Teach core values yes, but why Britishness?

Martin Kettle struggles to find a question to which the government’s proposal to teach Britishness is a pertainent answer.

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  • Rory

    Another policy idea destined to go the way of John Major’s on road cones. If I may paraphrase Private Frazer, ” It’s doomed! Aye, I tell ye, doomed!”

    I, for example, who have spent most of my sixty odd years on this earth attempting to bring the British state to its knees would not be subject to such a test.

    Poor old Muhammed, from Kashmir, my local newsagent, off-licencee, late night snack and fag provider, who struggles to make a livelihood and often finds himself under attack, and constantly a victim of thievery from his “Engerland” shirt wearing neighbours and yet quite admires Britain, would struggle to pass.

    Any child asked to choose between jellied eels and
    pizza, or young adult between Old Codger’s Wollop and Budweiser might also have difficulties.

    My understanding that “It’s all a load of bollox, guv!” would guarantee my acceptance by most people
    in London as one of theirs and my scorn at this government would confirm that acceptance.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Most of what this gentleman, Martin Kettle, says is sensible. However there is one issue in his article that maybe could be tackled by core British values. It’s his use of Americanisms.

    He says “…too many young people are felt to be growing up in this country with conflicting and conflicted values”.

    What in tarnation does “conflicted” mean? And what is the difference between “conflicting and conflicted” values, as he calls them?

    Is it the same as “differing and differenced values”? I mean, will future generations of British kids avoid having conflicted values becaue they have been teachered in the core values of Britishness?

  • Gareth

    My, your such an Irish Patriot Rory…….a True Gael! Yer ma wud be proud! MUPPET

  • dodrade

    I suppose if these ideas come to something we’ll soon see how British Westminster thinks we really are.

  • Conor Gillespie

    Gareth,
    “My, your such an Irish Patriot Rory…….a True Gael! Yer ma wud be proud! MUPPET”

    So do you support this move for cultural indoctrination into the ‘values of britishness’ Garreth? Yer ma wud be proud! MUPPET (:

    really, all that Rory said was that he resisted the notion of a cultural ethos meing mandatoraly preached to school kids. How does this make him a muppett? he’s resisting the sugestion that a cultural ethos that he does not identify with be made a mandatory subject. I don’t think thats very muppett like. In fact, I think its the opposite. Identifying with Gaelic culture doesn’t make you a muppett any more than identifying with British culture does. The only muppetts in this scinario are the ones cheerfully backing the notion that one identity should be rammed down the throat of other communities. Surely after years of Republican/Loyalist cultural intollerance this is the last thing we need.

    Anyway, returning to the point at isssue, I find that the notion of instructing kids in the values of Britishness smacks of mild propoganda. A class in values would be fine but indentifying them as characteristically british is a bit ridiculous. (:

  • Conor Gillespie

    Shuggie,
    “What in tarnation does “conflicted” mean? And what is the difference between “conflicting and conflicted” values, as he calls them?”

    LOL (:

  • joeCanuck

    From Encarta:

    con·flict·ing
    adjective
    Definition:

    1. different and incompatible: inconsistent or contradictory and unable to be reconciled

    con·flict·ed
    adjective
    Definition:
    ambivalent: confused or ambivalent because of competing desires, possibilities, or impulses
    (Since many people dislike conflicted, meaning “confused or ambivalent because of competing desires, possibilities, or impulses,” it is wise to avoid using the word in formal college writing. It is closely associated with the jargon of psychobabble.)

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t think there’s any such thing as “Britishness”, or “Frenchiness” or whatever.
    There are cultural differences such as the difference between French cuisine and English cuisine (please stop laughing at the latter).
    Everyone of us is an individual and deserves to be treated as such.
    Somehow I don’t thing this idea is going to make much of an impact on potential suicide bombers.
    The kids (and adults) just need to be continually reminded that a core value that most people hold is “Respect for others”. You can disagree with their opinions but you don’t have to be nasty when you do so.

  • The irony is that this announcement only covers England because education is a devolved issue.

    I think I know the question this is the answer to. It was in an ICM poll published this weekend.

