Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Citizenship in the UK

A former Attorney General (I think) has written a report that, among other things, suggests kids swear a pledge of allegiance to the Queen.

Of course no one here thinks this is a good idea. The UK is an odd place. British people on a whole don’t like to be demonstrative and they feel pledging allegiance is doing just that.

I don’t agree that pledging allegiance is bad. I am against pledging it in this type of atmosphere and I am most certainly against pledging it to the Queen. Let me explain.

Firstly, the UK is pretty much an identity-less place. There isn’t a positive British culture that can be outlined. There are activities and traits that can be outlined, but frankly, they aren’t flattering. As it is a culture that largely abhors expressing enthusiasm for anything there is a big hole where there could be enthusiastic admiration for doing well and being successful – traits which are admirable in the US for instance. This unwillingness to be enthusiastic and instead to be self-deprecatory therefore leaves an unhealthy dedication to mediocrity on many occasions and doing things downrightly badly on other occasions. Quite frankly though, the British on the whole, are happy with the way they are. I am British and I personally think we could be much better off identifying ourselves with positive traits – the alternative is the moral vacuum that exists now and that is not good for the country. So given this vacuum, now is not the time to be pledging allegiance to some non-existent idea of what it is to be British.

The other part of my argument is that we aren’t citizens; we are subjects – one of the ludicrous results of living in a monarchy. Now the Queen is largely a figurehead – the UK is a constitutional monarchy which means the Queen does not decide how we live. An elected government does that. So pledging allegiance to an old woman who lives an unbelievably wealthy lifestyle at the taxpayer’s (many of them living in financial want) expense is a disgusting concept. If we are to pledge allegiance to anyone it should be to each other. If the UK is to move towards a better sense of self so to speak we have to invest in each other – delight in each others’ triumphs and commiserate in each others’ failures and help each other to do better while not tolerating the general yobbish behaviour that passes for civil society here.

There is a long way to go before we are in a position to pledge allegiance to anyone.

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