If someone was to ask you what it means to be British how would you answer; self-deprecating humour? Tea? Two obese drunk men called Nigel and Clive fighting in a pub car park until they eventually throw up into each other's face? This year, with the recent campaign to promote Britain and the upcoming Olympics, as well as the anniversary of someone putting an expensive hat on an already rich German lady's head, Britain will be in the spotlight. So how would we like to be perceived by the millions watching?
Are we a tolerant, liberal country where we are all grown-ups and people are free to speak their mind? Or are we an easily offended, reactionary country where any perceived difference from "traditional" Britain is taken as a regression in society and as a result we have to suffer Jeremy Kyle's withered face spewing out his self-righteous rhetoric at divs, like diarrhoea-afflicted festival goers shitting into one of those big holes in the ground? Read the Daily Mail and we're the latter; thankfully though not everyone reads the Daily Mail, either through well-reasoned choice or by having enough forethought to be illiterate.
One person's view of Britain may be unrecognisable to someone else. Which is a very good thing too because if everyone went around thinking Britain was about Duran Duran songs then we'd be fucked. Britain cannot be classified as one thing or the other. I personally think we have a pretty good record in this country of standing up to bullies to ensure the freedom and dignity of civilians around the world. Ask Stephen Lawrence's parents and I'm sure you'll get a different answer, and rightly so.
Last year's riots may have people believing that Britain had turned into a post apocalyptic hell where looters had taken over the country as they clambered over each other like feral rats through a sewer, desperate to get their hands on the latest "stuff". Or if they saw the news the next day it may be about the impromptu clean up missions organised on Twitter, a demonstration of communities pulling together to restore harmony amongst the rubble left behind by wanton destruction. But then again Boris did turn up so it may have led many to believe that Britain is a series of disconnected and bizarre sentences, bad teeth and posh accents. And I'm certain no one has ever thought of Britain in those terms.
Identity isn't a fixed notion: its borders and parameters are constantly changing. The Britain I was born into is different from the Britain I live in today. It is common for people to fear change and look back on their past with affection compared to the alien and disconnected society they find themselves in now. I for one think there are no longer any programmes of the standard of Howard's Way on TV and I do feel that has been to the detriment of the country. Therefore what it is to be British is indefinable. It is a question I wish I hadn't set myself as I wouldn't have written this brief and poorly structured foray in British identity only to come to the conclusion that identity is a personal thing.
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