Friday 27 February 2009

I actually do predict an actual riot!

Right, first off, to persuade you that the content of this post is much better than it actually is, I want you to stop, open a new window, and listen to this song. It's the new single by The Indelicates, 'The Recession Song', feat. Nicky Biscuit and Mickey from Art Brut. I have been stamping around to it all day; it takes a very special song to make my heart hammer like a tiny flywheel, and this is it.

There's trouble in America, trouble you can touch
You can't go to rehab 'cause it costs too much!
No career, no hope, no fun no fashion
Thank fuck for the fucking recession!

Several posts are cooking, delayed in the ether by other journalism, the kind of writing which I enjoy less but which might possibly pay me enough to carry on eating duchy's original prescription medication, smoking finest gold leaf and keeping the boyfriend in gin and ribbons. I have what I believe to be some incredibly subtle and well-reasoned ideas about what the commentary on Ivan Cameron's death says about the nation, but I'm so damn angry about everything else right now that I just don't trust myself to reason well, or to be tactful in any way. So you'll just have to live without my stunnning insights there. The discussions from Monday's post really did get me thinking, though; would anyone be interested in a separate post about the private school system, if I promised to try and keep it mostly free from disgusting middle-class guilt?

Oh, also: if you woke up this morning even vaguely satisfied with the state of the world, check out the Daily Mail Racial Purity Test, published to great acclaim yesterday. I'm actually not actually joking. Sunder Katwala, Chair of the Fabian Society, has a fantastic response over at Liberal Conspiracy. Essentially, guys, it's not enough to have been born here - both of your parents have to have been born here, and all of your grandparents as well, or you simply aren't German British. That counts me out then, as I don't have even one British grandparent. Perhaps I'll write to them and explain that, whilst I am a lefty and a shortarse, it's not my fault, because I'm a filthy furriner and I don't know any better, and anyway Frank Field says that I won't have a detrimental affect on community cohesion because, yknow, I'm white.

Or perhaps they can get to fuck. I'm PROUD of my immigrant heritage. I have the dark eyes and curves of my mother's Maltese family, the pale skin and fine dark hair of my father's Lithuanian roots; I have the work ethic of my immigrant Jewish family and when I get drunk I sing like my Irish cousins. I was born in the heart of London. This city pounds in my blood with its thousands of cultures and races, its colours, its music and its misery. I'm glad that on my daily walk to the tube I can hear Turkish and Polish and Hindi and Swahili being spoken; that on my way home I can stop and buy halva, or sour cabbage soup or a fresh pide for my tea, or best of all, staggering back high and dazed from a night out, I can stop at the corner shop and pick up a stick of rose kulfi, which is the absolutely nicest thing ever and tastes like a rose might taste if it made love to a mini milk lolly in the back of a seedy pink limousine coated in sugar. I'm proud to live in the most racially diverse city in the world - there are not many things that make me proud of my country right now but that's one of them. Living here has made me a wiser, more knowledgeable and more tolerant person, and I believe that one should only be patriotic about the bits of one's country that challenge you to be better than you are.

I had more to say, but the corner shop shuts in ten minutes and I've made myself want kulfi now. Hold that thought.


  1. If you're buying kulfi, can I have saffron and pistachio flavour?

  2. Whoo 100% British!
    Let's see, my parents were born in England
    My grand parents were born in England.
    And I was born in........
    Ah well who wants to be a pom anyway ;)

  3. The convulsions of life always allow human beings to retain some fixed points and consistencies between birth and demise.

    In twenty years time when you're a successful and fabulously wealthy journalist writing regularly for the Telegraph and the Daily Mail whose editors are calling you the "new Ann Leslie" or, and this is a really insulting suggestion, "the new Amanda Platell, although you won't be able to claim to be leftist any more take comfort in the thought that whatever happens you will always be a shortarse!

    As the world writhes in agony you can always hold on to that one absolutely tautological certainty. Comforting to have such an anchor isn't it you little mongrel?!

    (Don't go "off on one" since the foregoing is just a joke!)

  4. I may be small but I am strong.

  5. Kushiel - ahah, but you see, when I have sold out entirely and am one of THEM, I fully intend to be carried everywhere in a litter by four oiled peasants, so that noone will be able to see my DEFORMITY.

