Today The Telegraph, amongst others, I guess, is somewhat exercised over the concept of Britishness, or to be precise, British values which, following the 'Trojan Horse' scam in which various Islamic extremists attempted to take over some schools in Birmingham, are to be taught as part of the education curriculum. Needless to say, when faced up with the question of what, exactly and precisely, constitute 'British values', the likes of 'Dim Dave' trot out a list of vague banalities which, far from being particularly British, are shared by many nations and aspired to by many others:
Freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.
Yeeeeeees, quite, thank you, Prime Minister, we'll let you know! The problem with defining what are supposed to be British values is that the moment you utter them a thousand exceptions leap to mind. For example, "respect for the rule of law" is, literally as well as metaphorically, pissed on in every High Street in the land on a Friday or Saturday night. In fact, a study of British history might well show that it was dis-respect for the law, starting with those 'Bolshie' barons at Runnymede, which has made this country what it is.
Then, just as your brain starts to ache, the dread thought occurs as to whether we should even be using the word 'British' because that includes the Jocks, Taffs and Micks and we know, don't we?, that it was us English 'wot dun it'! (Oh, alright, with a few exceptions, granted.) So we're really talking about English values, not that that makes it any easier to define what they are. My advice is to forget the whole exercise. Just teach the history of these Islands. Studying our history is similar to the working practices of those old pan-handlers who scooped up muddy water from a river and slowly swirled it around looking carefully at the filthy detritus at the bottom of their pan but finding within it the occasional gleam of gold. That's as fair a metaphor for British history as I can come up with. Just teach our history and let the imbiber decide. And anyway, I think I will leave the final word on the subject of what constitute British values to our distinguished Minister for Education, Mr. Gove, who, when challenged to provide an answer simply said that it was jolly un-British to even attempt such a thing. Smart fella'!