Saturday, 14 November 2015

What Are 'British Values'? (2)


Dear Reader,


I first of all must state my utter sympathy with the people of France and, particularly, Paris, and join with them in seeking a righteous solution to the demonstration of beastiality that took place last night. Right will prevail ... but we must be careful on how it is achieved.

In the previous article, I finished by postulating on perhaps whether we need to determine what sort of values we should be basing our vote on. "British Values" if you will. 

So, when using the term "British Values" what is being alluded to here. The 'British' bit is self-apparent: something that relates to people in the British Isles. But 'Values' I define here as "beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life". Not (please note) the use of 'value' to define monetary values; I fear that these days that is what we tend to think of first and foremost, and not what is intrinsically of importance. In other words, what do we regard as something of durable importance.

The Department of Education's paper in November, 2014 stated: "Schools should promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs."

Assuming that this is the line of thinking that we are all meant to live by (not merely students), I question whether those "fundamental British values" are recognised by ordinary people. Indeed, the well-known historian David Starkey has said (in response to the government's line - above - on British Values) that British Values are “queuing, drunkenness, nostalgia, loving pets, self-loathing, wit and eccentricity” (The Guardian, January 30, 2015).

Following Starkey's definition, it would seem to be the case that there is the official view and the sceptical view of the ordinary citizen. It seems to me that the ordinary citizen has been worn by experience towards cynicism and sees that to get the best from his life demands a relaxed attitude. He generally doesn't have time for the pompous niceties pumped out from (in these last five years) the land of Eton School, and their hangers-on.

However, it shouldn't take much to see what the government is looking for. The government is really asking that we all band together like good old chums and get on with life with an "all for one and one-for-all" attitude. But the government can't see itself as being able to couch the requirement of unity in those terms (unlike Jeremy Corbyn): the government has to define it all in official-ease and leaves the implementation of their idea to others - who might just implement it to the letter rather than the spirit of the letter. The end result could be another Peterloo or sectarian riots or certainly an equivalent of the Poll Tax revolt of the early 90s. Some event that could push unity of the people even further away.

But, rather than talk of "British Values" in this vein, I would like to look at the matter from the ordinary citizens' point of view, because they form the vast majority and it is their lives that really matter, not some  pie-in-the sky notions or system of government that panders to the richest 1%. 

As has already been hinted, the reality is that the way the people are governed is cynical enough and that any system of unity and respect for law is best developed out of fair government policies, not top-down preservation of a pseudo ruling class.

But if the ordinary people are to match fire with fire it is best done by a meaningful stratagem based on the state of the world as it is. And (unfortunately) it has to start with the realisation that trickle-down economics does not work nor never will work and that the capitalist system itself does not work. Why? Not only because the people cannot trust those with power, but because the way the capitalist system has been used is against the natural law of sustainability. Marx - in many respects - was right, and nothing has really changed since the 19th c. in terms of the relationship between master and worker. 

Despite the promise of the post-War years I'm sad to say that workers have also been mis-led by their own leaders, and that has helped to cause the pendulum to swing back the other way. We really do have to find a common ground to speak on in future: nothing of lasting value can work otherwise, as experience has shown.

So what are the real, sustainable, Values that we could try to adopt (against all odds)? 

That is a debate in itself, but must surely be based on the philosophy that we (and that includes all peoples, creatures, the Earth and all manner of life) are all members of the same club in reality. Planet Earth is the only spaceship we have and we need to devise a sustainable way of living that will enable that spaceship to maintain its flightpath.

Yes, we need to devise all that even though faced with wars, huge immigration issues and climate change. There is no other choice if we want to have a decent future. That must be the basis for our Values.

If we can find such a sane set of Values then we might find that the notion of having to spend £167m on the Trident programme not only abhorrent, but a complete waste of money that could be directed to really useful purposes.

[To be continued]


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