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    Intergration and Britishness

    by Sunny on 5th June, 2007 at 10:07 pm    

    Tomorrow afternoon the Fabian Society (I’m not an employee, honest) is publishing a pamphlet by communities secretary Ruth Kelly and immigration minister Liam Byrne. It was front-paged in the Guardian today. There are two broadly distinct yet overlapping themes here: Britishness and immigration. In both cases I don’t think the proposals go far enough.

    Anyway, I’ll be on Radio 5 Live tonight at 11pm discussing Britishness and have on CIF: Why I’m not interested in integration.

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    11 Comments below   |  

    1. Leon — on 5th June, 2007 at 10:21 pm  

      British Day? This like that Citizens Day that was trialled (with help from the Citizenship foundation) a couple of years ago and was underfunded to a ridiculous degree?

    2. Tahir — on 5th June, 2007 at 10:42 pm  

      British Day?

      What is this?

      The Americans have the 4th of July to commomerate ( can’t spell) independence from the British.

      What would British Day celebrate? How the British State was cemented in a political union? It doesn’t have the same popular zeal but I suspect this isn’t what the pundits are trying to do.

      I don’t get it.

      In academia there is a whole subject around ‘whiteness’ these days which looks at attempts to explain Britishness and what’s driving this push on British character. The academics would conclude it’s about government creating policies for social cohesion - and now more so , because cohesion is really a buzz word for ‘those Muslims’ but we can’t really say that.

    3. Don — on 5th June, 2007 at 11:04 pm  

      Deja vu anybody?

      ‘A points system for citizenship would allow credits to be deducted for anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping…’

      Fly tipping? How about dropping tab ends?

    4. Dr Shaaz Mahboob — on 5th June, 2007 at 11:45 pm  

      Problem is, There are English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish in Britain, not many who’d feel they are British anymore, of course apart from the BNP lot.

      But why can’t a sense of nationalism become important for those in today’s Britain, why should it be shunned because it’s something that Americans are proud of?

      Human beings by nature “need” a sense of belonging to fulfil their pyschological requirements, whether on the basis of colour, creed, religion, ideology, status, profession, political views or nationality. They unite under slogans, catch phrases, banners and flags.

      Why are British people so unique that they should not benefit from something as common place as symbols of nationalism or unity such as the Union Flag? Why should having a Union Flag equate to rasict or far-right extremism?

      As humans, especially those of Muslim backgrounds, the void that was created as a result of lack of nationalism is being filled by all sorts of things, including gang + hip-hop culture, and a certain interpretation of religious teachings that lead to a wide gulf between them and members of other communities.

      I personally feel its time that a sense of nationalism is revived in Britain with people, wishing to secure a bright future for this country, feeling proud of being British not just be standing patiently in the queue waiting for their turn or “respecting” others in the neighbourhood, but by blatant exhibition of their nationality, i.e. the flag.

      Symbols have always united people and this may be the last hope for all the peoples in Britain to get together under something that belongs to all.

      If not, then be prepared to fight another identity battle feeling and getting recognised as English, Welsh, Scottish etc.

    5. Juvenal — on 6th June, 2007 at 7:04 am  

      Gordon Brown, worried about his own Scottishness, has been banging on about Britishness and a National Day for ages. Not surprising therefore that two ministers who might be kicked out by him at the end of the month suddenly become all enthusiastic about the idea.

      And citizenship based on the concept of store loyalty cards?

    6. Twining or Black in Blue — on 6th June, 2007 at 10:17 am  

      I agree with the Doctor above to a certain extent. A Great Britain day as such seems to be about Citizenship and common values.

      In terms of the comment about the flags, well historically the NF used the Union Jack as their symbol and I think Combat 18 or the BNP used the St George flags as their symbol so it is important that the right wing do not own these symbols.

      As for a void, this is where I disagree. You see hip hop and AKON, i.e. music has always been around and evolves. Suggesting that fundamentalists have used this void in identity to move to this music is naive in my opinion. Extremists have gone into extremism because of some people teaching hatred and the inability of some fundamentalists to reform.

      Integration is two way road, not a one way street. Our children will westernise and there is not alot we can do about that; the external pressures are there; that I am afraid is the way of life, and was so when our parents moved here in the 60’s and 70’s. My personal feeling is we should support a common theme.

    7. Puffy — on 7th June, 2007 at 5:03 am  

      Heavens. Britain (or to keep it simple, let’s say England) has been demographically transformed over the past 50 years. With a few exceptions, the population of the British Isles was highly homogenous in 1945 - every bit as much as India and Pakistan are now. Yet we do not talk about what is Indian or Pakistani identity (indeed elsewhere posters here focus on preserving it) so why should there be any real doubt about what is English? Despite the impression one may get from visiting the big cities or viewing the media, ethnic minorities remain that: a minority.

      Only the self-loathing post-Empire elite seem to propogate this myth that there is “no such thing as Englishness”. Quite the contrary - one of the reasons English identity is so muted is because before mass immigration, the English were so ubiqutous they did not have to ask themseleves who they were. Most working class people are still quite comfortable in their identity - the trouble is that the left and media class regard them, and their pride in their identity, with contempt, often driving them into the arms of racists.

