Monday, 15 September 2008

Britishness - avoiding the straightjacket

Alexandra Runswick’s post on Our Kingdom discusses an RSA / Heritage Lottery Fund lecture entitled ‘Britishness – A values based approach is not enough’, a contention precipitated by Labour’s attempts to draft a ‘Statement of British Values’. Keynote speaker, Dame Liz Forgan, argued the importance of culture to the formation of national identity, noting “that while values are fixed, culture is porous and constantly evolves”.

She raises an important point. Certain cultural commonalities are naturally key constituents around which an identity coheres. History, language, common institutions and indeed common values undoubtedly help forge the culture which we share. However, I would add two notes of caution to Forgan’s analysis. Firstly, as I have already intimated, values, culture and institutions cannot be easily separated. Rather the three interact and mould each other.

The values which are inherent in Britishness have necessarily been shaped by the UK’s constitution and the institutions which underpin it. Whilst we need not formally define those values, and whilst a formal process of defining those values may not accrue any great benefit to the coherence of the United Kingdom, nevertheless a strong sense of Britishness should be characterised by a sense that our constitution ensures rights and freedoms which are important.

Secondly, Forgan is correct to assert that culture is porous and mutable. It is true to say though, that some cultures are more porous than others and that a characteristic of nationalism is its discomfort with changes which might occur within the culture to which it has attached itself. That is not to propose that nationalists are always hostile to other cultures, or cannot move easily enough between them. But the core culture to which nationalism adheres, is to its nationalists, a very definite edifice possessed of certain specific characteristics and explicitly excluding others.

Britishness is not possessed of such prescriptive confines and unionists must not be tempted to capitulate to nationalist demands that it should be, if it is to exist as an identity at all. The British identity is in its essence a porous and heterogeneous construction and to define it by the prescriptions which nationalism requires is to distort it beyond recognition.

32 comments:

Aidan said...

Chekov,
You have a very consistent message on how you feel Britishness can encompass a plurality of (changing) identities. What grates with your message is that you try to elevate unionism as an ideology at the expense of (Irish)nationalism.
Almost all Irish people are unionists but they are mostly European unionists and not British unionists. The very same plurality of identities you prize in the UK is something that the Republic of Ireland has embraced as a sovereign state in the EU.
If Irish nationalism were as prescriptive as you believe then I could not have had the upbringing that I had in Ireland.
In miserable 1980s Ireland we were told that the Irish were the young Europeans. My home town was twinned with a town in France and every summer saw exchanges to and fro. Nearly everybody I knew had penpals in foreign countries. We were not brought up to think that Irishness was the only game in town by any means.
When people ask about typically Irish things of course we talk about Irish sports, our original language, dancing, music etc. However, being proud of the Irish culture does not mean that all Irish nationalists are somehow of the 'ourselves alone' ethos. Irish nationalism is perfectly compatible with European Unionism.
There is no prescription for Irishness any more than there is a rulebook for Britishness.
I would posit however that the average Irish person feels European whereas many British people talk of 'going to Europe' and 'Europeans' as though they are not that themselves. Who has a narrower identity if that is the case?

Chekov said...

“Almost all Irish people are unionists but they are mostly European unionists and not British unionists. The very same plurality of identities you prize in the UK is something that the Republic of Ireland has embraced as a sovereign state in the EU.”

Firstly Aidan, I’m not referring specifically to Irish nationalism in this instance. I’m referring to nationalism as an ideology. I’m concerned particularly with all the nationalisms which seek to deny the validity of Britishness. To look at the points you have raised though, the ROI is certainly part of the European Union and additionally it was enthusiastically a member when structural funds were pouring into ROI infrastructure. However, the ardour has cooled since the Republic became a net contributor to the Union and its citizens are opposed to greater federalism.

“If Irish nationalism were as prescriptive as you believe then I could not have had the upbringing that I had in Ireland. In miserable 1980s Ireland we were told that the Irish were the young Europeans. My home town was twinned with a town in France and every summer saw exchanges to and fro. Nearly everybody I knew had penpals in foreign countries. We were not brought up to think that Irishness was the only game in town by any means.”