    Lol. :)

  6. I think any post on racial purity requires the classic Blackadder quote:

    'I'm not a spy! I'm as English as Queen Victoria!'

    'So, your father's German, you're half-German, and you married a German?'


    (And when you're one of Them, surely you can just re-write the rules so being tall is a result of eating the wrong things/being a pauper and growing up in the dark so you stretch to reach the light/some other socially unacceptable thing. Or you could go the Good Queen Bess route and make anyone who's too tall 'shorter by a head'.)

  7. sacred-sarcasm - don't put ideas like that into the lady's head!!!

  8. Ha!

    You've let the cattery out of the bag, Laurie.

    By the end of Kushiel's fabled score of years you will doubtless have ascended and been assimilated into the British literocracy. With fossil fuels banned or depleted and unaffordable you'll probably be burning proles like me in your Robert Adam fireplace for light, warmth and entertainment of an evening as you converse and intellectualise with a clique of friends recruited from the talented, great and the good. Common folk, like me, will be compelled to lie down on cold pavements, puddles and floors as you pass by for you to walk over, or stand on like animated rugs, to save your perfectly pedicured pinkies from being chilled or made even slightly less than comfortable!

    We, your readership, know that secretly you've always wanted to wear a diamond encrusted tiara! Nor are we deceived by your compact and bijou anatomy.

    "... a number of powerful dictators have been below average height. Examples include Engelbert Dollfuss (4′11″; 1.50 m), Deng Xiaoping (5′0″; 1.52 m), Kim Jong Il (5′3″; 1.60 m), Nikita Khrushchev (5′3″; 1.60 m), Francisco Franco (5′4″; 1.63 m), Joseph Stalin (5′5″; 1.65 m), and Benito Mussolini (5'6"; 1.67 m). "

    Quote from Heightism - Wikipedia.

    One day you will disown and rule over us all!

    Ha, ha, ha.

  9. The song made me feel a little old. Have to admit I'm more of an At The Drive In, Refused kind of man.

    As for the Daily Mail scare story it's a load of bull. Travel anywhere outside of the main cities and England, etc is 98% white. You should try Lancaster that's a real eye opener.

  10. It is a fine thing to be multi-cultural, yes (and a British thing too), but too much of liberal discussion on the topic seems to interpret multi-culturalism as the celebration and endorsement of immigrant cultures at the expense of the indiginous.

    To my mind, this is not true to the egalitarian ideal behind true multi-culturalism, but simply a hypocritical excuse for cultural one-upmanship - ironically, the very thing that true multi-culturalism seeks to redress.

    Speaking as someone British-born, whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents (indeed all ancestors back to 1790) were all born in Britain, I can't help but feel that I have as much right to celebrate my heritage as anyone else. Bits of it I'm proud of, bits of it I'm not, but it's who I am. Just as your heritage helps make you who you are.

    The true message of multi-culturalism is that there is no better or worse, that all cultures (even including british culture) are equally valid and valuable. Which gives non-immigrant British people just as much right to celebrate their heritage as everybody else.

    Similarly, the true message of egalitarianism is that people shouldn't be prejudiced against, whatver school they went to (even if it was Eton). For some reason this seems to be a tricky notion for some people to grasp, which is ironic, given that these are the very people who claim to support equality and social justice!

    ps Yes to your suggestion of a post about public schools. Sounds very interesting.

  11. "I can't help but feel that I have as much right to celebrate my heritage as anyone else."

    What does that even mean, though? I'm "British". But I also have brown hair. I don't see any reason to celebrate the deeds of other British people any more than those of other brown-haired people.

    I honestly can't see why anyone would want to celebrate "their" culture except as a way of sticking up a finger to someone else's. Which is fine in certain circumstances - if the Tibetans, say, want to celebrate their culture as a way of sticking up their fingers at Beijing then fair enough. If France invaded Britain and tried to impose French culture then I'd celebrate Britishness. But until then, I'll celeberate what deserves celebration, whoever did it.

  12. I didn't say "celebrate the deeds of other British people" though, did I? I didn't even say "celebrate my culture". I said "celebrate my heritage".

