Thursday, 28 June 2012

Could Starkey be right about Britishness?

David Starkey
I did it again, I saw Laurie Penny glaring out of the cover of Monday's Independent and found myself flicking to the page and reading her comment about historian and right wing enthusiast David Starkey and their spat that occurred this weekend. I gather from a source that it turned quite ugly and almost turned to blows! Obviously I don't (and am sure most people won't) condone this at all.

But what was it all about?

According to the Comment piece that appeared in Monday's Independent David Starkey apparently said;

real British values [are not] entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab.

Well... that's true despite Ms Penny's retort of Xenophobia.

I don't know if there is any more to this statement so I'm writing from what I do know was said.

Briticism is defined in Linda Colley's "Britons; The forging the nation 1707-1837", was forged by many external factors. After all "Britain" was forged by military conquest, aggressive foreign policy by England and royal marriages. In fact many would argue the "Act of Union" with Scotland was heavily forced upon the Scots and stacked well with in England's benefits.
This polyglot of nations with separate cultures were thrown together and had to face a common foe in the form of Catholic Europe and then against Napoleonic aggression.

During this tumulus time the middle mercantile class began to bloom and so capitalism flourished and the enterprising nature that encouraged greater cooperation and global ambition kicked off and combined with Military adventure led to the creation of the Empire and a state of identity for Britons.

Briticism grew from this period and adapted to an Imperial way of life but with it came a certain amount of racial superiority over the peoples of the colonies, the "cowardly" French and the "War mongering" Hun.

In post war Britain this state of identity was lost along with the Empire, greater trade and Industrialism from America and all the nations started to drift apart within the union.

As Europe grew closer together, Britain became suspicious but had no Empire to fall back on. Britain had undeniably lost its place in the world and politically, economically and socially it is still lost, it came from Britain and was moulded by events that happened to Great Britain both internal and external.

In this respect he was right.

There are those who still cling to the old deals of Britishness, some are labelled, as Ms Penny has rightly or Wrongly in this case, as Dinosaurs and in some cases bigots - often deservedly so. The old Imperial British is gone and a new Britishness needs to be forged taking in the multi-cultural society that we find our country in today.

It may seem difficult as Language, culture and religion, once a common factor amongst Britons is now varied wildly and there is a lack of understanding amongst groups. There is also the self divisive nature of some groups who form enclaves within sections of major cities or only settle within certain locales.

However we have been here before, when the Union was first formed Scotland, Ireland and Wales were very different to England and yet in time they moulded and worked together towards a common gain and interest and I am sure that they can do so again it’s just early days.

We White Caucasians need to get over ourselves though and embrace the grand project of redefinition in the same way as others need to.

So where as Britishness was not entrenched in the Punjab it should now start to absorb these new identities and influences. Be it Indian, Jamaican or Polish this ethnicities and ways of life can and should be part of the New Britishness.

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