Monday, May 19, 2008

The new nationalism

So Brown is trying to resuscitate the idea of Britain, good luck to him because there isn’t one. There are a hundred different ideas of Britain, the nature of how we live our lives means that we filter out everything we don’t find relevant or are uncomfortable with, we create our own communities by our own choices. By the papers we read and the films we see and the people we associate with, taking nation to mean race or common identity is a misnomer.

The fact is the modern world allows people to hermetically seal themselves off from the rest of their countrymen who might disagree with their perception of the world. Cars for instance allow the driver and passengers to take their environemtn with them, from music to smell to design and make. There are reallyb only a few palces left where people of all walks of lifea are force to merge, we can choose our pubs and our schools and our neighbourhoods, and even in these shared places people do not actually mix that much.

You can see this on those rare geographical expressions of shared identity, such as train stations or airports. The one I observe the most is the Tube, which is a greater leveler than any other kind of public transport.

There for the first and only time will you see city gents actually share space with those who clean their toilets, students stand too close to bricklayers and nurses to civil servants. Of course its not a perfect melting pot of every British person, some can afford to cruise by taxi everywhere, and the rest of britain outside London doesn’t really get a look in unless in comes to the city for a show and a chance to gawp at how rude we all are.

The main thing to notice is that nobody really shares anything beyond physical space, everyone sticks their head in a book or listens to music, all of them reinforcing cultural markers. But you can at least observe those ambassadors of the other nations, you can listen to them talk about posh things or poor things or arty things or lowbrow things. There at least you get to see the nature of Britain but the idea that we must absolutely have shared values as something of a nonsense. Just let us all have our own Britains, let us pick and choose what applies to us rather than just labeling us and restricting what is or is not britain to a popular vote or worse the decisions of politicians.


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