Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Identity Crisis of 'Greater England'
As it was English expansion at the heart of the nation which became the centre of an empire covering a quarter of the world and containing an equal fraction of the world's population, this dual loss really hurt the rightwing English sensibilities of the likes of Simon Heffer, Peter Hitchens and Roger Scruton- as their journalism at the time displayed. Indeed Great Britain would have been better dubbed 'Greater England' as it was English values and vices which characterized the empire. Immigration has also affected our sense of who we are, with our cities turned into rainbow like multicultural societies and not without some friction.
Then there is the key dilemma facing our nation: towards which sphere should we cleave: Europe's or America's? We have always been reluctant Europeans, whatever Churchill and Bevin orated after the war. We stood aloof until the bus had left and then the driver chucked us off even when we caught up and tried to get on. And it's not just our leaders, it's the lot of us who are basically Eurosceptic. America seems more accessible- not really 'foreign' to us at all, what with the language and all that shared telly- and we all remember how important the alliance was during the fights against Hitler and communism. We might compain about the Yanks but most British people still see them as 'cousins' or something close.
On top of that we have Tony Blair's contribution. He tries to persuade Europe they too share the same interests as the the UK and the US and that he can be a 'bridge' across the Atlantic. The problem is that they don't agree with the Blairite perceptions of shared interests and suspect, rightly, that the bridge offers only one way traffic: it can help Europe become more like America but won't make America more like Europe. No, England has been winkled out of its 'Greater'incarnation and is stranded somewhere still out in the mid Atlantic. National identities take a long time to evolve, to decline and then reform- in our case our new identity is currently under construction.
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