I was reading a piece here
about the Liberal Left needing to define Englishness, and how it shouldn't leave this to the right-wing nationalist types.
And I utterly, totally, and unapologetically, disagree.
I specifically _do not want_ Englishness to be defined.*
England is a chunk of rock where a wide variety of people live, who have a wide variety of different things in common with different chunks of each other, but nothing which binds together every single one, except for the things that also bind together every person on the planet.
The second you define some things as “English” you define everything else as “Not English” and you tell some people that they do not belong here. And much though some unpleasant part of me would like to define, say, the BNP as being Not English and kick them out – the truth is that this is as much their home as it is mine, and declaring any of us as “Not being _really_ English” is just another way of making people feel bad, of telling them that they are inherently in the wrong.
I _loathe_ the idea of culture as a controlling force. Of dividing people into groups that are This or That and declaring that we should support Thisness over Thatness. It is the exact opposite of what I want from my politicians. It's why I find the idea of multiculturalism disturbing, when it is used to mean that "There is a place for Culture X and a place for Culture Y.", because it erases all the people that are now lumped into these cultures despite not being a perfect fit for either of their ideals.
I'm all for understanding of _people_ and their differences, and their similarities. If you defined me as English (and, let's face it, I grew up there, and you can see the culture stamped onto me), then that would tell you a variety of things about me, and miss out on a huge amount which doesn't fit into whichever definition you use.
If you want to become a British Citizen then you have to take a test which asks you a variety of questions about life in the UK
, and every time I've seen people who were born here take the test they've failed miserably, because that's _not_ what being British is about. If anything, being British is about not being the kind of person who cares about any of that stuff. Except, of course, for the people that do - who are just as British as the rest of us.
Because being British just means having the piece of paper that says you were born here, or chose it as your home. And frankly, that's all it _should_ mean.*Or Britishness. They aren't interchangeable, after all. I know I switch to Britishness for the last two paragraphs, but that's because that's the test you take.
Original post on Dreamwidth
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