A golden tipped plane arrived at London Heathrow earlier today, carrying the victorious athletes from the Great Britain Olympic team. In an enthralling display of sporting prowess, they netted an astonishing 67 medals achieving a feat unsurpassed in British Olympic history and very rightly are welcomed home as national heroes.
As a citizen of Great Britain, it makes me very proud to see our athletes doing so well and beating nations like China and Russia who both have far bigger populations than our 65 million Brits. In our pride we venerate our victorious athletes and vicariously, our nation.
But after a while the pride subsides, the medals fade and the apathy sets in. We become nonchalant about being British, unwilling to maintain that level of pride we settle into a practiced negativity talking down our nation and undervaluing our achievements.
It’s a cycle that repeats itself not just at the Olympics but other sporting and social festivals: We are proud to be British as long as it’s convenient or allowed, but as soon as convention dictates we go back to our national apathy.
If we could, would maintaining our national pride make us a better nation? How would we do it?
The issue is that the notion of Great Britain lends itself to a historical slant rather than a current one, we revel in our glorious past without considering the potential for our future. So much of British society is set up on the traditions of the past: our Parliament, our Royal Family, our class system (yes it still exists) and most importantly our national zeitgeist. Even the name Great Britain lends itself to a time past when we commanded a vast empire.
In our rush to become a truly multicultural nation, we have effectively negated the British identity relegating British nationalism to extremists and the ignorant. It has become almost a societal taboo to express British nationalism except in those instances previously mentioned.
Far too often nationalism is confused with National Socialism but many people forget that for all their extreme politics the Nazis brought the German nation from economic and societal destitution to unity and almost total European domination in 9 short years in power.
Nationalism created the American identity, allowing it to go from a collection of colonies into a World superpower. It energised a people, enabling them to explore outer space and win the ideological war against Communism.
Our problem is we are afraid to use practical nationalism for fear of it becoming fascism. We are right to fear because it is a very fine line between the two as both champion the superiority of one group over another.
But what if there was a way to be Nationalistic without being fascist?
In choosing this course we have to first tackle one of the issues I previously mentioned: The British reliance on its past.
In all seriousness, who wouldn’t want to rely on a past where we dominated over 3/4ths of the Earth, where we were the undisputed masters of the sea and were the pinnacle of civilisation for a time?
The problem with over reliance on the past to generate a national identity is just that, it prevents you from crafting an identity which is current and pertains to the people of this generation.
A current national identity, generated by the people living today would engender a greater sense of what it means to be British than the collection of past glories and traditions being churned out in today’s society. It would connect the people of this country to this countries identity in a very tangible long-lasting way as they would become de facto stakeholders in the British experience and identity. I’m not saying ignore the past entirely, but don’t overplay it as we have done.
An example of doing this would be to drop the “Great” in Great Britain and just continue as Britain. This would have the effect of absolving our ties to the past nation. The slight issue with this is that there may be negative consequences, but if spun correctly this could be used as a challenge to the people of this country: Make Britain worthy of the title Great again.
Just as the American dream provides a notion for all to strive for and achieve, the new British identity and quest for greatness could provide a similar vehicle for national growth and expansion.
A seed change of this sort would have to be instigated from the top of society downwards, in a way which affected the lives of all citizens. It would require a prompt and I can think of no greater prompt than the death or retirement of either the Queen or Prince of Wales.
This tragic but foreseeable future event would undoubtedly prompt introspection on what it is to be British. A new individual on the throne for the first time in almost a century inspires a period of renewal in their country: there is a feeling of newness and the society can capitalise on that feeling to a positive end. A precedent for this sort of sweeping societal change exists in the cultural revolution that took place in the aftermath of the Second World War. In that case a new society emerged from a great tribulation and began an explosive period of renewal, cultural growth and enterprise which greatly benefitted Britain.
This period of renewal could begin with the formalisation of a written constitution to govern. For all its history, Britain does not possess a formalised constitution in the same way as many other nations in the world do, we instead rely on traditions accumulated throughout the centuries. A formal process to create a constitution with public engagement on all facets of the process would give the people of Britain a legitimate and long-lasting say in what their country should be and how it should be run.
The impact of this change cannot be underestimated, here enshrined in the rule of Law is the constitutional nation of Britain. It is something which can be defined, defended, studied and improved as required. It would make people feel connected with their country.
Renewal once is not consistent change, so the constitution could be renewed every five years in line with the election of a new government. Additionally, the public could be asked to vote on the inclusion of amendments to the constitution at the point of renewal, thus maintaining their aforementioned stake in how the country of Britain evolves.
A society where this sort of nationalism is only practiced on a singular basis will inevitably fail to embrace this change. The ethos of this New Britain must be extolled at every level from school children to the elderly and must be made part of every institution that exists in this country.
We need to spend less time venerating pointless celebrities and more time recognising the people who do great things for this country and its people.
Once again, we near the line of fascist nationalism because extolling the virtues of the New Britain over the other ideologies of the world implies that ours is the better ideology. We should be keen to champion other ideologies and governmental systems but a British society must be able to push itself to the fore in its own country.
Using the energizing spirit of this renewal, the government can inaugurate a culture of British achievement in all fields from construction to agriculture to information technology. Government departments can be rebranded and repurposed with the aim of using them to promote Britain rather than just the current error prone standard of government department. The constitutional change can facilitate this as parts of it can be used to create new ministries and entities.
The cynics among us may well say “well where is the money for this change going to come from?” and obviously there would be financial concerns in play at the point of renewal, but we spend billions on unnecessary social and political programs designed to make changes that simply do not have any chance of making real change. All too often the act or program is instigated and shelved as soon as a new government is appointed or the public appetite shifts, wasting a lot of money and time.
Creating a constitution that everyone agrees on and has a stake in reduces the risk of these sorts of programs occurring, allowing for the funneling of those funds into projects which will actually be relevant and useful to the community at large. It also serves as a checking mechanism to the more out of touch ideas that the politicians have in government. The more these ideas are found and stopped the less likely they will occur giving the politicians a greater sense of what the public actually want and how to serve their respective communities.
Challenges such as these demand a higher standard of politician, one that goes beyond the current crop of elected individuals and could see them replaced by individuals who are more geared to the new ethos of the British state. The period of renewal in British society could and in all honesty should wipe these individuals away, as they are remnants of the traditional society rather than the new.
With a population hungry for change and the appetite to make this change at a societal level, there is no limit as to what changes could be made. The recreation of Great Britain under a newer more relevant guise could make this country what it needs to be: A more United Kingdom and a truly resurgent world power.
© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.