  • Resolve

    Considering Tom Griffin’s last comment, that this will only affect England, enables me to refrain from commenting on how RIDICULOUS it would be to introduce it into Northern Ireland’s schools. That aside, what about its applicability to England?

    Is there such a thing as “Britishness”? Of course there is, but what about a shared morality? Are there values that, while not individually unique to British people, collectively form a moral code that sums up the “good” in the minds of most people in England? Quite obviously not…

    If you took the sort of approach that Leo Strauss/Allan Bloom advocated in America (see particularly “The Closing of the American Mind”) then you would see ethno-centrism, not as a good thing or a bad thing, but rather as an inevitable part of your identity, only escaped from by embracing a sort of cultural void in your personality. While it is certainly arguable that that is what exists in America (lol) and while it is certainly arguable that their description of how it came around is sound, surely isn’t Britain different? A country of thousands of years tradition…. Is it?

    Well, the last time I checked, the world is round (lol)… if that is a justification for free marketeering and globalisation, even applying… sorry…. enforcing human rights around the world (im not saying that that is a bad thing! certainly not), then how can it not also leave each person free to work out their own morality? It must…. borders exist in the mind, and may well be essential for effective governance, but in terms of morality, it terms of realising the “good life”, one MUST not be forced to adopt a certain code.

    Having said that, my opinion is that the values that ARE taught under such a scheme will be relatively inoffensive, universally-held values (God, I hate the world values, talk about de-valuing the real concept, it can only reflect a hologram of it).. to preach otherwise would cause uproar in a country with as many ethnic traditions living in it as England…. if what is taught is a curriculum of universal values (or, at least, Western values) then my only concern that there would be some subtle suggestion that Britain holds the monopoly on them, or that they in some way appreciate them more than others…

    In any event, if it solely concerns England, I couldn’t care less.

  • Harry Flashman

    Rory, it must come as a great comfort to your tolerant fellow citizens that you, a foreigner, can sneer so derisively at their government’s policy descisions and the choice of attire that other citizens choose to wear.

    Here’s a little trick, ask one of your English mates to go the north inner city of Dublin, choose a pub, then sit there and ridicule the national policy of the Irish government, point out that Guinness is no different to any imported beer and then make an implication that some lad in a Celtic or Ireland football shirt is not as good an Irish man as the Nigerian bloke in the Centra shop next door. Now before you do so advise him that he may require several months of extensive reconstructive dental surgery.

    What’s my point? Well, the obvious one really, and one which you imply yourself; that English people are remarkably tolerant, easygoing, friendly people who have welcomed – to a greater or lesser extent – millions of people from all around the globe and absorbed them – ditto – into a previously homogenous society with surprising success.

    So how did this multi cultural melting pot come about with such ease and how was it done with such little trouble compared to the a huge societal seismic shift that it entailed? Simple really, the fundamentally sound basis of English governance and society, the belief in fair play and the idea that religion and politics were private matters and best not discussed by means of mobs and mass rallies. You can pooh pooh this and point out a million instances of British nastiness but I put it to you that London, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham etc are living proof of the underpinning of “British values”, easy though it is to sneer at them.

    So this is what the government has proposed, not some sort of mono-ethnic kulturkampf, come on it is NuLabour we’re discussing here and the British education system, it ain’t going to have the same basis of French education; opening page “Our ancestors, the Gauls…”. Rather it will hope to instill the idea that the freedom and tolerance which are taken for granted in the UK didn’t just come about by accident you know, it took centuries of hard work and long struggle to achieve them and every citizen of whatever race needs to know and understand this tradition and more to the point needs to damned well respect them.

    Will it work? I doubt it, too many lefty teachers will take the opportunity to drone on about the slave trade and the big bad empire and not enough will try to instill a proper respect for the nation which these pupils for better or worse now regard as home, thus encouraging yet more generations of chipped shoulders.

    Is it necessary? Too bloody right. When cricket loving chipshop owning Yorkshire men decide that they have the right to self detonate themselves among their multicultural fellow citizens in the most harmoniously racially mixed society in Europe in the pursuit of their lunatic jihad it is clear that a generation of British schoolkids has missed out on a serious part of their education about their new native land.