Aidan, I have acknowledged that nationalism does not necessarily refute other cultures nor is it hermetically sealed. The point is that the conception of its own culture is prescriptive. It has a definite idea of what constitutes the culture and what lies without it. Naturally, as a country becomes more self-confident this dissipates a little, but it is nevertheless a characteristic of nationalism. The ROI is no longer de Valera’s Catholic, Gaelic state, but nevertheless that vision was the foundations on which Irish nationalism and the ROI were built.

“When people ask about typically Irish things of course we talk about Irish sports, our original language, dancing, music etc. However, being proud of the Irish culture does not mean that all Irish nationalists are somehow of the 'ourselves alone' ethos. Irish nationalism is perfectly compatible with European Unionism.”

But it is that definite conception of what constitutes Irish culture that I am talking about. That is a nationalist conception of identity and nationalism holds that its conception of identity should form the nucleus of nation states. That is not to say that it is necessarily an illegitimate conception, but unionism posits a different view which cannot be understood by applying nationalist criteria. My point is that unionists should not attempt to fit our conception of Britishness into those criteria.

“There is no prescription for Irishness any more than there is a rulebook for Britishness.”

No. And nor should there be. But Irish nationalism does attempt to prescribe ITS definition of Irishness to preclude elements which it considers ‘other’.

“I would posit however that the average Irish person feels European whereas many British people talk of 'going to Europe' and 'Europeans' as though they are not that themselves. Who has a narrower identity if that is the case?”

Well I speak only for myself, but I’m quite happy to identify myself as European.

kensei said...

Chekov

To look at the points you have raised though, the ROI is certainly part of the European Union and additionally it was enthusiastically a member when structural funds were pouring into ROI infrastructure. However, the ardour has cooled since the Republic became a net contributor to the Union and its citizens are opposed to greater federalism.

For all the psuedo-intellectual stuff you come off with, at heart you can't past the old Unionist myths. Were EU funds a contributory factor to Irish success? Yes. Where they the only, or even major factor? No, otherwise Northern Ireland would have outperformed it by a few million percent given it's level of subsidy from the EU and elsewhere.

Equally, did EU money help contribute to Irish enthusiasm for Europe? Of course it did. Was it the only or key point? No, for lots of reasons already outlined above. The Irish electorate have never been big on Federalism, but the No vote in the Lisbon Treaty was as much about being squeezed to the periphery of the EU as it was about the dangers of encroaching Federalism. For all the talk of multiplicity of identity, you don't seem to grasp that one either.

The point is that the conception of its own culture is prescriptive. It has a definite idea of what constitutes the culture and what lies without it. Naturally, as a country becomes more self-confident this dissipates a little, but it is nevertheless a characteristic of nationalism. The ROI is no longer de Valera’s Catholic, Gaelic state, but nevertheless that vision was the foundations on which Irish nationalism and the ROI were built.

Which is to simplify Irish Nationalism and Republicanism beyond the point of ridicule. I could point to Tone, but I prefer the Younger Irelanders:

a nationality which will not only raise our people from their poverty, by securing to them the blessings of a domestic legislature, but inflame and purify them with a lofty and heroic love of country—a nationality of the spirit as well as the letter—a nationality which may come to be stamped upon our manners, our literature, and our deeds—a nationality which may embrace Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter, Milesian and Cromwellian, the Irishman of a hundred generations, and the stranger who is within our gates;

That is a very modern kind of Nationalism, but it was written in the middle of the 19th Century. Dev was a product of his age and the dominant ideas within it, and British Nationalism and Imperialism of the time hardly stands up as a paragon of virtue, and the foundations of the modern British state have are obviously, some of those things that went before.

But it is that definite conception of what constitutes Irish culture that I am talking about. That is a nationalist conception of identity and nationalism holds that its conception of identity should form the nucleus of nation states. That is not to say that it is necessarily an illegitimate conception, but unionism posits a different view which cannot be understood by applying nationalist criteria. My point is that unionists should not attempt to fit our conception of Britishness into those criteria.

And yet there is a constant debate in the UK about what it means to be British that extends simply beyond values. There is a resistance to the EU that extends beyond values. The current UK and British consciousness of a British identity owes a lot to One Nation Toryism.

