Friday, February 03, 2006

Danish photographs

An excellent post by Essex Moonlight.

I've read the introduction of Britons which argues that Britain was a marriage of convenience between Wales, Scotland and England. British nationalism was defined, not by similarities, but in opposition to the 'Other'. Britain was predominantly Protestant (with the exception of Ireland which was treated like a colony) and 'the Other' was Catholic France. British was later defined as 'Other' to those ruled/oppressed in the colonies and to facism/communism in continental Europe.

Pretending there was a thing called 'British' persisted whilst patriotism best served the interests of people in Britain. The British Empire was an advantage to the British and was forged by people pulling together. Pulling together could only happen if everyone pretended they were part of some higher cause called Britain.

We are no longer devoutly Protestant, we are in the EU and the 'funny foreign people' are now British. People in Britain gain no advantage by pretending they are part of some project called 'being British' and it's unsurprising that they increasingly feel little identification with this project. It is especially unsurprising when politicians don't grasp this and try to tackle problems like terrorism by encouraging traditional ideas of national identity that now have limited resonance with the young.

Gordon Brown does seem to hazily grasp the problem - 'The West' is increasingly finding an 'Other' to define itself against and this is 'the Islamic East'. Fundamentalists are also finding an 'Other' and this is 'the decadent West'. European Muslims feel that they are being victimised as 'the Other within' and have become understandably sensitive. The reprinting of the Danish cartoons by European newspapers is a defiant response by the 'West' against a perceived threat by this 'Other'.

Flag-flying is not going to tackle this problem. The way of tackling this is by redefining this 'Other' so that it no longer refers to 'Muslims' but to terrorists, dictators, etc... people who don't share values of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression and who may (Iran), or may not (Zimbabwe), be Muslim. This is controversial because it requires us to identify 'people like us' as opposed to 'people not like us'. To make this work requires political maturity - Muslims need to feel reassured that although Islamic extremists are 'not like us', neither are Christian Voice. This should be a cause that people, regardless of religion, should feel proud to rally around and one that has far more contemporary significance than sticking a union jack on your lawn. The 'British' will still maintain a historical identity as 'British' but people primarily identify themselves with contemporary dichotomies. Our contemporary identity is about values and is no longer related to the nation-state.


  • At 10:04 pm , Blogger Chris Black said...

    Thank you.
    But you can call me Chris!

  • At 1:01 am , Anonymous Peter Bancroft said...

    An original post that got to some of the core of the issue. I'm not sure there issue of islamic fundamentalism against the west and the hostility towards muslims by some people here in the EU can necessarily be linked in such a manner, but I also admit to seeing some need to ward off Huntingdon's "Clash of Civilisations". If we ever get to that stage, we will have failed.

    Let's go all for the redefinition of the "other" as those autocratic forces in this world, but to do so will require a change of rhetoric in the Lib Dems before the UK more generally. We might want to get Baroness Nicholson to stop talking up the Iranian mullahs, for a start.


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