  • ‘Arry:

    There was an interesting similar experiment of British imprrialist brainwashing done in Ireland and Australia in the nineteenth century.
    Maybe the suicide bombers have not missed out on the indocrination. Maybe they just reject it.

  • Resolve

    The fact that you guys are on here, still posting away, at 4am… i dunno lol.. suppose since I am I can’t really say much. I have been up all night reading cases in the law of medical negligence cases… if his friend does take him up on your suggestion, Harry, be sure and get me his details… maybe the dentist could be sued for not fixing him up properly!

    Right, taking complete crap at this stage… getting to the hallucinogenic stage of sleep deprivation now, so off to bed without actually reponding with anything.

    But I will say this, to you, Harry… if you think that Britain’s post WW2 immigration has been handled as well (or has been more successful) than in other countries I fear that you are seriously mistaken. And if you think that this is due to any great tolerance levels of the “British”, I fear delusion once again is the only explanation for your beliefs. You seem to be enamoured with romantic depictions of “The English Gentleman” of yore, forgetting both that this was only ever existent in the context of British Empire (draw your own conclusions) and that anyone could easily have suggested an alternative example of the atypical Englishman… namely the lager-drinking, football hooligan of a racist eedjit (still proud to shout about the Empire to anyone who will listen without even knowing their arse from their elbow first)… Of course, both depictions have their place in British culture, but in deciding which is more typical, i think you’ll accept that the second depiction is much more common… and the numbers factor is the only one that counts to the sort of immigrant, faced with racism day-in-day-out… he knows all too well the reality of this “multi-cultural melting pot” as you call it. He knows well enough to see in your last post, as I do, the delusion of idealism that lies behind it.

  • Harry Flashman

    Resolve you magnificently miss my point. I am in no way advocating that immigrants “become” a certain type of Englishman, be that in your terms a Lord of the Manor or a lager drinking yob (on a side issue why is it that so called progressive Irish people seem to think of English people in such stereotypical ways, it’s a bit like describing Irish people as either flinty eyed terrorists or drunken paddies, there are other types you know?).

    My point is a simple one, really simple, so simple I have to explain it again. Here goes, there is an assumption that I think I agree is shared by us all here; that people should be treated fairly, that every citizen should be equal before the law, that one should use democratic means to influence your fellow citizen, that your political religious beliefs are a matter for your private conscience, that extremist violence in pursuit of your own political and/or religious beliefs against people who oppose these beliefs is wrong.

    Now we will set aside for a moment the fact that the preceding ideals are ideals and often not wholly maintained or upheld. My point is that these ideals are the product of many centuries of hard work and struggle in the UK. They did not just suddenly emerge overnight, they are certainly NOT universal ideas as can be witnessed by Marxism and Islamism around the world. More to the point such ideals should not be taken for granted they must be defended rigorously against fanaticism of every kind.

    I believe therefore that we shouldn’t be teaching the amoral, non judgemental (well, it’s ok to be judgemental against white English people and their history but for heaven’s sake don’t judge harshly any other culture), victimology that passes for history in our schools today and which erodes the belief that, hey, you know what the UK is actually quite a bloody good place to live today, otherwise there wouldn’t be millions of people trying to get into it. Instead the young citizens of our country, of whatever colour or creed, should be taught that they should be proud to be free citizens of a nation that has long been to the fore in evolving the current ideas of liberty and equality to which we all should adhere (but which some seem to believe just happened to fall out of a tree one day).

    That makes me a Daily Mail reading red faced retired colonel, then fine, but I think it would make the country a happier and safer place if such values were instilled in our nation’s schools.

  • Conor Gillespie

    Harry Flashman,
    “Well, the obvious one really, and one which you imply yourself; that English people are remarkably tolerant, easygoing, friendly people who have welcomed – to a greater or lesser extent – millions of people from all around the globe and absorbed them – ditto – into a previously homogenous society with surprising success.”

    And did this policy of warm assimilation start in the 1800 Act of union. Gee, I don’t recall that many of us irish were actually all that welcome in your “remarkably tolerant, easygoing, friendly” society.The british government tried to extend its definition of ‘brit’ across the south from 1801 to 1921 and I don’t think most of the dirty paddys felt that the assimilation was carried out with surprising success. Its true that Britain has since evoved into a open multi-cultural society. However, can you lot blame us if a sense of cultural intimidation continues to resonate in our community?