It is not a simple as saying that nationalism is focused on identity and Unionism on values or institutions. Nationalism encompasses the importance of institutions and values and Unionism is perfectly capable of indulging in identity based politics. It is a matter of degree and mix rather than some fundamental difference in kind.

Chekov said...

“Equally, did EU money help contribute to Irish enthusiasm for Europe? Of course it did. Was it the only or key point? No, for lots of reasons already outlined above. The Irish electorate have never been big on Federalism, but the No vote in the Lisbon Treaty was as much about being squeezed to the periphery of the EU as it was about the dangers of encroaching Federalism. For all the talk of multiplicity of identity, you don't seem to grasp that one either.”

Whether there were other factors at work or not, it remains indisputable that the relationship of the ROI and its people with the EU remains ambivalent and does not negate or transcend the nationalist influence. That is the point in this context.

“That is a very modern kind of Nationalism, but it was written in the middle of the 19th Century. Dev was a product of his age and the dominant ideas within it, and British Nationalism and Imperialism of the time hardly stands up as a paragon of virtue, and the foundations of the modern British state have are obviously, some of those things that went before.”

Nationalism’s conception of Irishness remains a very definite edifice and nationalism in general is confident of what makes up that edifice and what does not. That is the point in the context of this post.

“And yet there is a constant debate in the UK about what it means to be British that extends simply beyond values. There is a resistance to the EU that extends beyond values. The current UK and British consciousness of a British identity owes a lot to One Nation Toryism.”

The entire point of my post is that I reject the need to define Britishness in the terms of identity which nationalists require. I am actually reasonably pro EU, but nevertheless belief in maintaining a state’s sovereignty is not commensurate with nationalism if that state is not ordered primarily on the basis of perceived identity. I do not deny that British nationalism exists, but I do not accept that it is the prime driver of unionism and it is not a driver I wish to see accorded more importance.

“It is not a simple as saying that nationalism is focused on identity and Unionism on values or institutions. Nationalism encompasses the importance of institutions and values and Unionism is perfectly capable of indulging in identity based politics. It is a matter of degree and mix rather than some fundamental difference in kind.”

Of course neither doctrine deals exclusively with one or the other. The difference is emphasis. I have consistently argued that to be the case.

Aidan said...

"it remains indisputable that the relationship of the ROI and its people with the EU remains ambivalent and does not negate or transcend the nationalist influence."
You keep making this point but I don't agree with your analysis. I am a nationalist that was brought up in Ireland as a European. Ireland has always had historical links to the rest of Europe and people of my generation were delighted that the EU gave us the chance to escape from the Irish self-definitions exclusively based on not being England. You are looking at things like the monetary transfers from the EU but many Irish people would talk about the Erasmus exchange schemes, the right to travel and work in other EU countries and liberating laws on things like homosexuality which are reasons for the ROI to be glad for having joined the EU.
Your view on Britishness is far removed from what the average English person would think. Anybody I have ever spoken to about talks about the wars, the World Cup in 1966, warm beer, cricket, the Queen. In fact the normal English view on what British identity is is no different than how they view the English identity. I have never heard an English person even mention Northern Ireland when talking about British things. Ironically I have heard them mention clearly Irish people and things (Irish stew, Irish coffee, Guinness, U2). An a recent example a couple of weeks back when a Man City fan mentioned how there were 7British players on the team against West Ham, including Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland (irony). Unfortunately, that is the reality.

Chekov said...

“many Irish people would talk about the Erasmus exchange schemes, the right to travel and work in other EU countries and liberating laws on things like homosexuality which are reasons for the ROI to be glad for having joined the EU.”

Aidan, those three things (and similar) are well and good. They equally apply to the UK’s membership of the EU. I am not alleging that nationalists cannot appreciate or even move between separate cultures, I have stated as much in my original post. The point is that the perceived nationalism is built around a quite definite view of what its own culture is. That’s not to argue that nationalists cannot appreciate other cultures or do not want to.

“An a recent example a couple of weeks back when a Man City fan mentioned how there were 7British players on the team against West Ham, including Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland (irony). Unfortunately, that is the reality.”

I’m not exactly sure what point you’re making. I would have thought that this actually demonstrates that Britishness is not easily prescribed. I’m sure the City fan meant no offence by this. It merely demonstrates that although other people within these isles may be lampooned etc. that really there is less sense of them being ‘other’ amongst some English people. I wouldn’t indict them for that.

Aidan said...

"Aidan, those three things (and similar) are well and good. They equally apply to the UK’s membership of the EU."
Correct but these things are reasons why Irish people might feel strongly European beyond economic issues which is why I raised the point.

"I am not alleging that nationalists cannot appreciate or even move between separate cultures, I have stated as much in my original post."
Point taken but Kensei's Young Irelander quote is far more in line with the kind of nationalism I subscribe to and that clearly means an inclusive Irishness beyond purely a Gaelic definition.

"I’m not exactly sure what point you’re making. I would have thought that this actually demonstrates that Britishness is not easily prescribed. I’m sure the City fan meant no offence by this."
No explicit offence, no but he clearly labelled 2 Irish nationals British. There were 5 British players on the team but the guy is so clueless that he labelled 2 guys from the Republic of Ireland British to make 7. It shows how English people don't generally have a clue what British is. In NI people have a very clear idea on what British is (with various strains) but as you know that definition is generally far removed from anything English people would recognise and they are the biggest country in the UK so what they thinks matters most.

kensei said...

Chekov

Whether there were other factors at work or not, it remains indisputable that the relationship of the ROI and its people with the EU remains ambivalent and does not negate or transcend the nationalist influence. That is the point in this context.

I dispute it. Ireland is unambivalently pro-European. But it has a concrete conception of what Europe should be, and a concrete conception of where they don't like it going. Irish people do not want a superstate; they don't want certain red lines on the Constitution to be breached; they don't want to be sidelined by the bigger players. In this they are no different form any other country - the UK has its interests, Germany likewise. Hell, France voted down an EU Treaty. If Ireland is ambivalent, Europe is ambivalent. It falls out from the nature of the EU.

They have no need to transcend their nationalism or republicanism. Europe has been integrated a as part of that, and as a consequence the Nationalism of this generation is different from their grandfathers. That is a good thing.

Nationalism’s conception of Irishness remains a very definite edifice and nationalism in general is confident of what makes up that edifice and what does not. That is the point in the context of this post.

Having a good conception of who you are and where you come from is an advantage. It doesn't prescribe the future. Ireland has taken in a lot of immigration in recent years, and seems so far to have generally handled it well. There is a challenge ahead when those people start having Irish kids and how we handle what it means to be Irish. I think in the long ru that debate will happen, and it will be beneficial to Nationalism when dealing with Unionism.

The entire point of my post is that I reject the need to define Britishness in the terms of identity which nationalists require.

Britishness is a label: it is an identity, you cannot escape it however much you wish. You can certainly avoid defining it in terms of race but even adherence to a code or an institution is an identity in itself.

I am actually reasonably pro EU, but nevertheless belief in maintaining a state’s sovereignty is not commensurate with nationalism if that state is not ordered primarily on the basis of perceived identity.

This is the fundamental question. Everything flows from sovereignty. Who rules us? Common identity, common history has to be a part of that, because countries need glue that bind them together. It's not the whole story, but even the UK needs it. Hence the debate on how to cultivate a sense of "Britishness". Again I feel you are confusing identity with ethnicity. The US has a powerful nationalism that is driven by values and institutions that encompasses different races and subcultures, but it a nationalism all the same.

I do not deny that British nationalism exists, but I do not accept that it is the prime driver of unionism and it is not a driver I wish to see accorded more importance.

I cannot see how this argument can be sustained. The rise of Nationalism coincides with a loss of British identity, which is driven by a fall in shared institutions that helped shape that identity: Protestantism, Empire, external threat. It isn't the only driver, but it is and remains a powerful force.

I accept it may not be the main driver for you. But you are, I suggest atypical. As I guess Aidan and myself are too, in our way.

Of course neither doctrine deals exclusively with one or the other. The difference is emphasis. I have consistently argued that to be the case.

But you argue it to be fundamental. At the end it all comes down to "Who can legitimately rule us?". "What power should the state have?", "Who are we and what do we say to the world?", "How do we develop?", The answers aren't so different, and the overlap perhaps bigger than you think.

