Dead Men Left

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

British values: pah

George Monbiot, on Tristam Hunt:

Hunt argues that Britishness should be about "values rather than institutions": Britain has "a superb record of political liberalism and intellectual inquiry, giving us a public sphere open to ideas, religions and philosophy from across the world". This is true, but these values are not peculiar to Britain, and it is hard to see why we have to become patriots in order to invoke them. Britain also has an appalling record of imperialism and pig-headed jingoism, and when you wave the flag, no one can be sure which record you are celebrating. If you want to defend liberalism, then defend it, but why conflate your love for certain values with love for a certain country?...

To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind.

Monbiot draws attention to a list of ten "non-negotiable" "core values" of "national identity" that the Telegraph published recently. Predictably, this has little room for "public spheres open to ideas" and "intellectual inquiry", but much to say about "the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament" and "private property".

This always happens. What starts out as a pleasant selection of platitudes concerning British "fair play" and "decency" opens the way for more sinister lists of very definite commitments, as the Telegraph commends, to "stable families" and recognising the Queen as "supreme authority in the land".