    Everyone is entitled to feel an attachment to their roots and their family and its history, 100% British people included.

    If someone is proud of their Maltese or Lithuanian roots, that's fine, but then by their own reasoning, they have to afford me, and others like me, the right to be proud of our 100% British ones. Otherwise, expressing such pride is divisive and offensive, not to mention hypocritical, isn't it?

    It looks to me like another issue that Penny Red hasn't properly thought through.

    I agree with you entirely that it's hard to see someone celebrating their particular culture, as anything other than a two-fingered salute to everyone else's. Which is what, I fear, "multi-culturalism" has become - a hypocritical celebration of every culture other than british - and which is what I was objecting to.

    I'm anti-hypocrisy, you see.

  13. Dandelion -

    I don't know where I said, or implied, that celebrating one culture is equivalent to sticking two fingers up at everyone else's. That's a little paranoid, in my book. Say, I'm going out tonight, and I think I'll wear a nice green dress. Should I attach a little note to it saying that 'I do not wish to stick two fingers up a the rest of the spectrum, I think a yellow dress would have been just as nice, actually when you think about it you can't make green without yellow?'

    I consider myself to be BRITISH. I am a British person with an immigrant background; I think I have a right to consider myself as British as you do. Maybe more so, indeed, as I probably spend a great deal more quality time whinging pointlessly. My point, anyway, is that 'multiculturalism' and 'Britishess' are not different things. They are the SAME thing. Being multi-cultural is a facet of Britishness, and if it wasn't seventy years ago, so what?

  14. "I honestly can't see why anyone would want to celebrate "their" culture except as a way of sticking up a finger to someone else's."

    Because they want to understand who they are?

  15. So Gordon Brown says that there are 500,000 job vacancies generated in the economy every month. But since statistics show that nine out of ten jobs go to immigrants, this means that there are actually only 50,000 jobs available for proper British people to apply for throughout the UK every four weeks.

    This is bad.

    Foreigners and aliens that come over here to sponge on our social security, get free social housing, use our health service, get their brats educated in our schools, gratis, commit crime, spread diseases and run brothels etc., should be booted off our shores.

    British jobs for British workers.

    Fuck the rest of those under-people and sub-humans that crawled out of the slime to infect our great country like germs and viruses. Send the bastards back where they belong.

    Vote BNP!

  16. Penny Red, you misunderstand me.

    I was simply agreeing with the point Neuroskeptic made, which was about "celebrating one's culture" in general, and made no reference to you. I could make a cheap joke about which of us is the paranoid one, but I will refrain :-)

    I agree with you that multi-culturalism is a facet of being british, that was partly my point. I just have an issue with what some people take multi-culturalism to mean.

    And I'm afraid I don't quite grasp how something which is a facet of something else can be the same thing as the thing it is a facet of. As you claim. Looks like a logial impossibilty to me.

    It's nice that you consider yourself more british than me. For me, it's not a competition. Either someone is British (by virtue of their nationality), or they are not. But in any case, I don't quite get the relevance of your point to anything I said in my comment.

  17. Hey, Anonymous.

    St. George, patron saint of England, was a black don't you know?

  18. Multi-culturism has got us nowhere. Just look at all those wretched Muslims preaching hate, murdering their own daughters in so called "honour" killings, trying to bring in primitive tribal Sharia law and banging on about wanting to wear burqas to work and crap like that. If they don't like it in the United Kingdom why don't they piss off to Pakistan? Let them follow the teachings of their murderous, lecherous, paedophile of a prophet on the soil of that "great" country, which still seems to have scarcely advanced beyond the Stone Age since its "creation" sixty years ago! Compare Pakistan to neighbouring India to see how pathetic that Muslim republic actually is.

    Multi-culturism should be scrapped and, as in France, foreigners who settle here should be compelled by law to adopt our cultural tropes and laws.

    And if they don't shape up, ship 'em out!!!

  19. Because they want to understand who they are?

    Then they ought to read about British history. I do. I don't feel any particular need to celebrate it merely because it's British. Anyway - you'll find out a lot more about who you are by reading an American textbook about human evolution, or a good Russian novel, than you will by "celebrating Britishness".

    The thing is - this all comes down to what is "British" or not - but Britishness is only one identity amongst many others.

