Britain: an island without a story (Frank Furedi)

Examples of social decline, especially in the UK

Britain: an island without a story (Frank Furedi)

Postby Elliott » 15 Oct 2013, 19:13

I want to draw everyone's attention to this 2008 article by Frank Furedi, which I think is quite excellent: Britain: an island without a story. It starts off talking about the al-Queda security threat, but that is really just the entre into an analysis of Britain's loss of identity, which is far more interesting.

I was first worried then relieved when reading this bit:

Yet these two issues – multiculturalism and immigration – are not the nub of the problem raised by Prins and Salisbury. What the authors describe as the ‘loss of cultural self-confidence’ has little to do with multiculturalism, and nothing to do with immigration. Rather, the loss of confidence comes, both logically and chronologically, before the institutionalisation of the multicultural ethos.


I agree with this. I think it's significant that the age of mass immigration and multiculturalism came at a crisis point in Western identity, beginning right after WW2/Auschwitz/Hiroshima. Where I would go perhaps further than Furedi is that I think mass immigration, and especially multiculturalism, has greatly exacerbated the identity crisis, by at some level quarantining Western peoples from their own national histories. Today everything, even Christopher Columbus, has to be about diversity, because it cannot ever be about "us". And when somebody famous tries to summarise "what Britain stands for" or "what France stands for" etc., it always ends up being some disgustingly limp, milquetoast collection of words like "inclusiveness", "fairness", and of course "diversity" - meaning that all countries stand for exactly the same things and there is no difference between any of them. But, as Furedi points out, trying to characterise national character is always a clumsy endeavour and is perhaps best if allowed to rest on unspoken things, the instinctive and nebulous things that make a people who they are.

Perhaps the most meaty and alarming (or alarmist) stuff in Furedi's essay is the reporting of an educational review which concluded that patriotism was a very bad idea and that countries are not "appropriate objects of love". Well, it was 2008 - the height of Blairism and just before globalisation was thrown into doubt by the GFC...
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Re: Britain: an island without a story (Frank Furedi)

Postby Nathan » 15 Oct 2013, 20:16

An very interesting article, though it doesn't say anything we haven't read in so many other articles or discussed at length on here. My objection to Britain or "Britishness" is that unlike being a true nation state with a shared history in the same way as, say, Japan, it is an artificial construct, which given devolution and the West Lothian question, and considering most people living in Britain don't primarily identify with it and its meaning has already been perverted beyond recognition by the multiculturalists has lost its reason to exist.

It seems a little absurd and indeed is a complete anomaly compared to more or less anywhere else in the world that while I identify as English my passport says British, and yet to complicate things further the official name for my country of citizenship isn't even 'Britain' or 'Great Britain', as it is known in many other languages around the world (apart from those languages which find our multi-tiered nationality so confusing they don't even have words to distinguish between 'England' and 'Britain'!), but the 'United Kingdom' (or that God-awful bland and corporate-sounding 'Yoo-kay'), all because of the accident of history resulting in what should really be a part of another country insisting on banging the drum to remain as part of ours. In my opinion, the best way to recover a sense of who we are would be to abandon the whole idea of Britain as a country and go back to being English, Scottish, Welsh etc.
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Re: Britain: an island without a story (Frank Furedi)

Postby Elliott » 15 Oct 2013, 20:36

Nathan wrote:In my opinion, the best way to recover a sense of who we are would be to abandon the whole idea of Britain as a country and go back to being English, Scottish, Welsh etc.

I think you're right that this would be the best way to recover our identity (identities) but I can't help wondering if we would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Englishness is the dominant subset of Britishness; for at least 300 years the outside world has seen Britain and England as basically the same thing (much like Holland and the Netherlands). I don't know if you could extricate Englishness from Britishness at this point. What you would in fact be doing is saying, truthfully, that Britishness is really just Englishness, that England defines Britain and the other countries just follow suit, retaining their own special identities but also submitting to the identity of the dominant England, which meantime loses its own special identity because it has put everything into its aggregate identity.

Ironically, what has happened to England since it expanded, phantom-like, into "Britain", is very similar to what (I believe) happens to any society that indulges in multiculturalism: the dinner host becomes the meal. By being so strong, it stops defending its own identity and then realises one day that it has lost it.

However, what we're talking about is a problem specific to England with its unique "Britain" dilemma. What Furedi is talking about is more general: that Western countries have purposely abandoned their historic identities since WW2, and are now psychologically weak as a result.

The important thing to bear in mind is that, though England's identity crisis is rearing its head now, for 300 years it seems to have been absolutely fine, and no crisis at all. I suspect "England" seems so much more important to English people today, only because "Britain" seems to have failed post-WW2 - but that failure is echoed by all European countries, and they don't have the "Britain" anomaly. Ultimately, for English people to abandon "Britain" in favour of "England" would be to do little more than change a word.
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Re: Britain: an island without a story (Frank Furedi)

Postby Caleb » 16 Oct 2013, 04:48

Good article.
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