Thursday, 18 September 2008

The National Day

I am not sure what Britishness means, but, from what I hear, it has something to do with celebrating diversity, embracing and empowering communities, and working together for a vibrant society of respect and equality and democratic values — from which ugly rash of words I am led to imagine that it is some frightful disease engineered and released by a committee of sociologists, Fabians, and women with “ethnic” earrings. (As one thing after another succumbs to it, the remnant and feeble body of native culture will slowly perish.) And now it is proposed that Britishness should itself be celebrated — yes, that word again! — on a day inaugurated for that very purpose: “British Day”.
.....To help us understand the meaning and purpose of this day, Liam Byrne, HM Government’s Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, has published a pamphlet, from which the following is taken:

My own party members wanted a happy — rather than a mournful or solemn — day, which had space for expression and celebration of the wonderful diversity of British life, woven with opportunities to come together in a celebration of what we have in common. They wanted to see colour and celebrations of costume — what we called ‘kilts and saris’ with a strong emphasis on celebrating foods traditional and new. Hodge Hill members were keen on local, neighbourhood celebrations, like street parties, before coming together in broader civic gatherings: the proverbial ‘Party in the Park’.
[…]
Members were not keen on placing much emphasis on the ‘trappings of nationalism’, by which they meant too much emphasis on ‘saluting flags’. They wanted the media to see ‘the unity within the community’ but a community that also celebrated the ‘colours of the British tapestry’. Around Britain, people had many similar ideas, reflecting perhaps a very healthy lack of order. [1]

Mr Byrne has listened to members of his party and to those of the public, who are healthily disordered, and, based on their suggestions, has drawn up a list of twenty-seven ways to celebrate the national day. I reproduce below a section from his pamphlet which includes this list and a list of those who should be involved. It necessarily makes for unsightly reading; for it was written by a government-minister in the style of an undergraduate who has just been reminded that his essay is due to be submitted in two hours. I have added some comments.
Here is a list of 27 ways to celebrate a national day:
  1. as a national event, celebrated in local areas
  2. with a good [vibrant and diverse] cross-section of society on the organising committee; lots of small community events; have a particular theme different theme each year, set by organising committee [without which modern, diverse, vibrant Britain could not be modern, vibrant and diverse.]
  3. by using TV to inform about British history [the story of the slavery and oppression of other peoples, but which happily leads to vibrant and diverse modern Britain]; a speech by the Queen [who is still too hideously white and represents a divisive and oppressive class-order]; TV link-ups around country [because that sounds like an exciting and modern thing to do]
  4. in the form of a remembrance day celebrating the bravery of veterans [because the existing one is not diverse and vibrant enough]
  5. by encouraging young people to visit or help older people [who still hold opinions that have no place in diverse and vibrant modern Britain]; celebrate voluntary work [but leave it to the state]
  6. through school involvement teach history [i.e., slavery, oppression, dirt, disease, misery, the struggle against abhorrent and ridiculous ideas, but ending in the triumph of the right ideas], choirs singing [for the glory of vibrant and modern Britain]
  7. through daytime activities [to be organised by government councils and committees] to involve whole community [naturally vibrant and diverse], and evening for partying [because Britain is an exciting and vibrant and diverse place to live]
  8. by holding street parties [organised by government councils and committees] and neighbourhood get-together [with neighbours you have rarely ever met]; would work as a street party exchanging food and culture [because that is just the sort of thing that happens in a vibrant and diverse land such as Britain]
  9. as a carnival similar to the Notting Hill Carnival; big procession similar to St Paul’s Carnival; fireworks [but the Health and Safety Executive might have something to say about fireworks and carnivals and processions — apart from the Notting Hill Carnival, of course, which is safely vibrant and healthily diverse and just the sort of thing that vibrant, diverse, modern Britain should be celebrating]
  10. through music British or world music [because Britain is a vibrant and diverse land which celebrates all cultures]; concerts like Live Aid [promotional opportunities for rock-stars]; British music, etc; play local music [rap, bangra]; local dress [such as American workman’s denim; tee-shirts; tracksuits; saris; kilts]
  11. through dance British dancers; Morris dancing; folk dancing [but bearded men with bells around their ankles, waving handkerchiefs, and dancing gaily, tend to be unwelcomed by local youths with tracking-tags around their ankles, shouting mockery, and swaggering menacingly; still, at least it makes for a vibrant and diverse spectacle in tolerant, vibrant, diverse, modern Britain]
  12. through food British and other cultures; regional food; different cultures’ foods [Indian, Chinese, etc]
  13. through drinking [for, in this context, the side-effect of memory-loss is a benefit]
  14. through art [i.e., tat sponsored by organisations funded by the taxpayer]; involve theatre [because actors and directors love this kind of thing]; free film viewings on history of Britain [slave-trade, triumph of vibrant and diverse modern Britain against the forces of evil, etc]
  15. by having a sports theme all nationalities can take part; football [a good game, invented of course in China, now celebrated religiously in Britain]
  16. by celebrating different cultural dress [though guidelines on how to celebrate different cultural dress will have to be issued]
  17. by holding community discussions; meetings in town halls [providing more opportunities for spiky-haired women with rimless spectacles and “ethnic” earrings to tell everyone what diverse and vibrant things to celebrate.]
  18. by promoting posters of iconic figures, eg fallen heroes [Gandhi, Che Guevara], Winston Churchill [frightful racist and imperialist]
  19. by holding a ceremony to remember the good things over the past year [I am at a loss for words]
  20. by appreciating the country; weather; enjoyment [ditto]
  21. cheaply so people get involved [for the poor of Britain have little money left over once they have bought life’s essentials: flat-screen televisions, mobile phones, games-consoles, heavy gold jewellery, tattoos, takeaways, cigarettes, lager, etc]
  22. by holding free events around the city [but not free for the taxpayer]
  23. by incorporating countries that used to be part of the Empire [because making British Day about the nations of Britain would be discriminatory and divisive]
  24. by making it about integration [because we wouldn’t want to leave anyone out]
  25. by using publicity to ensure people get involved – like Children in Need [which means you will participate, even if it takes a man dressed up as a bear to make you do so]
  26. by emphasising the theme of British life, immigration [for there’s nothing more British, or more fit to be celebrated as British, than the cultures of Somalia, Poland, Pakistan, India, Jamaica, China, etc], remembrance [but of nothing worthwhile]; cost should be met locally [by the taxpayer] as [this] shows that putting into the local community helps to get something good back [i.e., a letter from the council detailing an increase in council-tax]
  27. in an understated but firm way, without fuss; show good and bad aspects of living in Britain (and how bad aspects are being addressed) give honest picture. [Bad aspects: inequality; population is still too hideously white; reassure that the problem is being addressed. Honest picture: Britain is the closest thing to an earthly paradise, for it is an exciting, vibrant and diverse place to live]
Members of the public felt that the following people should be involved:
  • the whole community [yes, yes, vibrant, diverse, etc]
  • the Queen and the Royal family [who are an anachronistic reminder of Britain’s non-vibrant and non-diverse past]
  • politicians, the Prime Minister, politicians [sic], MPs [because we cannot do anything without them]
  • councillors [who never miss an excuse for an “executive buffet” down at the town-hall]
  • celebrities with the right values (eg David Beckham, Kate Moss) [The right values in a celebrity: being good-looking; being dumb as a badger; having never said anything rude about foreigners; having not yet been convicted of a sex-offence]
  • veterans [who are not as appealing as celebrities and are often quite ugly]
  • children [who are the future, teach them well, and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, etc, but watch them swear and spit in the street]
  • community leaders and representatives [mountebanks and demagogues]
  • young people [who are mostly unpleasant, but let’s try and pretend otherwise]
  • corporate sponsors [who never miss an opportunity to sell]
  • famous people who have been immigrants [who are the people who made tedious and benighted Britain a vibrant and diverse place to live]
  • sports people [who are also celebrities]
  • [more] celebrities to attract [more] young people [who are more vibrant and diverse than old people] [2]
It should be quite a day. I, of course, will mark the occasion in my own humble way: by trying to ignore it.