    Take someone who feels "proud to be British". Well, good for them. But what if they're Welsh and some English person looks down on them because of it? Then they're proud to be Welsh (as opposed to English). But when they're reading a newspaper about American foreign policy they're proud to be European (as opposed to American). And then maybe a terrorist attacks New York and they're proud to be Christian (as opposed to Muslim). But then he reads about some gay-bashing and he's proud to be queer (as opposed to straight)... who is he? Still British?

    And if aliens invaded and threatened us with extinction we'd all be proud to be human (as opposed to Alien) pretty damn quick.

  20. Anon, Griffin - your crass stupidity would frighten me if it didn't, to be honest, bore me quite so much.

    Unless,of course, you're taking the piss, in which case you're the only ones laughing.

  21. Neuroskeptic - I disagree, but you do raise an interesting point here. Has identity in Britain become merely a way of violently defining yourself against someone else? Are we really that divided as a nation?

    Identity should be in equal measures about interrogation and celebration of who you are and where you come from. That's it. It doesn't and shouldn't involve an implicit attack on anyone else. If it does, or if we perceive that it does, then Britain has either become immensely paranoid, fatally fractured, or both. In either case it's not the fault of 'multiculturalism', but of our attitude to it, which continues - as far as I can see - to be one of hostility.

    Just what is it about living alongside other cultures and traditions which frightens you?

  22. Dear Penny Red

    You can talk about what identity "should" be, till the cows come home, but unless you have some understanding of what it actually is, in psychological terms, your fine ideals will get you nowhere.

    Perhaps you are too young, but if you knew anything about history, or about identity, you would know that the implicitly perceived threat from ostentatious identity-expression is as old as human nature. No need to slag off Britain for becoming paranoid. Do you know the provenance of the saying "when in Rome?"

    I think the only hostility towards multi-culturalism is when it is at the expense of "british" culture (whatever we choose to define that as). It is natural to feel hostile when perceived "other" cultures are forced upon one, while mentioning your "own" culture (eg the 100% british thing you mention in your post) gets you the ridicule and critique that you yourself have delivered in this post. It's hypocrisy and inequality that people are hostile to. Even, yes, when it's endorsed by you. I'm sorry to say it, but you do the liberal left no favours. You give them a bad name.

  23. I would like to point out that as we all sprang from the womb of Eve via the seed of Adam we are all distantly related.

    So why all the racial and cultural friction?

  24. I didn't spring. I mouched. :)

  25. What is there to fear about multiculturalism?

    The real face of Islam exposed

    To monkeys like this there is only one valid world view, theirs, with every other viewpoint and value system being considered as inferior, wrong and worthy only of expunction.

    These people do not identity themselves as citizens of the United Kingdom. In point of fact such people hate and actively plot to overthrow our democracy at the earliest opportunity to replace it with a kalifate or Islamic theocracy while milking our social security system all the while for all that it is worth. Britain would be a better place if scum like this was purged.

    Considering how appallingly women are treated and subjugated by Muslims around the world I am amazed that any feminist worth her salt would be sympathetic to a religion as retrogressive as Islam.

  26. Bless you, my child! :)


  27. Just what is it about living alongside other cultures and traditions which frightens you?

    Was that aimed at me? Absolutely nothing, personally, as should have been clear from what I wrote.

    I think people like Griffin are some of the most dangerous in this country right now. But a word to wise - what they are worried about is not living alongside other cultures and traditions, but what they see as threats to their own cultures and traditions.

    As for whether identity has become "merely a way of violently defining yourself against someone else", well, I don't think it's necessarily "violent", and I don't think it's become that because it always has been that, but yes, it is, mostly.

  28. She doesn't engage in sensible discussion, unless you agree with her, Neuro. She prefers to throw out red herrings and non-sequiturs, to try and distract from the flaws and inconsistencies in her own position.

    The youth of today, I don't know... *shakes head*

  29. I tell you what though, she'd make a fine politician :-)

  30. D - do you wish to re-educate me? Please propose a scheme.

    Neuroskeptic - I think we've reached an logical impasse here. I believe that identity politics are not always hostile. You believe that they are, and that that hostility justifies the ugly paranoia of British pure-bloods.

