A couple of weeks ago, as part of the run up to the TV programme ‘Make Bradford British’, I was asked to consider the following question:
‘The Prime Minister says that state multiculturalism has failed. Can Britain thrive as a multicultural society, or has diversity created a Britain that no longer has an identity – what is Britain’s current national identity and what makes us British?’
Blimey. I wasn’t sure where to begin. It’s a bit different from talking about personalised notebooks and dating dilemmas isn’t it? Still, I like a challenge, so I gave it a go. Do you think Britain can thrive as a multicultural society? What does being British mean to you? Do let me know…
I think I have a rather naïve view of the realities of a multicultural and multi-faith Britain.
Growing up in a small West Country town, that was about as homogenous as they come, I was never exposed to any of the issues surrounding multiculturalism, and never felt the need to question the identity of my country, or how it might be affected by increasing diversity.
I don’t doubt that this sheltered upbringing has resulted in a great deal of ignorance on my part, but at the same time, part of me wants to cling to this innocence. Unrealistic it may be, but I can’t help but be drawn to the ‘can’t we all just be nice to each other?’ school of thought. Yes we may believe in different things, have different customs and traditions, but what ever happened to respecting difference? I don’t always agree with my friends and family, often about pretty fundamental things, but this doesn’t mean we can’t get along.
When I really think about it, national identity just isn’t really a concept I can identify with. Yes there are perhaps some superficial things that make us ‘British’ – a poor sense of style that makes us instantly recognisable to European shopkeepers being one of them – but ultimately the characteristics and behaviours that are important to me, and which I do my best to instil in my children, are not about being British, they are just about being human. Tolerance, acceptance, patience and open-mindedness are all qualities I believe are vital in a diverse society, but they aren’t linked to my national identity, they’re just about me as a person, wanting to have respect for other human beings.
I’m well aware that there will be people reading this and laughing sarcastically – ‘ha!’ they’ll say, ‘this woman knows nothing of the real issues, of the persecution endured my minority groups, look at her in her little bubble’ and yes, maybe they are right, maybe I do live with a rose-tinted vision of how a multicultural society can be, but then what if everyone took my simplistic view of life? What if we were all just a bit nicer? Wouldn’t the world be a much easier place to live?
There’s plenty of room for everyone in my bubble, and just maybe it would be a nicer place to be.