  • Harry Flashman

    Whom do you mean by “your lot” Conor? I’m from Derry originally too you know, but when I left that town I left behind the two chips that Derrymen are so fond of carrying on each shoulder.

    To the substance of what you say, I say twaddle. Millions of Irish people have lived and worked in England for hundreds of years, show me an Englishman and I’ll show you the grandson of some Irish woman. I lived in England and never heard the term “dirty paddy” once, not one single time, even when bombs were going off slaughtering innocent train passengers I never heard a single anti-Irish utterance. Oh, in the bars around Cricklewood I heard lots of whining and gurning from Irish people against their hosts and lots of ignorant racist comments directed towards the English, but anti-Irish bigotry from English people? Never.

    There is not a shred of evidence that the mythical “No Dogs No Irish” signs ever existed except as a bitter fantasy in the minds of Irish people.

    Conor if you believe Irish people have not found peaceful, prosperous, happy lives in England among English friends then you simply can not have visited England my friend. Now get into the real world and throw off your MOPEry. I state it again; compared to most other nations in the world England is among of the most tolerant liberal, societies on the planet, get over it boys, the Famine ended a century and a half ago!

  • Rory

    A point is being missed here it seems to me. The thrust of Kettle’s piece is that attempting to put a label of “Britishness” on core values of decent human social behaviour is doomed to failure. This is because such values must be seen as values for all humanity striving to live in respect for and tolerance of one another. To attempt to claim it as being “British” (or peculiar to any other nation) is in itself divisive and self defeating.

    The difficulty would then be compounded by the immigrant pupil merely looking round him and pointing out to his teacher an example of common everyday brutishness, racism or yobbery on open display and asking, “Is this what you mean by British core values, teacher?”.

    The same would be true if, in teaching core values to immigrant pupils in Dublin, teachers were to label such values “Irish” or to refer to them as “Irish studies”.

    Leading by example is really always best I find. Perhaps if the British government had not given the example of 10 years of murderous bombing of defenceless civilians in towns, villages, hospitals, schools and mosquesin in Iraq they might not now be faced with the alienation of its own citizens.

  • Dec

    There is not a shred of evidence that the mythical “No Dogs No Irish” signs ever existed except as a bitter fantasy in the minds of Irish people.

    Really?

  • Resolve

    FAO Harry

    I was admittedly very tired when I wrote that. I had hoped that you would consider the fact when responding to my obvious failure in articulating myself.

    My point in bringing up the two images of the -stereotypical Englishman’ was that there is not one commonly-shared moral code that forms ‘Englishness’… and, considering that fact, to teach those values tradtitionally associated with Britishness may be well-intentioned (i.ew. trying to introduce social cohesion post-race riots and post 7/7) it will be misinterpreted and self-defeating. For the reasons that ConorGillespie put forth, these values are human values, not British values, and are open to anyone living in an open society, should they choose to place ‘value’ in them. Now, should they be encouraged? Perhaps even taight in schools? Yes, most definitely, in an open way, leaving free will at the apex of all decisions. But should the label ‘Britishness’ be annexed? Certainly not.

    Of course, our views are determined by our experiences, and I am happy for you that, when living in England, you got such a good impression. But i did not get the same impression from my many visits to Liverpool (in Everton Brow I experienced some of the most narrow-minded and foul of anti-Irish racism one could imagine) and to many other places. One could talk for hours about the neo-colonial structures in place. Look to, for example, the work of Phil Scraton, Criminology professor at Queens. However, I must just say this.

    My point was not that Britain doesn’t have a rich tradtion of liberty and equality, but that what it says on the statute books and what is true in reality can be completely different things. Britain as a nation of people (as opposed to a state government) has not handled post-WWII immigration any better than any other country. There is a stark gulf between official discourse, and the truth on the streets. Racism is rife in England. It is even institutionalised, remember Steven Lawrence? You want to read that Report, my friend.

