Banging the drum

Terribly un-British graphic you've got there, old boyReturning to the very un-British subject of Britishness, as I mentioned in my earlier post on this subject this topic has been exercising the Guardian just as much as the Telegraph since 12th July (the date on which it was announced that the London bombers were British).

The Guardian asked various people the question, “What does it mean to be British?”. Given that the Guardian is the polar opposite of the Telegraph in many ways, it’s interesting to see how many of the same themes emerge here as in the Telegraph: tolerance, pluralism, freedom, history, a certain national character and way of looking at things.

Thomas Kielinger, London-based correspondent for Die Welt of Germany:

The greatest virtue of Britain is tolerance, towards itself and others. The flip side of that is negligence and slovenliness and a sense you don’t care too much about defining yourself, but now you need to because you are under threat…

You’ve lost the knack for calling a spade a spade and admiring your own historical greatness. It’s not called “Great” Britain for nothing. There’s no need for this country to become so open to other societies that it’s oblivious to its own culture and historical centre.

Jeremy Paxman, journalist and author:

You have a perfect right in this country to do what you want without anyone asking what you are doing or why you are doing it. People may say we are cold, but what is wrong with being less demonstrative?

…I would not want to work anywhere but Britain. Elsewhere the media take themselves so seriously and are pompous and dull. The premium here on being interesting and engaging is something I like.

Kwame Kwei-Armah, playwright and actor:

We are miles ahead of everyone else when it comes to cultural relations. On the question of naked integration we are streaks ahead of even North America…

What I do associate with Britishness is our intellectual vigour, our sense of irony and our liberal sensibilities – not some idea that once we ruled the world or some sort of stiff upper lip.

Boris Johnson, Conservative MP and editor of The Spectator, currently writing a book about Britishness:

We gave the world industrialisation, democracy and football. In other words, we gave the world its economic system, its political system and its main leisure activity, and we continue to be a hugely beneficial civilising force across the planet. There is a distinctive British culture, cast of mind and set of values. It’s not just tolerance, though tolerance is part of it…

I also think it’s quite unBritish to keep bashing on about Britishness. One of the things we are most valued for abroad is our understatement and our refusal to keep asserting, the way the Americans do, that “we are the greatest nation on earth”. We might secretly believe it, but we don’t see any particular advantage in saying it. But you could mount a very good case.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain:

The values of Britain are the very values I am proud to be part of as a British Muslim, as part of my faith. Tolerance, respect, understanding, care for your neighbour are very important concepts that should be inherent in any Muslim

Michael Boyd, artistic director of the RSC:

The thing I like most about Britishness is its messiness and incompleteness … I like the unfinishedness of the idea of Britishness and I think that’s what is shaping about it…

There is a British anti-intellectualism and a fear of pretension which is quite difficult for people in the arts, but this same impulse means the British are able to resist the sweep of big ideas and things like xenophobia and the BNP. I hope we will always be a messy, pluralistic place.

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20 Responses to Banging the drum

  1. Over the last decade “British” has developed a negative connotation. A white person of English ancestry is “English” while the various peoples of the empire, African, Indian, and Asian are “British”. With the collapse of the Empire there has been a moral collapse as well. At the present rate of decline the Church of England (Anglican Communion) will cease to exist in England. Let us pry for the heathens of the United kingdom.

  2. Over the last decade “British” has developed a negative connotation. A white person of English ancestry is “English” while the various peoples of the empire, African, Indian, and Asian are “British”. With the collapse of the Empire there has been a moral collapse as well. At the present rate of decline the Church of England (Anglican Communion) will cease to exist in England. Let us pry for the heathens of the United kingdom.

  3. Over the last decade “British” has developed a negative connotation. A white person of English ancestry is “English” while the various peoples of the empire, African, Indian, and Asian are “British”. With the collapse of the Empire there has been a moral collapse as well. At the present rate of decline the Church of England (Anglican Communion) will cease to exist in England. Let us pry for the heathens of the United kingdom.

  4. Over the last decade “British” has developed a negative connotation. A white person of English ancestry is “English” while the various peoples of the empire, African, Indian, and Asian are “British”. With the collapse of the Empire there has been a moral collapse as well. At the present rate of decline the Church of England (Anglican Communion) will cease to exist in England. Let us pry for the heathens of the United kingdom.

  5. John H says:

    Barry, I’d say that actually the position has improved in some respects over the past decade. Embarrassment about national identity seems to be receding: “British” identity is seen as covering UK citizens of all races (including white people of English ancestry), rather than being seen as some embarrassing racist relic of Empire.
    And I’m not sure I’d link the collapse of Empire with the collapse in personal morality, particularly sexual morality. The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.
    Let us pray for the heathens of the United Kingdom.
    Yes, please do, but do bear in mind that that description doesn’t apply to all of us! 😉

  6. John H says:

    Barry, I’d say that actually the position has improved in some respects over the past decade. Embarrassment about national identity seems to be receding: “British” identity is seen as covering UK citizens of all races (including white people of English ancestry), rather than being seen as some embarrassing racist relic of Empire.
    And I’m not sure I’d link the collapse of Empire with the collapse in personal morality, particularly sexual morality. The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.
    Let us pray for the heathens of the United Kingdom.
    Yes, please do, but do bear in mind that that description doesn’t apply to all of us! 😉

