Friday, 15 October 2010

What's the point of citizenship classes?

What's the point of citizenship classes when we've already surrendered our national identity?

Melanie Phillips
10th March 2008

Britain currently seems to be in a state of permanent uproar about its national identity. Home-grown Brits don't seem to know what it is any more, while immigrants flock to these shores in vast numbers to claim it for themselves.

The Prime Minister frets about recreating a sense of national solidarity which he thinks has been lost. Accordingly, he has proposed erecting hurdles for immigrants to jump before they can join the British national project.

Meanwhile, he was forced to slap down the so-called Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, for wanting to junk that quintessential British institution, the Promenade Concerts, because they are a symbol of a Britain she would clearly like to abolish altogether.

Tomorrow, Lord Goldsmith will publish his review of citizenship which Gordon Brown commissioned to find ways of increasing a shared sense of belonging.

According to weekend leaks, this will suggest that schoolchildren should swear an oath to the Queen and promise to obey the law in ceremonies similar to those for new immigrants. We don't yet know whether the review will in fact say this. But it sits with the view often expressed by ministers — who look enviously at the way every American pledges allegiance to the Stars and Stripes — that similar loyalty oaths to our own national symbols will make people identify with Britishness.

This, I'm afraid, gets the argument totally back to front. Their flag doesn't make Americans patriotic. They rally to it so emotionally because they have enormous pride and belief in their country. That's because they believe that America's defining characteristics of freedom and equality, based on Judeo- Christian ethics, are simply superior to anything else.

So they love their country for what it represents and, accordingly, are prepared to fight and to die for it. That is the essence of a shared sense of national purpose.

Just to state this about America is to realise the depth of the problem in this once-great United Kingdom.

This country has simply lost belief in itself.

This is now a Britain where people hurl abuse at soldiers in uniform in the streets, incited by voices of appeasement to believe that the desperate war currently being waged to defend the British and Western way of life is somehow illegitimate. Many have reacted with undiluted horror at such abuse of the military, and have displayed their own support for the Armed Forces.

That is because there are now two Britains.

There is the Britain that loves and would defend to the death its own historic national identity — and the Britain that either wants to destroy it or refuses to acknowledge that it is under such threat. And it is the latter which currently wields the levers of power. The decades-long onslaught against Britain's identity has taken many forms.

Mass immigration — the single most important but unacknowledged source of Mr Brown's concerns — has transformed the country beyond recognition.

This came about through an alliance between those who wanted to stop Britain from being — in the words of a former BBC director-general — "hideously white", and those who, looking again at America, thought mass immigration was the route to national prosperity.

Once more, this failed to compare like with like. Unlike America, many immigrants come to Britain not to make money but because they are attracted by the welfare state upon which they become instantly dependent. Indeed, the welfare state has itself eroded the bonds of duty that underpin true citizenship.

The essence of citizenship, after all, is your duty towards your country. The welfare state redefined it to become "what the country must do for me".

What made this totally unmanageable, however, was the pernicious doctrine of multiculturalism.

Instead of expecting new immigrants to adapt to British ways, the country's identity has been reshaped to adapt to them. By asserting that all cultures were equal, multiculturalism did not merely encourage society to fragment into separate enclaves.

Even worse, it made asserting a majority culture at all illegitimate and "racist".

As a result, the elites progressively unpicked British national identity.

Schoolchildren were deliberately left in ignorance of Britain's national story. To call attention to the nation's great past was said to be jingoistic and xenophobic. Instead, the correct posture for any prudent teacher came to be national self-loathing.

Deeper even than all that lay an attack on the very idea of the nation itself.

To much Western liberal thinking, the nation is the source of all the ills in the world, from prejudice to war.

So patriotism became a dirty word; and national institutions like Parliament were trumped by trans-national bodies such as the UN, EU or European Court of Human Rights.

As a result, the English common law — the very fount of liberty and the keystone of British national identity — has been superseded through human rights law by a codified system of rights that is more familiar in Europe.

As for the EU, with what shared values are we now supposed to identify, since — as last week's shameful parliamentary passage of the EU constitutional treaty so graphically underlined — we are now merely citizens of the province of Euroland West, in the banana republic of Bureaucratica?

Who would fight or die for that?

Mr Brown is certainly right to worry that the bonds of Britishness are fraying. But he is actually helping snap them still further, not least in his refusal to hold the cultural line against radical Islamism. It is astounding, for example, that the state now pays welfare benefits to the multiple wives of polygamous Muslim men. In thus effectively recognising polygamy, Britain is creating parallel legal jurisdictions.

Law is the fundamental expression of a national culture. How can we create a sense of shared citizenship when the Government is not even prepared to uphold the core principle of one law for all?
The result of all this has been a double whammy.

With the best will in the world, immigrants find there is no British national identity into which they can assimilate.

And indigenous Brits have been forced to become strangers in their own country — and are then vilified as racists if they dare protest. Even the BBC, through its current "white working-class" season, has finally grasped that a section of the community has been effectively shut out of the national conversation.

But welcome as this recognition is, the season itself also encapsulates the problem. For it regards the white working class as a kind of vanishing primitive tribe towards whom disdain is only temporarily suspended in the interests of anthropological curiosity.

But these people are the indigenous people of England, whose cultural heart has been broken.

So what is the remedy?

Not the Government's citizenship hurdles or loyalty oaths, to be sure. If Humpty is to be put back together again, fundamentals need to be addressed across the board.

Things like mass immigration which must be stopped; multiculturalism which must be abandoned; human rights law which must be abolished; the welfare state which must be remodelled; and membership of the EU which must be renegotiated.

There are growing signs that David Cameron recognises at least some of this. If he can summon up the courage to take this agenda and run with it, he will find not only that he speaks for the nation — he may save it. {British Activism: "Dream On, Melanie, Dream On".}