    Second of all, when I said that human rights were universal, I did not mean that they are promoted equally everywhere. What i suggested was a moral argument, namely that despite the postulate of moral and cultural relativism that is pervasive in the Western World today, I believe that the UNDHR is universal in that they form the grounding for any system of govt. anywhere in the world.

  • hovetwo

    I think it would be great if kids were taught about the individual Britons who advanced the freedoms and democratic values we often take for granted.

    It would be even better if they understood how Britain influenced, AND HAS BEEN INFLUENCED BY, other cultures and societies in the development of these values (the US advance of human rights uder Woodrow Wilson in the face of British imperial realpolitik being a case in point, let alone Greek concepts of democracy).

    Best of all, that they understand the level of conflict that was required, within Britain, to bring these values to the fore – the contradictions that had to be resolved and the reforms that were required to bring the zeitgeist of today into being. Hopefully these students will remain vigilant to ensure freedoms and values are not eroded in Britain.

    To reduce this to misty-eyed patriotism about the unique civic virtues of Britain will only copperfasten complacency – and scepticism. Inconvenient stories within the national narrative will be ignored. Obvious exceptions, such as yobbish behaviour, will be condoned in a bout of whataboutery. National pride (surely as much about Shakespeare and Brunel as Gladstone and Wilberforce?) will be diminished.

    How depressing would it be if all the achievements and struggles of the past were reduced to the simple, Orwellian aphorism: “It’s cos we’re Brits, innit?” Wicked.

  • PHIL

    Couldn’t agree more Harry, we English are far more tolerant of outsiders than many others (and I speak as a “grandson of an Irish woman” who certainly never had a bad word to say about her adopted home). I think that it is this tolerance however that allows those that do this country down a free rein to say what they like and basically shit on us. When I first heard this story I thought that as education is a devolved matter it would only apply here and that is the case it seems. I cannot understand how force feeding English kids a sense of “Britishness” is going to help create a feeling of belonging, it is only going to create confusion and ultimately resentment.

    Why can’t they promote a sense of civic pride in England? Why does the government fear Englishness? Why do the three main unionist parties have seperate manifesto’s and versions of their parties for Scotland and Wales but we get the “British” version? Why does this government keep giving cabinet posts to MP’s representing non-English constituencies who’s portfolio only covers England. Why do MP’s from outside England vote on English legislation? Why do you never see the English flag on a public building? Why are government organisations with England or English in their name being abolished or re-named? Why can’t the government even recognise that a country called England exists?

    These “Britishness” initiatives are becoming rather frequent now and they almost always originate from the same source. It would appear that Mr Brown is getting desperate to show off his British credentials to the English people who he hopes will keep him in the menner to which he has become used to. If he thinks that the English people are easily fooled by him then he is sadly mistaken.

  • hovetwo

    Harry,

    Having lived in England for 16 years (to 2004) I think the prevailing prejudice is that Irish people are creative, witty and charming. Clearly this is as stupid as the previous assumptions about drunken paddies, but much easier to finesse if you’re trying to follow in the footsteps of Phineas Finn. (Terry Eagleton has a good essay about stereotypes Irish people loathe and the ones they’re happy to pander to).

    I love England, and the tolerance of English society. Anglophile notwithstanding, I’m amazed that you have dismissed concerns raised on this thread as twaddle and MOPEry. A few experiences of anti-Irish bigotry for you (admittedly experienced by a northside Dub!)

    1) Being introduced around the office in North Acton, my first job after leaving Oxford:

    “Would you like to say hello to the newest member of James’ team?”

    “So long as he’s not another fucking Mick.”

    (James was from Cork, and his team were from Limerick and Derry).

    2) Having my analysis and conclusions reviewed by a senior management consultant:

    “That’s a bit Irish, isn’t it?” (a synonym for obtuse reasoning)

    “Fuck you I’m off to McKinsey” (not what I said, but in fact what I did)

    3) A fellow northsider told the following joke in an East End pub after listening to an hour of “Oirish” jokes at an open mike session

    “How do you get an Irish girl pregnant?”

    Crowd: “dunno”

    “And you call us stupid?”

    Facial reconstruction was called for.

