Endless pages of studies, papers and propaganda, and no one came up with a definition of what it is to be British until yesterday.
the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.
Schools across the land are drumming into tender minds a set, defined list of “fundamental British values” but they are wrong. The listed ‘values’ (democracy, the rule of law, mutual respect and tolerance of etc etc) were always the limp product of a committee. They are ideals of a particular class of the commentariat, reflecting dully some aspects of British identity but mainly written to drive forward an agenda which most of us do not share. They are not values. They are not even particularly British, which is unsurprising from a class of nowhere people frightened of being British.
Democracy is some form or other has been a British trait for centuries and we taught the world, and the rule of law is fundamental to a free society, but those are the mechanisms, not the values – these committee ideas leave no room for the actual values which shape the nation, such as freedom, defiance, humour, innovation, brilliance and modesty. The committees would have been shocked to be asked to write those in, but they would better reflect who we are. Their key idea, namely “mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith” is nonsense if put forward as an idea of some value we all hold, and they knew it. They knew it and yet they still wrote it.
You cannot be arrested, yet, for speaking against those allegedly fundamental values, but they inform the ‘Prevent’ system and may inform the enforcement of those ill-defined “hate speech” laws. They skew the adoption system – dissenters may not adopt children – and may catch us in many subtle ways. The list may look like a charter for tolerance, but it is a weapon in the hands of those who have the power to use it.
I recall reading of one Twitter exchange where a parent complained (as is her right) of some fault in the school only for the head teacher to accuse her of breaching fundamental British values of tolerance. I am not sure that tolerance of incompetence was meant, but this “tolerance” is a fine stick for a bully to use to beat his victims.
That said, some characterisation was needed to say what it is to be British in a multicultural milieu that has lost that shared common culture the land once had. You cannot have a nation which does not share some bond, and if multi-culture means no culture, there is no such bond. It is just that culture is a ground-up thing and cannot be invented by a committee, imposed by decree.
In then steps The Queen, one who better than anyone understands what it is to be British through the best part of a century of changes. It is in “self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling” that we recognise ourselves. No one has put it better.
Every so often some researcher will talk to people in the street or focus groups to find out what typifies some group f the population. Proud results come back from the north of what are particularly Scottish characteristics, and they turn out to be identical to those which their neighbours said were particularly English characteristics, and particularly Irish characteristics indeed. There are still things we share and which are not the same in less fortunate nations.