Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Britain's self-loathing

The events of the past month have had one surprising effect on British society, by leading to a completely unexpected form of intraspection -- nothing to do with Iraq, our treatment of our ethnic minorities, etc., but real cheshbon nefesh over whether Britain, as a whole, is heading in the right direction. (I guess all those claims that our culture is decadent and disgusting have not fallen on deaf ears.)
Over the past few days I've seen several pieces, in the Spectator, the Telegraph (editorial) and the Times, all basically saying the same thing: Britain has lost its way. Britain today stands for little more than multi-culturalism. We're proud of all the peoples living amongst us and of their traditions and customs, but have been to be too dismissive of our own culture, our own history, our own values. As the Spectator put it:

Britain’s self-loathing is deep, pervasive and lethally dangerous. We get bombed, and we say it’s all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over ‘the other’, but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London’s internationalism — in other words, that there is little British left about it.
The result is that there is simply little for Muslims in the UK to identify with -- so why should they be loyal to this country? Not only that -- it gives "a class of alienated young men of foreign extraction" cause to "regard our civilisation as weak, decadent and despicable." (Telegraph)
In trying to fix this, I think Britain has much to learn from the US. America clearly stands in the minds of its residents for freedom, liberty, civil rights, democracy, the land of opportunity etc. -- people there believe in something and are united by a common vision. When we were in the US a few months ago, it really hit us that there were lots of American flags everywhere -- something you would never see in the UK; and how proud so many people, no matter what their political feelings, told us they were proud to be American -- a sentiment that would never be expressed in the UK in quite the same way.
The fact that Britain is different in this regard is partially a function of the fact it was never 'founded' in the way America was, it just evolved. There has also been a systematic attempt from the Left to undermine its values. However, at this turning point in its modern history, a look towards the other side of the pond would be useful.

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