[1] Liam Byrne, A More United Kingdom (London: Demos, 2008), p.61-3. (Demos is a political organisation, or “think-tank”, which I had presumed was part of the Fabian Society, of which Mr Byrne himself is a member; but Wikipedia informs me it was founded by journalists from Marxism Today, the now defunct organ of the now defunct Communist Party of Great Britain.)
[2] Ibid., pp.62-64.

12 comments:

dearieme said...

"Liam Byrne": whose brilliant idea was it to have Britishness advocated by a bloke with an Irish name?

Peter Horne said...

What a strong stomach you must have. I can never read this kind of bilge without projectile vomiting. We are not worthy!

Pietr said...

I celebrate British Day every day.
For example, I've just eaten a large slice of Shropshire Blue cheese and I'm downing my second pint of Tetleys bitter.
On high days, I go down to the fish market and buy fresh Channel Crab and pickled North Sea Herrings.
I work for a world beating British Engineering company with an eccentric collection of back-room boys.
I was taught to fly by a Squadron Leader in a British Beagle Pup aircraft, and studied at a local Yorkshire Grammar School.
My first vote was for Maggie.
The world is my oyster. Never mind some misery connected with 'diversity'.

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

I have a suggestion for a revival of a certain British Custom to be celebrated on British Day. Namely the display of traitor's heads on spikes on Old London Bridge. Of course this would require some modification of the current bridge - but still its an idea worth considering.

tommy said...

I have a suggestion for a revival of a certain British Custom to be celebrated on British Day. Namely the display of traitor's heads on spikes on Old London Bridge. Of course this would require some modification of the current bridge - but still its an idea worth considering.

I think May Day would be an appropriate occasion for such festivities.

James Higham said...

I know you cringe at overly effusive praise, Deogolwulf but that was sheer brilliance.

Paul Garrard said...

dearieme given that the Celts were the original Britons, then an Irish name is British. They can call it what they like as long as we get a day off, we don't have nearly enough holidays!

jaded said...

I agree with paul garrard. Call it what they want, it'll be a day away from my workplace where I must endeavour every day to widen participation, promote equality and diversity and embed the global perspective. Any excuse to get away from that has to be worth it. Anyway, the people will celebrate British Day by doing what they do best - shopping and drinking. So I'll have a nice quiet day in the great outdoors, with luck.

Anonymous said...

Paul Garrard: "dearieme given that the Celts were the original Britons, then an Irish name is British."

"Celts"? Sorry, does not compute. The Celtic thing is a myth - invented a couple of hundred years back. The Scots, Welsh and Irish are no more "Celts" than the English are "Anglo Saxons" - it's always been a far more complicated picture than that.

Your thinking is outdated, exclusive and faintly racist.

Anonymous said...

"faintly racist" - Don't you get sick and tired of the pc's who trot out this at any excuse.
The world is full of people who regard racial equality as patent nonsense.
only servile Britain maintains otherwise.
There was a time that to be British was best. Now the informers and police make people ashamed of such an idea.

Colin Campbell said...

Can I come?

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Anonymous said:

"There was a time that to be British was best. Now the informers and police make people ashamed of such an idea."

Nancy Mitford once wrote in The Pursuit of Love, ch. 15 (1945):

Uncle Matthew’s four years in France and Italy between 1914 and 1918 had given him no great opinion of foreigners. “Frogs,” he would say, “are slightly better than Huns or Wops, but abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends.