There are so many people you hear lamenting the “loss of our jobs” to immigrants, who are often just seeking a better life for their selves and their families. Sensationalist headlines, suggesting British cultural traditions are being drowned out by ‘foreign’ celebrations. Word of mouth even, when people are asked, “why did you choose to vote UKIP?”, it will often be down to the want to keep our borders closed, and the ‘Other’ out.
But why? Why is there this fear, or rejection at least, or external cultures? What are people seeking to defend?
There’s a really funny Vice News article on what it is to be British. It’s so accurate of the Inbetweeners generation, and also proves that the patriotism here is often limited to extreme levels, seen in jest, or with concern. Our culture is not a ‘one size fits all’ culture. It’s an amalgamation of various influences; a melting pot of culture. British way of life is one which is built upon immigration. From Notting Hill Carnival to going for a curry and a pint, we are a country built upon the influence of immigration. Since the arrival of the Windrush in 1948, when the first large wave of Caribbean migrants arrived, Britain has been lucky enough to welcome migrants to our shores consistently, and grow from it.
Why should we allow people to come to Britain to seek asylum? This British culture that is feared to be lost or trampled upon by these overbearing cultures… What exactly is it? I can’t think of one British cultural tradition which runs deeply throughout the nation; especially one which is disappearing. I cannot think of one uniting understanding that holds together the British peoples.
Except one. Tolerance. We are a country of tolerance and pluralism. You could argue: ‘But this blog post suggests otherwise!’. This is not what I want to convey. I want to argue that we, Brits, are a lucky group of people, who are free and should be thankful we live in a place that people run to to be free. Our British culture is that of tolerance; we do not suppress women, with laws stopping them from driving, or forcing them to wear certain clothes. We do not prevent people from worshipping their god of choice. We do not restrict what language is spoken. We do not prevent families from having more than one child. We have a free press. We can travel the world. We are not at risk of state-enforced violence, or martial law. We have the freedom of movement throughout Europe. We have the freedom to vote who we wish to vote for. The list is extensive.
So I would like to argue – no. We are not losing ourselves in ‘The Other’. This may sound preach-y, but I fear sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture and the global perspective is overshadowed by Daily Mail-esque scaremongering. We are instead growing, learning and adapting to live together. We are tolerant and respectful of individual rights. What we reject, is the loss of this freedom and plurality; not ‘foreign’ beliefs. Instead of rejecting ‘The Other’, we should encourage the understanding and tolerance that this country has begun to develop, since decolonising in the 1950-60s onwards. There obviously is still an awful lot more to be done; the West in general needs to enhance its understanding of other cultures, and that West isn’t Best. But in terms of the UK?
We can’t militantly argue that we are losing our Britishness, when really, it is a collective identity, formed by international movement and heritage. What is our own, and what should be defended, however, is our freedom and tolerance; we should be proud to be a place of asylum for those suffering elsewhere. We should embrace it and we should protect those who come to be safe. We are made up of ‘The Other’. There is no longer a binary argument surrounding this. Our overarching and sweeping culture is liberating and understanding.
We are not losing ourselves; we are gaining.