The face of a changing Britain

There is much resistance to the changing world, that includes a changing Britain. This article reflects on the need to embrace changes in technology and Britain’s global status.

When Robert Burns wrote the advice about seeing ourselves as others see us the pace of the world allowed more time for thought, though the sentiments behind those words still apply today more than ever.

Like it or not, in the last hundred years Britain has  stopped being a country with an empire, the European borders are vanishing, this country now has more Muslims than Methodists and the balance of world power is shifting from West to East.

We’re not going to see the speed of communication get slower. The internet means almost instant news and fuels the desire for instant solutions. We’re not going to stop mass movement of populations and, as the world’s dangerous places multiply, refugees and asylum seekers will grow in numbers.

We’re going to have to live more and more with neighbours from different cultures and backgrounds. There is no alternative, so get used to it, stop behaving like King Canute  and accept that the world is not a neat little place where we can get away with “fortress Britain” and pretend we can stop the inevitable changes.

Four and a half million people with British passports live abroad which is about the same number as those born abroad who live here.

What do the countries they live in say about them? What’s meant these days when there is talk about preserving Britishness?

Think about it when you come out of the Irish pub, having drunk Italian beer, jump in your German car, grab an Indian or Chinese takeaway on the way home, sit on your Swedish furniture to watch an American television show on your Japanese screen!

We have a fantastic heritage that isn’t going to be lost if it’s shared. We don’t have to be so defensive!

Most of the larger countries in the world have had empires at some stage in history and we’re still having to live with the fact that ours is no longer there. Recent generations were taught that we were superior and brought civilization to huge swathes of the globe. Well, I hate to be the one to break the news but that’s not going to be our job any more. I expect there were millions who had trouble coming to terms with the fall of the Roman empire and, for that matter, the dozens of other empires we’ve watched from the sidelines or been part of.

So what does the world think of us now? Are we really turning into a tourist theme park where all our income will come from tourism and service  industries.  If television is anything to go by then cooking, reality shows, gardening and do it yourself projects dominate our lives. Americans think we’re quaint. Mind you, some of the things they see make the point! This is a country where we place pharmacies at the furthest point from the supermarket entrance so sick people have to walk further to get prescriptions but they sell cigarettes near the front door! They also think it weird that we lock rusty old lawnmowers in the garage but park the car outside!  However….. they can’t talk. There’s a sign in Idaho that says” Do not laugh at the natives”( I could suggest a few places here where that could go up) and another that reads  “ Be aware of invisibility!” And, as for the last President… I’m going to miss his wisdom. “One good thing about books, he said, is that sometimes you get fantastic pictures in them”

Having a good laugh is so much better than the alternatives.

There is no going back to the days where Britain could pull up the drawbridge, shutting out parts of the world– when we just sent a gunship to deal with countries we disagreed with.

Now we’re becoming part of the European empire that’s competing with the Far East for dominance as the American empire enters its final phase. If we want influence we’ve got to be totally prepared to be positively multi-cultural and at peace inside our borders. The Belgae, the Vikings, the Romans and the Normans, to name a few, were foreigners who settled here and mixed in with those here already. What, in the scheme of things, is the fundamental difference?

Just remember George Bernard Shaw who said “Patriotism is the conviction that your country is superior to all others because you were born in it”.

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