    I don’t think the tolerance of contemporary English society can be ascribed to any single root cause, even the “fundamentally sound basis of English governance”. Your posts highlight the difficulty of teaching kids about “British” values to be proud of, without resorting to sentimental (Daily Mail?) interpretations of the past.

  • Brian Boru

    I don’t think Britishness is viable as a national identity.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “Here’s a little trick, ask one of your English mates to go the north inner city of Dublin, choose a pub, then sit there and ridicule the national policy of the Irish government, point out that Guinness is no different to any imported beer and then make an implication that some lad in a Celtic or Ireland football shirt is not as good an Irish man as the Nigerian bloke in the Centra shop next door. Now before you do so advise him that he may require several months of extensive reconstructive dental surgery.”

    Actually, there was a guy who did just that, and they made him the highest-paid and most influential newspaper columnist in the country. It’s called Myers Syndrome. We Irish have a strong streak of vanity in us, but we are also – one might say paradoxically – actually one of the most self-flagellating nations in the world.

    I agree that English society can by-and-large be proud of it’s relative openness and plurality, but really, there’s no need to traduce Irish society in order to make that point.

    (One might also make the point that if English society – and I mean English, as opposed to British – has become more tolerant, it is at least partially in reaction to a truly shameful past. After all, a century ago the average Englishman was so virulently xenophobic, racist and militarily vicious that Britain was able to build a planet-straddling, diversity-annihiliating, resource-thieving prison house of nations, or Empire, on the back of such attitudes. Perhaps partly, the average Englishman’s abhorrence of racism is similar in theme to, say, the average German’s abhorrence of anti-semitism?)

  • hovetwo

    Do we need to traduce England’s past before we praise her in the present?

    The “butchers apron” theory of the Victorian era downplays efforts to prevent slave-trafficking, poor law reform, catholic emancipation, primary education, land reform, even the famine relief efforts of Peel. For every “average” xenophobe there was an energetic reformer.

    If England hangs her head in shame over the 19th century, I’ll personally record my mortification at the role Irish people played in the New York Draft Riots during the American Civil War, as documented in contemporary accounts by African-Americans – in a sick conflation of sectarianism and racism, the rioters decided that the only good nigger was a Catholic nigger, and avoided burning them out.

    On the other hand, we could agree that the past is a different country…. Who knows, perhaps our vegetarian, anti-abortion, environmentally-friendly grandkids will see us all as a bunch of savages? (Not going to stop me eating steak).

  • DK

    “For the reasons that ConorGillespie put forth, these values are human values, not British values, and are open to anyone living in an open society, should they choose to place ‘value’ in them. Now, should they be encouraged? Perhaps even taight in schools? Yes, most definitely, in an open way, leaving free will at the apex of all decisions. But should the label ‘Britishness’ be annexed? Certainly not.”

    But what should be taught is the British context by which Britain came to these values.

    Billy Pilgrim: If Englands present anti-racism is a reaction against the Empire-building of the past in the same way as Germans are abhorrent about anti-semitism; will the next generation of Irish be pro-British in reaction to the shameful behaviour of the present generation?

  • Resolve

    In relation to the first part, addressed to me, All i have to say is that we are not in disagreemnent. But don’t you think a study of such things… e.g. the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution and the Bill of Rights, all those things that i assume you are referring to…. don’t you thin the history class is the proper forum for such eductation?

  • DK

    I thought that it was always going to be taught in the history class. Probably as a compulsory module.

  • Resolve

    Well DK, i cannot pretend to have read any Parliamentary paper on the matter. England’s education system is not my chief concern at present, as you can imagine. Nevertheless, I would be very surprised if that was the case. I mean, I went to a Catholic Grammar in Belfast, and even I was taught all about the Magna Carta, and the Bill of Rights etc. We were informed very clearly that England was, in many place, the birthplace of modern taken-for-granted civil liberties. I would be very surprised if these things were not also a focus in schools across England. If they are (which they obviously are) this module is about something else. While doing something very important (there is no doubt that morality is neglected at present) they are planning to in some same way connect the good virtues… that all humans can and should naturally strive for… with a sense of nationality.

  • Dk

    Probably just new Labour spin then. If it’s already taught then they can send out a document to schools to re-name bits “Britishness course”, and then claim the credit for, essentially, re-arranging the furniture a bit.