  7. John H says:

    Barry, I’d say that actually the position has improved in some respects over the past decade. Embarrassment about national identity seems to be receding: “British” identity is seen as covering UK citizens of all races (including white people of English ancestry), rather than being seen as some embarrassing racist relic of Empire.
    And I’m not sure I’d link the collapse of Empire with the collapse in personal morality, particularly sexual morality. The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.
    Let us pray for the heathens of the United Kingdom.
    Yes, please do, but do bear in mind that that description doesn’t apply to all of us! 😉

  8. John H says:

    Barry, I’d say that actually the position has improved in some respects over the past decade. Embarrassment about national identity seems to be receding: “British” identity is seen as covering UK citizens of all races (including white people of English ancestry), rather than being seen as some embarrassing racist relic of Empire.
    And I’m not sure I’d link the collapse of Empire with the collapse in personal morality, particularly sexual morality. The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.
    Let us pray for the heathens of the United Kingdom.
    Yes, please do, but do bear in mind that that description doesn’t apply to all of us! 😉

  9. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.’
    The US never had an Empire: John, have you entered one of D.S. Ketelby’s beloved parallel universes where the emergent U.S. was defeated by the British in the Independence war; where the US never established their airbases in Britain; where the early warning system at Fylingdales was never set up (and no , I won’t explain that ref. for your US readership: see http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/)?
    Sorry this is a belated post but I’ve been on my hols for 7 weeks. Love the blog; not sure about the message, in fact I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post, ‘opposition is true friendship’

  10. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.’
    The US never had an Empire: John, have you entered one of D.S. Ketelby’s beloved parallel universes where the emergent U.S. was defeated by the British in the Independence war; where the US never established their airbases in Britain; where the early warning system at Fylingdales was never set up (and no , I won’t explain that ref. for your US readership: see http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/)?
    Sorry this is a belated post but I’ve been on my hols for 7 weeks. Love the blog; not sure about the message, in fact I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post, ‘opposition is true friendship’

  11. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.’
    The US never had an Empire: John, have you entered one of D.S. Ketelby’s beloved parallel universes where the emergent U.S. was defeated by the British in the Independence war; where the US never established their airbases in Britain; where the early warning system at Fylingdales was never set up (and no , I won’t explain that ref. for your US readership: see http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/)?
    Sorry this is a belated post but I’ve been on my hols for 7 weeks. Love the blog; not sure about the message, in fact I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post, ‘opposition is true friendship’

  12. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The changes in sexual ethics can also be seen in countries that never had an empire: the US, Canada, Australia and so on.’
    The US never had an Empire: John, have you entered one of D.S. Ketelby’s beloved parallel universes where the emergent U.S. was defeated by the British in the Independence war; where the US never established their airbases in Britain; where the early warning system at Fylingdales was never set up (and no , I won’t explain that ref. for your US readership: see http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/)?
    Sorry this is a belated post but I’ve been on my hols for 7 weeks. Love the blog; not sure about the message, in fact I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post, ‘opposition is true friendship’

  13. Nick Jones says:

    Sorry, that should be http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/ for anyone who wants to follow up.

  14. Nick Jones says:

    Sorry, that should be http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/ for anyone who wants to follow up.

  15. Nick Jones says:

    Sorry, that should be http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/ for anyone who wants to follow up.

  16. Nick Jones says:

    Sorry, that should be http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/fdales/ for anyone who wants to follow up.

  17. John H says:

    Hi Nick – never had a literal empire. I was responding to a point linking post-imperial decline with moral decline, and saying that the same changes in social attitudes towards morality (not all of which have been negative) were not confined to those countries that had suffered that very particular experience of losing an empire they had previously admitted to having, as opposed to retaining and expanding an empire they don’t want to own up to anyway!
    I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post
    We aim to please. 😉
    Hope you had a good holiday.

  18. John H says:

    Hi Nick – never had a literal empire. I was responding to a point linking post-imperial decline with moral decline, and saying that the same changes in social attitudes towards morality (not all of which have been negative) were not confined to those countries that had suffered that very particular experience of losing an empire they had previously admitted to having, as opposed to retaining and expanding an empire they don’t want to own up to anyway!
    I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post
    We aim to please. 😉
    Hope you had a good holiday.

  19. John H says:

    Hi Nick – never had a literal empire. I was responding to a point linking post-imperial decline with moral decline, and saying that the same changes in social attitudes towards morality (not all of which have been negative) were not confined to those countries that had suffered that very particular experience of losing an empire they had previously admitted to having, as opposed to retaining and expanding an empire they don’t want to own up to anyway!
    I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post
    We aim to please. 😉
    Hope you had a good holiday.

  20. John H says:

    Hi Nick – never had a literal empire. I was responding to a point linking post-imperial decline with moral decline, and saying that the same changes in social attitudes towards morality (not all of which have been negative) were not confined to those countries that had suffered that very particular experience of losing an empire they had previously admitted to having, as opposed to retaining and expanding an empire they don’t want to own up to anyway!
    I actively disagree with about 90% of everything you post
    We aim to please. 😉
    Hope you had a good holiday.

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