Monday, 9 July 2012

The Times features yet more preposterous diversity propaganda today, describing the Olympic torch being welcomed through Britain by various "diverse" crowds.

People I spoke to laughed at the notion, announced by the Home Secretary this week, of testing immigrants to this country on what it means to be British, because it is something we would all struggle to define.

...My week chasing the torch proved that celebrating Britishness and celebrating multiculturalism are inextricably intertwined. “There is a real mix of ethnicities round here and they have all welcomed the torch,” said Leroy Willis, 43, a civil servant from Dudley, as the torch-bearer disembarked from a barge at the Black Country Living Museum to be greeted by a throng of visitors dressed in Victorian costume.

A black face would have been a rare sight in Victorian times, but the colour of Mr Willis’s skin makes no difference today and he blends with perfect authenticity into the excited crowd in his flat cap and vintage waistcoat, as do his children, Lily, 3, and Joseph, 12.

...On Sunday the torch arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon, the home, of course, of William Shakespeare. Here, in this Warwickshire town, it was hard to tell the tourists from the locals among the jostling crowds. Utai Culligan, 36, known as Nancy to her friends, has lived in England for eight years since emigrating from Thailand. “Physically, I’m a foreigner — but I’m not a foreigner at heart,” she told me. “And I think the torch helps. Originally I just came here to work, but now I have fallen in love with England and English people and feel like I am one of them. I feel both Thai and British and so a mix of a foreigner and a local. And I feel like the torch has become a symbol for the whole country, which makes me very proud. Even the ice creams I am selling today are torch-shaped, being bought by people of so many nationalities here waving British flags.”

...Mark Molina, 32, a chef, was among the throng waiting in the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. “I came from the Philippines five years ago and now I live in Britain as a chef of Mexican food,” he said. “But I consider my family to be British now. I’ll be supporting British athletes in the Olympics as much as those from the Philippines. Market Harborough is quite a posh, white town, but I’ve never experienced any racism.”

...The closer the Olympic torch gets to London, the more you realise that ethnicity or “background” cease to matter. In Peterborough I met Richard Wozniak, 55, a builder who was with his wife in the high street to see the torch pass by at the end of a long, sunny day. He arrived from Poland seven years ago and his English is still a little sketchy, but he explained: “I am British. We are all British — it does not matter what country we came here from. That is why we are all so happy to see the torch come.”
Source: Times (£)

How shallow a thing is Britishness that it can now apparently be acquired in just a few years by Polish builders who can barely speak English.

Of course this is nonsense. People are British, French, German, Spanish, etc. or they are not. No one can ever become British, French, German or Spanish. It is not a status, like a social security number, that can be assigned or withdrawn. Even though I now live in Spain, I am not Spanish nor will I ever be Spanish. Not even if I live here for the rest of my life Even if I bring my knowledge of Spanish to such a pitch of perfection that I can write poetry in it, I will never be Spanish. No matter how deep the apprectiation of Spanish culture and history I develop, I can never be Spanish, because Spanishness is something so deeply rooted that it cannot be acquired except at birth. And not by place of birth either. By ancestry. Does this mean that immigrants can never be assimilated? In a sense, it does. Immigrants can never acquire the nationality of the countries they move to (distinguishing nationality in a deep sense from the administrative status of citizenship). Their descendants - probably not their children but perhaps their grand-children or great grand-children - may be absorbed into the tribe in the course of time if the family has demonstrated its fitness to be a part of the tribe (the Probationary Citizenship framework I have proposed would formalise this process). But no first generation immigrant can ever acquire the peoplehood of the people into whose ancestral territory he or she has migrated.

As I have mentioned before, the notion of citizenship displacing peoplehood and being something that can be assigned, acquired or withdrawn derives from the force of the American example. Back in the Bush era, when I used to follow American political debate quite closely, I was struck by how often political opponents of both left and right would denounce their foes from the other side as "unAmerican". Something about this jarred in me. I wasn't quite sure why, then. But I am now. It's because, in my view, belonging to a nation should be something deep, intrinsic and all-encompassing. Somehow, the idea of excluding people from the communion of nationhood because you disagreed with them about something struck me as wrong. But perhaps only in the European context. The United States, as I have said before, is an artifical construct based partly on a definition of values. So perhaps using the term "unAmerican" is appropriate in that context, if political factions feel that their opponents have violated some of the fundamental, definitional values of the state. (Of course, there will be unending debate about what exactly those definitional values are.) This idiom, however, can never be appropriate in a European context. I have started to see the spread of the term "unBritish" from American discourse. This is an ugly idiom that can never be appropriate in a European context. Because the countries of Europe are not artificial state constructs based on definitions of values. They are organic nations based on rooted peoples living in their ancestral territories. You are British, French, German, Spanish, etc. or you are not. You can never be unBritish, unFrench, unGerman or unSpanish unless you are not British, French, German or Spanish.

But what about Pakis living in Luton or Bradford? Are they not "unBritish"? Of course they are. But they are unBritish because they are not British. They are Pakis. It's like saying, "Is a cat not undoglike?" Of course it is. It's a cat, not a dog.


Anonymous said...


Even great great grandchildren will not be British in the true sense. The problem does not lie with the host culture. Some groups will always identify themselves on the basis of religion or race. Religious faith also prevents inter-marriage outside racial lines.

Consider, even after 1000 years or more in Britain, Jews still identify themselves as British Jews, and have an organisation as such.

The same holds for Muslims, Hindus and other religions alien to the UK.

The roots of this problem lie to an extent on the dietary requirements of Jews, Muslims and Hindus. This makes it difficult for both hosts and guests to socialise properly without upsetting some thing. This prevents real integration and acceptance of each other.

Race counts, but religion ie the culture, is what really counts.


alas said...

I agree with this to a large extent Cheradine. I would only add that instead of ancestry being the criteria for whether or not someone is a member of a specific nation, it would be better to say 'a feeling of common ancestry'. This difference is important in my opinion but may have been what you meant in the first place, because I think that Ernest Renan was correct when he said an important part of a nation is learning to forget where we come from (for instance, whether a Frenchman's descendants where Gauls, Franks, Romans etc. does not matter for we have all forgotten and are French even though those in the North are ethnically closer to Germans than the South of France apparently). This is one of the areas where ethnic groups and nations diverge. This leads to people of Scottish extraction such as myself feeling loyalty to Britain and commradeship with English people, even though probably there is no ancestral ties amongst us. And this is why it is bad to have traits such as different races within a population, because here there would be no mistaking that we are of different ancestry, no matter how many centuries would pass of us coexisting in the same country, because whereas physical differences amongst Gauls and Franks, or Scots and English are slight/non-existant, it goes without saying that different skin colours persist and never vanish (counter-entropic traits).

Very good piece though, and my feelings exactly that it is very perverse to think of a nation as something so feeble that disagreements on something like tax rates could mean that someone is characterized as not belonging to it.

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