    Meh. *shrug*. Old folks today.

  31. ♬ "I'd like to build the world a home
    And furnish it with love
    Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves" ♬

    Hey guys!

    Why can't we all just... get along?

  32. Well, Hotsy-Totsy,

    I don't agree with beheading drunks (as the do in Saudi Arabia) or executing homosexuals by bulldozing stone walls over them to crush them to death (as they do in Iran) or amputating the hands of convicted thieves or mutilating the genitals of pubescent girls, i.e., female circumcision (as they do in Sudan).

    I could go on and on, page after page, disagreeing with the tenets of that religion of hate known as Islam, the founder of which had sexual intercourse with a nine year old child! Very enlightened, progressive and spiritual behaviour from the Prophet there I must say.

    How could any sane or humane person "get along" with monsters who enshrine their sadism and perpetuate their wickedness in what they consider to be a book of holy scripture?

  33. And still Penny Red is missing the point.

    Identity politics is a two-way street. Ergo, the hostility (such as it is), and the paranoia (ditto), are not unilateral.

    Haven't you ever listened to any Sex Pistols?

  34. You believe that they are, and that that hostility justifies the ugly paranoia of British pure-bloods.

    I'm honestly baffled. Could you read what I wrote and explain where you think I said that?

  35. Griffin - That link of yours leads to standard issue communalism. Now tell me: do you think that communalism will be weakened or strengthened by your attitude?

    The rest: I think you're arguing over nothing, frankly. If anyone had said they were "Proud" I would have lashed out (proud of something that was up to chance, eh?), but "Pleased" is understandable.

  36. Ok I'll add to the debate. I think Britishness is a load of nonsense. There isn't really a British culture. In Britain there are English, Welsh and Scottish cultures. But not one homogeneous British one.

    I regard myself as English. And I think most Scottish and Welsh people would agree with the above statement.

    Currently Britishness is a Gordon Brown buzz word. It's used by him and New Labour so much because they require the Union to maintain power in Westminster.

    But in reality Britishness is meaningless. It has little historical or cultural basis.

  37. Please sign and distribute: Israel is an outlawed entity

    campaign with us

  38. Good point, TBR. I use "British" to mean any of its constituent parts, but I think the emergence of the false notion of there being such a thing as "British" culture comes from wanting to sell it to America (for eg) - or possibly from wanting to foster some cohesion (or an illusion of it) so that people don't feel disenfranchised, and so they vote New Labour.

    Also, in marketing terms, the word "British" lends itself more snappily to becoming a prefix for cultural product(BritPop, BritArt, etc) than, say "English", or even "United Kingdom".

    Also, in America, they seem to prefer to refer to "Brits", as opposed to the English, Scottish, or Welsh.

  39. The identity of these islands has been tribal, and collective, for nearly three thousand years. Tribal, in that there have always been local variations in language, genetic heritage, dress, weapons and ability to countenance foreigners: collective in that the people of Greater Britain, the Summer Isles and Lesser Britain (which we did, eventually, lose to France) have always seen themselves as having a collective identity if under assault from without. The war between the Demetae and the Ordovices would be forgotten in the face of incursions from Saxony or Gaul. Or Ireland. Or Scotland.

    The tribal identities slowly became associated with geographical areas, much more clearly than ever before. They also shrank as certain clan captains began to really win. The "English" got a head start because the Romans enforced a level of coherence on them. They then got a fast-track because everyone was invading them (they had the nice farm land): from Saxony, Normandy, Scandewegia... And Ireland. And Scotland. A lot. That made the people who lived in the middle bit get pretty good at working as a team, and created a national identity centered, by the time of Harold Godwineson, on the Wessex power-base in Southern England. It could, with a few differences, as easily have cohered around York or Bamburgh; but neither of them bred an Alfred.

    Then the "English" started to stop invasions by going and thwapping the invaders where they lived. That really isn't a feature of their culture between the Romans and the Normans. It's not that Englishmen didn't go Viking, a few did. Some ended up at the Byzantine court, but we didn't make a major industry out of it like the Scands. Or the Scots. Or the Irish.

