Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Question: What is British?

In a short interview with ePolitix, home secretary Jacqui Smith claims that "Terrorists are ... about attacking the values that we share in Britain, and the life that we share in Britain".

Now I'm confused. I've heard this before, and I was confused then. So here's an open question to any readers of this blog - what are the values that we share in Britain? And I don't mean the ideals that get spouted at us according to who's listening, such as "tolerance" and "a stiff upper lip". I mean the values I can go into town and find today. Which of my values are under attack?

Update: On further introspection, "tea" can probably be considered a good British value. We must defend our tea from terrorists.


Richard Veryard said...

The POSIWID blog is temporarily out of action, so I have created a lens on Squidoo to store some answers to your question: http://www.squidoo.com/britishvalues/

Among other things, I have found a March 2000 link to Tony Blair (remember him?), invoking British Values with reference to an entirely different political issue - Devolution.

Curious that it always seems to be the same values that are threatened, regardless of the nature of the threat.

Scribe said...

Thanks, Richard. (And sorry for the late reply, for some reason I didn't get the usual e-mail when someone comments...)

I'm going through some interesting times at the moment which are prompting me to ask what's important to me and, relatedly, what seems important to everyone else around me.

For the latter, I'm cynical that the average Briton takes endurance and tolerance as their yardstick, unless they're forced to (often through temperamental British weather...). Pomposity, bluster, and not raising a critical point seem more valuable in today's society than other values. Can "conformity" be a value?

On the upside, there does seem to be a general siding-with-the-underdog approach to many things.

Having said that, I'm not sure I could count any of the above as particularly "British". We do still seem to love tea, though. Maybe tea is all that matters.

Richard Veryard said...

"As a result of high demand for tea, silk and porcelain in Britain and the low demand for British commodities in China, Britain had a large trade deficit with China and had to pay for these goods with silver. In an attempt to balance its trade deficit Britain began illegally exporting opium to China from British India in the 18th century. The opium trade took off rapidly, and the silver flow began to reverse. The sale and smoking of opium had been prohibited in 1729 by the Yongzheng Emperor because of the large number of addicts."

Source: Wikipedia (Opium Wars)

Scribe said...

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Lusting after foreign goods, and massive quantities of drugs. Values I can still see all around me today.