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British values 2 – a trawl though our database

Following on the commentary on our British values encapsulated on Facebook, we found more extensive contributions about British values from six people:

1. Taken over by greedy merchants so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet (endpiece from Christine Parkinson’s first book, 2002)

She continues “I mainly refer to the people who trade in all kinds of goods for their own benefit, regardless of the effect this has on the stability of the world, its ecosystems, its mineral and animal resources, its local economies and cultural traditions . . . the capture and international trade in rare species, ivory, fur, immature primates etc; the development of animal foodstuffs from animal carcases (creating cannibalism in ruminant species and diseases like BSE and CJD); the holding of developing countries to ransom by powerful banks, through exploitative usury; a similar use of oil (itself a dangerous pollutant) by oil-producing countries; the development of powerful, polluting and dangerous motor vehicles for their owner’s enjoyment; the development of genetically-modified foods for commercial purposes; the unnecessary transport of foods across continents, adding to the pollution and global warming; currency speculation – an international casino in which unscrupulous traders destroy the economies of whole nations; multi-national trading by powerful companies, which destroys local cultures and gains profits by avoiding national controls; the siting of polluting factories close to human populations. The list could go on….

The mantra of freedom and the market economy:

There is a belief in freedom – but freedom for its own sake, without responsibility, without compassion . . . “Politicians promote a market economy as if it were a good thing but I saw that it was at the root of the cycle of destruction. Left without controls, it leads to competition and materialism, acquisitiveness spreading like a cancer, greed, the exploitation of one group, nation, or species by another, the concomitant resentment triggering jealousy and wars, with the end result being the ultimate destruction of our beautiful world by selfish people. Rather than assessing needs to develop standards, values and strategies, the vagaries of the market determine priorities and direction, so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet…..”

2. We comfortably accept gross inequality: says India’s Mari Marcel-Thekaekara (1999)

“We were hit by the reality of the poverty surrounding us in Glasgow: “Most of the men in Easterhouse hadn’t had a job in 20 years. They were dispirited, depressed, often alcoholic. Their self esteem had gone. Emotionally and mentally they were far worse off than the poor where we worked in India, even though the trappings of poverty were less stark. We’d fallen into the trap of looking at poverty only from the point of view of material benefits. The Easterhouse people looked better-off than the Asian poor, but in reality they suffered as much social deprivation. The Easterhouse men who’d been jobless for twenty years felt far more helpless than people in India who scrabbled in garbage heaps to sell scrap metal, paper and rags to feed their children. Both groups were at the bottom of society”.

3. We still see the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of an upper and middle-class generation: prosperous without much effort: Libby Purves – The Times, Comment: 7.9.99 (no link available):

“Many of these good little 1950s boys and girls in Clarks sandals appear to have grown up into the very people who

  • get rich by feeding pornographic violence (“ironic” and otherwise) to modern children,
  • who created the step-parent and weekend~access culture,
  • who use compu­ter games and junk television as a babysitter
  • and who gaily abandoned both family meals and any, attempt to police their adolescents’ social lives.

“Moral decline” is intimately tied up with economic decline and blocked opportunities. The under-class culture of surly disaffection is mirrored by the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of a middle-class generation that are prosperous without much effort. Harsh cries of “On your bike! To the job centre! Abort that baby immediately! Go to prison!” will not do the trick. It will take investment (but the Exchequer is awash with money, compared with recent decades). It will take infrastructure, understanding, doggedness. Unlike the cynics, I do not mind Mr Blair talking morality and vision and the big idea. I just long to see him do something about it”.

4. We are increasingly “politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”: Graham Lane, Independent on Sunday: 16.1.00:

“The Dome is clearly the perfect metaphor for our age”: technology-driven, superficially educated, culturally hybrid (somewhere between shopping mall and theme park), designer-green, politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”.

5. We have, in general, lost the principles of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others: Dr Peter Mullen

“A Spectator debate was held in 2007, the motion being “We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of Western values”. “But what are these values?” asks Dr Peter Mullen (scroll down to his letter). His answer: “Lowbrow hedonism, sex & shopping, abortion on demand – in fact as a means of contraception, a lewd and trivial entertainments industry and a vile popular culture. What we are seeing is not a society that differs a morally serious challenge to militant Islam, but one which has lost its nerve and the principle of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others and examination of one’s own conscience”.

He asks: “Who does Whitehall serve?”

6. The political-corporate “buddy system”: an answer from the FT’s Elizabeth Rigby, 2011

“Vince Cable, business secretary, is to champion the interests of Britain’s oil and gas sector overseas as part of a push within government to boost the UK’s export market as well as attracting inward investment. Lord Green, the trade minister, has been working for months on plans to pair ministers with dozens of top companies in the UK, as he seeks to inject more commercial prowess into Whitehall. Under the scheme, unveiled in February, David Willetts, the universities and science minister, will be looking after life science companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and AstraZeneca. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, will be working with the information and technology sector, while Mark Prisk, the enterprise minister, will be the point person in Whitehall for the car industry.

“The government first flagged that it would be pairing top exporters with ministers in February when Lord Green and Mr Cable unveiled a white paper aimed at enlarging Britain’s export markets. “Ministers will play an active role in developing and sustaining winning relationships with investors, as well as the UK’s top exporters,” said the UK Trade and Investment strategy paper. “These customers will be able to call on expertise and resources across government to ensure they receive a seamless ‘one-stop’ service”.

This “buddy system” is just one of a number of measures the government is putting in place to increase exports.

And only now, with the advent of Jeremy Corbyn, do we see any hope of a better future.