    We did invade Ireland, and got them to lay off for a century during which we flattened the Scots and got them to lay off for a century. That led directly to the modern, intense 'Scottish' sense of identity: as the English were forced by the Age of Invasions to fight it out between the tribes until they had an effective national state structure, so were the Scots forced by the English.

    Well, someone mentioned history, so I thought I'd reference one of the bits modernists like to ignore: the history of all of the 'national identities' in these islands is the product of warfare which, for the first two thousand years or so, the Celtic Nations were undoubtedly having the better of.

    We've come a very long way since then. Dandelion's point about the psychology of identity (by which I suspect you mean the othering process) explains the above very well but as a model it loses its accuracy as soon as the subjects become conscious of the effect, which for us is about 1750.

    People are now able to derive, propagate and adopt methods of community formation which are completely different from the necessity-driven, defensive mob psychologies of the barbarous past. We are also massively more conscious of multi-layered identity than we ever were before. All of the following identity statements are true of me:

    I am British (cf. my passport)
    I am English (I was born in Salisbury and my father's family were English rievers way back when.)
    I am an immigrant (I came to live here permanently in 1993).
    I am of mixed blood (my mother's mother is East End Italian, my mother's father New Jersey dutch, my grandmother's mother Irish, my grandfather's mother Jewish).

    I've competed with 'GBR' on my kit, and also 'ENG'. No contradictions there. I am English, because my father is and I have chosen to settle in his country. I am British because my father is, and because these islands are the home of my heritage: all of these islands.

    Now try it like this: I am Sikh, because my mother is and because I keep the Five K's. I am British, because I have never been to the Punjab and have no wish to ever go: this is my home, here in these Islands I was born, and here I will work. The soil that fed Shakespeare feeds me.

    Now try it like this: I am Sikh, because my mother was. I am Pakistani, because my father chose to leave India in 1946. I am British, because I came here so that my children would have more than I could build. I am British because my children anchor me to these islands as surely as my parents anchor me to the Five Rivers.

    That is multi-culturalism. Where I came from is important, but it is more important to me than it is to the people where I live now. Where I live now can be richer because I am here: but only if I become part of this new place, and learn its ways. Only then will I help make it stronger, rather than pulling it apart.

    The ghetto is safe. In the ghetto no-one will challenge the ideas of the past, or the fanaticisms of old men. But the ghetto is only safe for so long.

    Part of the heritage of Britain is the Norwich blood libel, and we should rightly be ashamed of it, but we didn't cause anti-Semitism and we didn't invent the pogroms. Any culture which militantly holds itself apart, walled off from indigenous society, states to the locals that they are either feared or scorned. Wait long enough and they'll react to that. [1]

    Part of the heritage of Britain is that we trafficed slaves. Part of the heritage of Britain is that we freed them, and that we led the modern war against the trade throughout the nineteenth century. Of one, we can be ashamed, and of the other, proud: like any nation.

    Part of the heritage of Britain is that we fought and conquered our three most near neighbors, and that we went on to conquer half the world. Part of our heritage is that what we left behind worked. I grew up in an ex-British colony and went to school in an ex-French one, I know. No other colonial power had its colonies begging for greater involvement after independence: the Commonwealth is a British invention.

    At every turn our heritage is what it is. The people of these islands have made beauty and they have made war: have changed the world, and have fought to preserve its prejudices. We are what we are. If a person wants to be part of that, who are we to stop them?

    [1] In case some idiot wants to accuse me of anti-Semitism; oh grow up. Of course anti-Semitism is more complex in its causes than just ghettoisation among the Ashkenazi. There's church propaganda in there, there's imbalances in cash wealth and hoarded medical or engineering knowledge which led to an impression of magical power: lots of things. And several of them would have been no threat, if they hadn't been happening inside a pale.

  40. What he said.
    I love you sometimes, JQP.

  41. TBR - Scottish and Welsh culture are exactly the same as English culture, just a little less comprehensible. (With a bit more fighting, dresses and alcohol for good measure.)

  42. Mr. Publican.

    As one SciFi buff to another I have to say that your comment was genuinely interesting. But, man, what a lot of work! Obviously this is a subject that interests you.

    Or did you simply do a little cut and paste operation to transfer text from your D.Phil dissertation to Penny Red's blog? IMO you ought to receive some sort of award or prize for your efforts besides my admiration and Penny Red's love.

