Ophelia Benson, following on from Norm, makes some good points in relation to the whole ‘British values’ business brought up again by Michael Howard.
[T]here has been a lot of what seemed to me fairly muddled talk along those lines – talk about Britishness, and allegiance to Britishness, and allegiance to British values, as if they were all the same idea. But it doesn’t matter whether those values are British or not. That’s not the point. The point is whether they’re any good or not, not what nationality they are. If they’re crap values, then allegiance to them is a bad thing, not a good thing, and the fact that they’re British, or Samoan, or Peruvian, is irrelevant.
……So all those irrelevant adjectives need to be thrown out. British, Islamic, Christian, whatever – they add nothing to the equation. There’s no avoiding the discussion of the merits and demerits of the values or traditions themselves.
And while we are on the subject could perhaps the Prime Minister’s speech writers consider dropping the ‘Our Way of Life’ line? I know it is an attempt to speak an ‘ordinary language’ but it really doesn’t aid clarity and allows the stupid and/or the malicious to give the impression that the battle is about some vaguely defined national customs.
We all know the Our Way of Life being referred to is not about bacon butties and taking milk in your tea but is a folksy code for democracy, human liberty, freedom etc. So why not say that? Does it sound too Yank? Or is there some fear that there really isn’t that much active support for such values either due to apathy or the corrosive influence of those idiots who ritually refer to our ‘so-called democracy’?
The elements that are particularly British about our democracy are not those that I feel any need to defend and actually make it tougher to argue the case for our values. After all it is hard to make a robust defence of secularism in the face of theocrats when our society allows the promotion of religious ideology to children in state-backed ‘Faith Schools’. Not easy to lecture Iraqis about a seperation of religion and politics when unelected Bishops are given a place in our political process purely due to their internal status in the Church of England.
What are worth defending, robustly and militantly, are the universal liberal democratic values in our society that exist alongside the crass, antiquated remnants of feudalism and the mistaken attempts to appease religious lobbies. That is why this blog has stood as firmly against the appalling religious censorship legislation as we have against the foolish twots who have formed alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood.