Posted by: secretperson | September 22, 2008

England Offers more than Tolerance

I’m fed up with listening to people describe Britain as a tolerant, diverse society. Although both those statements are true, they seem ridiculous ways to categorise a country. Most of my opinions are on England, not Britain, as the sort of people who believe all we offer is tolerance and diversity often confuse the two.

They might not like it, but the PC diversity celebraters need to remember that 85-90% of the country is white. The commenters in question too often simply skip over this vast majority of the population. Their only contribution is to tolerate the vibrant immigrants, who produce the true culture. Of course tolerating such great cultures cannot be hard, so can hardly be considered an acheivement of much note. As such, when England or Britain is praised as tolerant, it can only be considered the faintestv of praise.

To them the best thing white people can achieve is not to be racist. And all that is good about England is all that is not (originally) English. I may be white, but that does not make me a blank canvas.

England is a victim of its own success. Too many English things have become universal, because they are good, but in doing so become less recognisably English. Scotland retains more unique to identify itself, kilts and ceileidhs, Burn’s night and bagpipes, whisk and irn-bru. Wales has the Eisteddfod and above all the Welsh language. The English language is now the language of the world. Spread by English invasion within Britain, British Empire pre-war and American cultural dominance afterwards.

So we gave the world its predominant language. Common law and parliamentary democracy were largely developed in England, the American ideal, enshrined in the consitution is a continuation of an English intellectual ideal of individual liberty. Not to mention more trivial things such as football and cricket. To those who look at England and see only the best of the world, I say look to the world and see something of England.

Too often English things are dismissed as not really English. Yes, tea comes from India and China, but we have made it our own. Fish and chips was invented elsewhere we are told, yet you cannot get them tasting the same anywhere else (especially the chips, damn French fries). Yet it is the ‘shared British values’ of tolerance and freedom that might more accurately be described as universal.

They might just allow us Morris dancing, but intended as an insult. I have yet to see why Irish and Scottish folk culture and dance seem cool, yet Morris dancing remains a joke. Perhaps more English self hatred. Oh yes, and real ale dismissed as warm beer.

None of this is intended to push some version of a ‘pure’ English culture, unchanging or unaccesible to immigrants. I think any description of England or Britain would have to include somewhere the words tolerant and diverse, but to use those two alone diminshes the vast majority of people to the background. What about stiff upper lips and a sense of fair play? What about the culture from Beowulf to the Beatles via Chaucer and Shakespeare?

England may be a tolerant nation, but it has so much more to offer than that.

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Responses

  1. I often find it strange that it is the English and only the English who are supposed to be tolerant of others. If you were to denigrate any other culture in the way that the English have been lambasted in the past the screams of racism would have been deafening.

  2. I think English people can be too critical of themselves; I used to be this way as well. But then I took a year out and spent the time travelling. Travelling is great for two reasons; it makes you realise more about the world and more about your own country. If you think England is intolerant you should check out Italy, France, Austria and the United States and see the difference. On the surface England seems horrible but under that surface we’re an extremely tolerant nation (and I know plenty of Muslims, Africans, Indians and people from many other cultures who would back me up on that statement). Britain fought Germany in the biggest war that has ever happened for the right to be a tolerant nation and yet my grandma’s closest friend is German, which goes to show my point.


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