain and Britishness, and as far as I know it's still a democracy (for now).
I am a human, who happens to live here with some other humans and various animals and plant life. I am a citizen of the world and that is how I would describe myself on any census, at least, I would if we hadn't sabotaged our census form because of the fact the it was sponsored by Lockheed Martin the arms dealer. But really I wish all this division and nonsense would stop, I belong to one family, I belong to the whole of the human race and the earth is my home and equally it belongs to my brothers and sisters too whether they are human or non-human.