Thursday, May 22, 2008

National identity

Last night's life group discussion was on immigration. Debate got a bit heated at times too.

One of the questions we had in our sub-group was "What makes a national identity?" And I was thinking about that and I said: 'Well, it's the people, surely.' Yes, there's the cultural heritage, the historical legacy of what's gone before, but really we are responsible for the national identity.

The big questions about being British revolve for me around not so much whether we are British, but what do we want being British to be. Is our national identity what we are, or what we choose? Are we bound by what we've inherited or are we free to shape our own destiny?

So, those things we like to think characterise Britishness - the ideal of fair play, of justice, of standing up for the underdog, of doing what's right even if it's hard, of rejecting tyranny, of showing compassion for your neighbour and even your enemy - as evidenced by the many, many stories of German airmen who landed having been shot down and were immediately offered a cup of tea. All those things are actually related to who we are as people and how we behave towards others.

And if it's about choosing to live like that, then really it's not a question of colour, or where you were born.

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