  • Resolve

    But to teach “Britishness”??? Of course, there is a unique history to every part of the world… and there is certainly some basis for the old stereotype of the efficient Teutonic German, and that of the romantic Spaniards and Italians… etc. But surely are we not living beyong such roles these days? To reintroduce this seems to be quite out of touch…

  • Resolve: You had a British education. The German burgher system evolved from the Roman and had different roots from the British. Is that why Europeans tend to be more civilized than Britons, do you think? Also, Roman law and the Code Napoleon might be worth a look at compared to the hotch potch that is British Common Law? Napoleon, bless him, liberated the Jews before Perfideious Albion liberated the Taigs.
    Oh! And Romantic Spaniards??? Too much Fawlty Towers in your Britishness classes, ceapaim.

  • Resolve

    what exactly is your point? I’m quite aware of the fact that I had a British education…

    Of course there are big differences b/w civil law and common law, but i’m not prepared to assume that this is a reason why continental people are more civilised than British people. I’m not even prepared to say that they are. It depends on how you measure civility.

    And what is this insult about Fawlty Towers? I hardly think it necessary to explain the general point i was making. Of course Germans have a stereotype (in history) that marks out “the Germans” as opposed to the “French”… one need only read the music, poetry, literature, etc. to see this… are you telling me that there is no cultural reason why Brahms’ German Requiem sounds the way it does and no reason why Verdi’s Requiem sounds like it does over and above simply the tastes of the individual composer?

    And the spanish and italiaan cultures are inherently more romantic… their languages themselves, being derivatives of the Latin tongue, determine to a large extent that this will be the case…

    I don’t really understand what you are objecting to…
    We’re getting rather off the point of this thread, aren’t we…

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Hovetwo

    “Do we need to traduce England’s past before we praise her in the present?”

    Ah no, I was only saying…

    “If England hangs her head in shame over the 19th century, I’ll personally record my mortification at the role Irish people played in the New York Draft Riots during the American Civil War, as documented in contemporary accounts by African-Americans – in a sick conflation of sectarianism and racism, the rioters decided that the only good nigger was a Catholic nigger, and avoided burning them out.”

    You’re comparing a mob riot on another continent involving people who happened to be Irish to official policies of the British state that lasted for centuries, but I take your point. I don’t think English people today owe the world any apologies. I think the attitudes of most English people towards the rest of the world have genuinely changed from a few generations ago, and most of the countless English people I’ve met have a pretty healthy attitude towards the rest of the world. That’s good enough for me. Better than any bloody apology.

    “On the other hand, we could agree that the past is a different country….”

    I absolutely agree. Britain is a great country and the British people are entitled to be very proud of its many achievements. It’s also important to be awareness of historical failings and to resist the temptation to be reflexively defensive. The same is true of all countries.

    DK

    Billy Pilgrim: If Englands present anti-racism is a reaction against the Empire-building of the past in the same way as Germans are abhorrent about anti-semitism; will the next generation of Irish be pro-British in reaction to the shameful behaviour of the present generation?”

    Can you expound on what you mean by the “shameful behaviour of the present generation”?

    If you’re talking about the IRA campaign, then we’re already there man. South of the border, most people under 50 have a very relaxed and respectful attitude towards British and things British. (Unless you insist on seeing their annoying preference for independence as anti-Britishness? Some people actually think that, you know!) North of the border things are slightly different, but in fairness, for blindingly obvious reasons. If northern nationalists have problems with Britain, it’s not out of irrational prejudice but the fruit of bitter experience. (For all that, even hard line republicans are happy to enjoy British cultural treasures and do business across the Irish Sea and so on. It’s not Britain or British people or things British that give them the hump – it’s colonial rule and armed squaddies on the streets that do. They’d feel the same if they were French or American or Outer bloody Mongolian. In fairness, surely that’s understandable to anyone?)

  • Gareth

    Dear Connor what I object to is this, “I, for example, who have spent most of my sixty odd years on this earth attempting to bring the BRITISH STATE TO ITS KNEES would not be subject to such a test”

    Sounds like a quote straight out of AP/RN or the Daily Lieland.

    MUPPETS indeed.