      Only in the UK does this seem to be a major problem. I suspect it has more to do with class than anything - with the collapse of Empire the ruling class lost so much confidence they did not believe in anything any more, not even themselves. This became the dominant “myth”, propogated through the channels they control.

      The working classes (who never especially identified themselves with Empire) never had this problem, so never lost their identity. And of course are hated for it - not by the new immigrants (who would have happily “integrated” as mine did a century or two ago), but their masters.

    8. Puffy — on 7th June, 2007 at 5:11 am  

      BTW Sunny, your comment in CIF:

      “The Ahmeds, Patels and Singhs simply want to get on with their lives and are more likely to feel that talk of integration is an attempt to interfere. Is it any surprise such pronouncements are almost universally ignored?

      Hence I’m not interested in integration. What I propose instead is that we promote and work for social cohesion. We need to ensure people can communicate in English with each other, that they feel a sense of belonging and civic identity, that human rights for all are respected and fought for.

      We need to ensure that racism, sexism, religious extremism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination are openly challenged. We need to allow people to follow whatever culture and lifestyle they want, within the law, and yet feel part of this country.”

      It’s classic Western paternalism - what you’re saying is: let’s all celebrate our differences (you know, Divali, fish n’ chips, Ramadan) but just as long as YOU ARE JUST LIKE ME AND SHARE MY VALUES.

      Not that I don’t (share your values, I mean) but I think this goes to the heart of why “multiculuralism” is viewed as hypocritical.

    9. soru — on 8th June, 2007 at 11:32 pm  

      Not that I don’t (share your values, I mean) but I think this goes to the heart of why “multiculuralism” is viewed as hypocritical.

      It’s not so much hypocritical as incoherent: the ‘m14m’ word doesn’t actually have an accepted meaning, it’s just a sequence of letters.

      As such, anyone who uses or reads the word presumably has their own private definition. For some, it seems to mean ‘the theory that brown people should be permitted to exist’, for others it is read as ‘the theory that if you refuse a cannibal’s invite to lunch you are a bad person’. There is no way that range of private meanings are ever going to match up except by the occasional coincidence.

      Maybe one way round this is to use a word that actually has a single tightly defrined meaning: Leitkultur

      He defined it in terms of what are commonly called western values, and spoke of a European rather than a German ‘Leitkultur’. “The values needed for a core culture are those of modernity: democracy, secularism, the Enlightenment, human rights and civil society.” (B. Tibi, Europa ohne Identität, p. 154). These core values are similar to those of the ‘liberal-democratic basic order’ (Freiheitlich-demokratischen Grundordnung) which is considered the foundational value of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, and the unified German state after 1990.

      The ‘constitutional patriotism’ (proposed by the philosopher Jurgen Habermas) would not suffice, since all constitutions are based on non-random cultural assumptions. Fundamental rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression must be fully supported by a social consensus. Given the background of a multicultural society in Germany, according to Lammert, rights must be linked to certain cultural values, and a nationwide debate on this issue was necessary, to re-establish such a link. The idea of multiculturalism, was “perhaps originally well-intentioned”, but had reached the end of its useful life. Multiculturalism could not be allowed to create a society where all values were equal - and therefore in practice had no values. In conflicts of values, society had to decide which values were valid, and which were not.

    10. Puffy — on 9th June, 2007 at 11:00 am  

      Actually, I just read this, which I thought was spot on:

      “Instead of putting the matter up for debate, government and corporations quietly and unilaterally set policy. Europe’s elite had a bad conscience, given memories of refugees from Nazi Germany who’d been turned away decades earlier. There was also the omnipresent “fear of being accused of racism.” This bizarre combination of multiculturalism and complete disregard for the significance of culture opened up a huge gulf between Europe’s elite and the public — a gulf that emerged openly when France and The Netherlands rejected the proposed EU constitution (in part over concerns about Muslim immigration and the accession of Turkey to the EU).”

      It’s in a review, through Islamaphobiawatch, of The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, in the right-wing National Review. The book itself may be a cut above the usual panic-mongering fare, although I suspect the demographic business is over-egged. For example - say there are twice as many Muslims in the UK as the census suggests, there will also be a lot more people in general. So that would make 4 million out of around 65 million. Hardly a take-over, and what about the 1-2 million Eastern European Christians who hqave just turned up to do our plumbing and serve our drinks? If I was a Muslim, I’d be worried about being swamped meself!

      Anyway, apologies for veering off-topic, but here’s the link if you are interested. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTU4YzE1MjZhZTlmMjZiZmMzMjQzMGU5NjdjYjJjZjE=

    11. douglas clark — on 9th June, 2007 at 11:25 am  

      Puffy, post 7,

      Interesting. If you go back to the early 1950’s it probably was the case that ‘Englishness’ or ‘Britishness’ was defined by ruling half the planet. Exporting Christianity, Morris Minors and stuff like that.

      I recall looking at the ‘Acts of Parliament’ for the era just after that. They seem to have all been about giving folk freedom from colonial rule. Which, I assume we are agreed, was a good thing. But it certainly left a huge hole in any definition of Britishness, I think. The misplaced pride that folk took in ‘their’ Empire was replaced by, well, what?

      Nothing much, I suspect.

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