    Nice one.

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. Cassiel: very kind of you :) That was a largely unedited rant, but yes: identity politics is extremely important to me because I'm part of the the Third Culture phenomenon. I grew up as an ethnic minority, I chose a life in the west (and it took me 10 years to decide I was going to stay, for the first 5 all I wanted to do was go home) and yet I am the fabled enemy of all minorities: young, white, male. I'm also politically engaged with the problem of how one prevents what boils down to empire-guilt from eradicating everything that is English rather than British.

    The Celtic nations, as a result of having a wicked overlord to fight, spent the years between 1750 and 1900 fabricating and then ruthlessly propagandising a 'national cultural identity' out of scraps, songs, stories and completely made-up bits. This discourse became so profoundly woven into the fabric of political and educational functions in those societies that what was invented then is real now.

    The English went the other way. They spent centuries developing (very slowly) a rich and varied national identity, culture, art and social tradition, which we're now abandoning because doing anything associated with being English means you're intrinsically offending someone Welsh, Scotch, Irish or Insert Nation Here.

    "We learn to be ashamed before we walk,
    Of the way we look and the way we talk,
    Without our stories and our songs,
    How can we know where we come from,
    We've lost St. George and the Union Jack,
    It's my flag too and I want it back!"
    -- Steve Knightley

    Britain is a remarkably stable and, on average, happy cultural confederacy. My pub in London serves haggis, neeps and tatties for Burns night and you can see Shakespeare performed in Edingburgh. The difficulty is that there is a perception that Englishness doesn't exist (because people only get Celtic or German mythology off television: how many knew John Uskglass before Susannah Clarke saved his memory?): or a perception that in fact it does but that it shouldn't, that every good thing an Englishman has done should be expunged and over-written because one of the things the English did was win wars.

    If there's anger to be directed at us over imperialism, let's bring it home where it lives: the Protestant work-ethic combined with an imperial religion (which Christianity became at the point Constantine bought the pontifical perspective). We didn't go out there and conquer because we're English; look at the Spaniards and the Portuguese, who were at it long before we were, and the French, who were at it for as long afterwards. We were just much better at it because we were the first Protestant imperialists. The Catholic imperial nations saw their mission as 1) money, 2) conversion by mass baptism. The Protestant ones saw the mission as 1) money, 2) Sort the place out a bit and get it properly organised, 3) convert people by retail rather than wholesale proselytisation.

    If people want to eradicate a cultural heritage which drove the age of Empire, it's the Protestant work-ethic they should be attacking, not the English.

  45. What's the third culture? That google link gives links to several different, completely unrelated meanings...

  46. Anon: Ah. The top one, which I followed, seemed to be about what I know of by that title.

    The work was pioneered in the 1960s and early 1970s when crisis teams were assembled to care for the children of expatriate operatives who'd been driven out of African nations such as the Belgian Congo by war and atrocity. What it is is the thing that happens to a kid when their parents come from place A (e.g. Britain) and they grow up in place B, which is significantly different (e.g. any third-world nation, in my case West Africa). They are not able to fully integrate into either the first or second cultures, and psychologists noticed firstly that there was a predictable process (now known as Re-Entry) through which such kids dealt with coming to live in a place that was 'home' (where they 'come from') but which they really don't come from at all.

    It was also observed that children who grew up this way display all of the psycho-social indicators of shared culture with no-one except for one another, regardless of variation in first or third culture. I respond to meeting an Indian boy who grew up in Brazil in much the same ways, behaviourally speaking, as two English journalists who meet in a bar in Baghdad.

    Thus, the Third Culture phenomenon, which people like Agatha Christie used to call 'bloody colonials', is the large and growing group of us whose identity is made complex by belonging to more than one culture.

    Now think on this: virtually every home-grown suicide bomber in the 7/7 and 21/7 cells were TCKs. Parents from furrin parts, constant lectures about how you have to stay within the world-view of your country, but you don't feel that is your country. You're more like the kids at school in Bethnal Green than you are like the kids in the Sahara.

