Sunday, 22 June 2014

British values

There's a big debate going on over the meaning of the term "British values". Should immigrants have to convince us they've adopted British values? Suppose they fail the test? And what on earth are British values anyway?

After following the debate closely, I have to say I'm not sure I'd pass the test myself, despite having lived in Britain for 67 years. If I had to prove my British credentials, I'd probably end up being deported.

When I look at all the things that are typically British, I find most of them so obnoxious I'd rather not be described as British at all. The word starts to give off a rather unpleasant stench.

Just a few of the British phenomena I'd rather not be associated with:

1) Pot noodle
2) Instant coffee
3) Football
4) Binge-drinking
5) Racism, homophobia and misogyny
6) Tuition fees
7) Greedy landlords
8) Attacks on welfare "scroungers"
9) Trolling
10) The war on drugs
11) Warmongering
12) The Royal Family

Most of the things I enjoy aren't typically British but a feature of societies all over the world, from Brooklyn to Brisbane. Like art, films, music, books, intelligent conversation, friendship, good food, good wine, sex, hill-walking and beautiful landscapes. Not to mention those essential human qualities of love, compassion, open-mindedness and curiosity.

Isn't the term "British values" just a sign of blinkered insularity, of a refusal to admit that other countries' values might be just as admirable as our own, maybe more so? Why be so dismissive of French values or German values? Might there be something to learn from people outside our own borders?

Personally I'd steer well clear of anyone who's passionate about British values. How about human values? How about just treating each other decently?


  1. That sounds a very reasonable list to me. Perhaps we should start a trend for human values.

  2. The British don't even understand the European Union. They don't understand that as members of that EU we are NOT immigrants. The English have a "right" to live in France, the French have the "right" to live in England.

    One of the worst times of my life (about six years ago) when I, a European citizen, having been married to an English man for many years, worked here, paid my taxes, gave birth here, only to find myself hounded by local authorities asking me for evidence of my "right" to live in England.

    I was incredulous. I was asked (remember I do have an EU passport) to apply to the British Home Office for confirmation. The "Home"(!) Office took six months to 'confirm'. In which time my life fell apart. Bitter? You bet. I not only lost respect for the country I still live in (England) but also realized that the British with their confined island spirit know fuck all about anything. They invaded (cue The Empire) the rest of the world and then can't even grasp the simplest of concepts.

    Sorry, Nick, worked myself into a lather over what is taking me to this day to somehow make up in loss. Never mind. I'll live. Unless, of course, British well trained doctors and nurses 'emigrate' to European countries where they'll be so much better paid than in this, admittedly charming, dump of a country.


  3. Liz: Treating people decently seems a bit out of favour at the moment. There's so much spite and venom in both the mainstream and social media. Basic human values are in short supply.

  4. Ursula: I think the main reason the British don't understand the EU is that the media NEVER report the activities of the European Parliament. Goodness knows what goes on there.

    The general mistreatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and the like by the authorities has been notorious for years. I'm sorry you were one of the victims of this official bullying.

    I'm not surprised you've lost your respect for Britain. Foreigners are still seen as second-class citizens, however skilled or talented they may be.

  5. We have the same idiotic template here but not as extreme (yet) as the US, the biggest melting pot of MacDonald & Walmart "values".
    Note always how "compassion" is the very quality necessary that is always MIA.

  6. Nice photo, Nick.

  7. I would hope that your list (and what the hell is a pot noodle anyway?) is just a list of things you don't care for about "typical" Brits in the way my list of things like a fast food culture and "America, fuck yeah!" is part of a list of the lowest common denominator here. Those aren't values, they're just unfortunaetly popular things. They definitely should define that if they are going to talk about it, though. Reminds me of when the Republicans started throwing around the term "family values" back in the 80's and Barbara Bush helpfully said, "however you define family, that's what we mean by family values."

  8. www: For a lot of people, compassion seems to come way down the list after money-making and keeping other people in their place.

    Susie: Good, isn't it? I thought it vividly conjured up binge-drinking.

  9. Agent: Pot Noodle is an instant noodle snack in a plastic tub. I've never tried it but it's notorious for its awful taste.

    I suppose my list doesn't include values as such, more implied values of greed, insensitivity etc. The term "family values" is still in vogue here, and the same applies - nobody knows what the hell it actually means.

  10. I guess all countries like to purport values on their masses?

  11. Bijoux: They do. Governments think that if they can encourage people to be unthinkingly patriotic and nationalistic, they'll keep quiet about all the unacceptable things that make their countries look pretty second-rate. Like poverty and homelessness.

  12. We have all become price and cost conscious and totally value deficient.

  13. Ramana: Very true. Everywhere you look there's a lack of common decency and compassion.

  14. Ursula - you said ". . British with their confined island spirit know fuck all about anything. . " Being English myself I'll have you know that I resemble that remark !

    Nick - I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. Having spent a lot of time in France I have adopted their way of life in my home because the British way of life is crap. My home is mainly furnished in the old French style. Even the windows at the rear of the house (not visible from the road) are fitted with shutters. The council wouldn't give me planning permission to put continental windows and shutters up at the front because it would clash with the style of the other houses in this slum of a town I live in!
    I always cook continental style, the average meals here seem so bland compared with the French recipes.

    Can I add No. 13) The Government, to your list?

    Instant coffee? God, it's awful !

  15. Keith: I haven't spent much time in France (a week in Paris as a child) so I can't say anything about the French way of life. But people who know the two countries well do seem to have a higher opinion of France than Britain.