    One way to resolve that identity conflict is to integrate into the field culture to such an extent that conflict goes away. Another is to retreat into ghettoisation: which is what happened to the poor kids who blew themselves up.

  47. You are displaying racist attitudes here.

    Maybe you don't damn mean to, but you are.

    You are exoticising physical difference (curves, skin, hair), and you are reinforcing stereotypical views (hard-working Jew, drunken musical Irish). It's lazy, and crass.

  48. Look, making comments about one's own race isn't the same as racism. And my family, on both sides, *are like that*. I'm not trying to make a point about ALL the Irish or All Jews - I'm telling you what I get from my family, physically and culturally. I can't change that to make people happy, and you know what? I wouldn't if I could. I've listed things I'm glad about.

    But maybe you're right. Maybe as I'm neither English nor actually definably 'other' by descent, I'm not allowed a culture at all. I'll stop trying to claim one then. Sorry.

  49. "Maybe as I'm neither English nor actually definably 'other' by descent, I'm not allowed a culture at all."
    Oh please, Anon didn’t say anything along those lines. And you weren’t talking about culture yourself, you were referencing and reinforcing stereotypes – whether or not you actually do have indepth understanding and experiences of your family background, from *what you wrote* it looks to people reading like you only have superficial stereotypical views. Suppose we should be glad you didn’t say you got your financial sense from your Jewish relatives.

  50. I have the work ethic of my immigrant Jewish family and when I get drunk I sing like my Irish cousins.

    Does your Jewish family not sing? Or the Maltese, or the Lithuaniun? Do the Irish cousins not have a work ethic?

    The problem is that you picked on exactly the stereotypes associated with these races and nothing else. Saying when you get drunk you sing like you Irish cousins and not saying you get your work ethic from them reinforces "Irish = drunk/lazy"

  51. So I suppose it doesn't matter whether it's actually true or not?
    For fuck's sake.

  52. Are you genuinely telling me that your Jewish family don't sing? That your lithuanian family don't work hard? That your Irish family doesn't include curvy beautiful women?

    I'm not saying be ashamed of your heritage, I'm saying, please please don't uncritically repeat racial stereotypes, because it's offensive and harmful. I would like very much to respect you as a writer; but that is lazy writing and lazy thinking.

    Your identity can be complex and as beautiful and as multifaceted and diverse without you having to resort to lazy stereotypes to describe it.

  53. Well, alright, if you want to go there -

    Most of my Lithuanian family are also my Jewish family. The tradition there is for stocky, straight-up-and-down-women, and the tradition is to work extremely hard at whatever you do. I believe that this is, in part, an immgrant thing in general rather than a specific Jewish thing. I think it's a positive stereotype which also has some truth in it, especially in my family's case.

    In fact, despite the fact that it WAS hastily bashed off, everything I wrote is true, apart from the fact that the singing is actually more from the Lithuanian/Jewish side than from the Irish/Maltese one. I tend to sing, riotously, when I'm drunk or high. I can, so far, pretty much only point to the tendency towards introspection and substance abuse as something I pick up from my Irish family, all of whom happen to be deeply fucked up. But hell, I wanted to say something good about them, so I spun it a little bit rather than just say, 'oh, and I'm inclined towards alcoholism because I'm Irish'. Which would have been both slightly untrue and a horrible thing to imply, as it's my responsibility to not become an alcoholic, which is why I mostly don't drink. So excuse me for fantasising there. I deeply and genuinely wish that I had a better relationship with my Irish family so that I could say more about them, but you know what? They're all unavailable right now. Not all Irish people are substance abusers and emotional fuckwits. Mine just happen to be. I can't help it any more than I can help the stereotype, but I wanted to put a positive spin on what it gives me. So sue me.

  54. I'm (genuinely) sorry that you seem to have a difficult/complicated relationship with parts of your family. That doesn't change the fact that you were peddling ethnic stereotypes, though.

  55. Okay, that's fair enough. I think if you can't find something nice to say about your extended family that's not a national stereotype, then you need to look at both your rhetoric AND your family members...

    And now back to the kvetching! ;)

  56. Fucking awful commie cunt - read some Theodore Dalrymple and grow up.

  57. "Theodore Dalrymple and grow up."

    One NEVER leads to the other, you vile piece of bumdribble.


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