Chekov said...

"It shows how English people don't generally have a clue what British is. In NI people have a very clear idea on what British is (with various strains) but as you know that definition is generally far removed from anything English people would recognise and they are the biggest country in the UK so what they thinks matters most."

It shows that Britishness is not easily defined and is not generally defined prescriptively, which is very much in line with the points I have made.

Chekov said...

Kensei,

There's a lot to cover there so I'll have to get back to you, especially as you seem to have been overcome with civility! ;-)

Aidan said...

"It shows that Britishness is not easily defined and is not generally defined prescriptively, which is very much in line with the points I have made."
There is no world in which two Irish guys from Cork and Dublin who play(ed) for the ROI can be claimed as British. Would he have said that two French guys were British? No.
If you are trying to imply that all Irish people can somehow be classified as British because of the flexibility of the definition then what have we? All Irish people are British but do not know it?

Chekov said...

Clearly not Aidan. The guy might be taking a thoughtless approach to who is British and who is not, but he tends to view all the people of these islands as pretty much the same. The point is not that he is right, which he isn't. The point is that he is not inclined to prescribe British identity in the same way as, say an Irishman, north or south, would definitively say an Englishman was not Irish. You started out by claiming this as an example of how the English took a different view of identity to me. I'm just pointing out it wasn't a good or consistent piece of evidence, because actually it suggests the opposite.

Chekov said...

To deal briefly with Europe, I am not arguing that ROI is any more intrinsically anti-EU than anywhere else. I am merely pointing out that the Republic’s engagement with the EU does not diminish the nationalist character of that state.

“Having a good conception of who you are and where you come from is an advantage. It doesn't prescribe the future. Ireland has taken in a lot of immigration in recent years, and seems so far to have generally handled it well. There is a challenge ahead when those people start having Irish kids and how we handle what it means to be Irish. I think in the long ru that debate will happen, and it will be beneficial to Nationalism when dealing with Unionism.”

But the conception of who you are and where you come from is often invented and simplified in order to fit the narrative of the ‘nation’. The strands of culture, common origin, history and so on are necessarily prescriptive and exclusive. Would most Irish nationalists believe that there is no contradiction in me being both Irish and British? Would most British people? These are still the building blocks of the Republic’s national identity in a way that Britishness does not require, in your opinion because it is a weaker, more airy fairy notion. In my opinion that is not necessarily the case. I believe it can be a great strength.

“Britishness is a label: it is an identity, you cannot escape it however much you wish. You can certainly avoid defining it in terms of race but even adherence to a code or an institution is an identity in itself.”

Naturally Britishness is an identity and a label. That does not mean that it must define itself by indicators which nationalists require. Why do nationalists constantly argue the inauthenticity of Britishness? Because it lacks clear indicators which nationalists look for. It is overarching and inexclusive. It permits much easier access than traditional nationalist identities.

“This is the fundamental question. Everything flows from sovereignty. Who rules us? Common identity, common history has to be a part of that, because countries need glue that bind them together. It's not the whole story, but even the UK needs it. Hence the debate on how to cultivate a sense of "Britishness". Again I feel you are confusing identity with ethnicity. The US has a powerful nationalism that is driven by values and institutions that encompasses different races and subcultures, but it a nationalism all the same.”

I am certainly not confusing identity with ethnicity. Few nationalisms are now prescribed exclusively by ethnicity, but ethnicity certainly feeds powerfully into the idea of a unitary people which sustains much nationalism, especially in Europe.

“I cannot see how this argument can be sustained. The rise of Nationalism coincides with a loss of British identity, which is driven by a fall in shared institutions that helped shape that identity: Protestantism, Empire, external threat. It isn't the only driver, but it is and remains a powerful force.”

The rise of nationalism coincides with diminished institutions alright. Necessarily it coincides with a loss of British identity as nationalism demands a repudiation of British identity. None of that makes nationalism the principle driver behind the UK.

kensei said...

To deal briefly with Europe, I am not arguing that ROI is any more intrinsically anti-EU than anywhere else. I am merely pointing out that the Republic’s engagement with the EU does not diminish the nationalist character of that state.

It might not diminish the character, but it does evolve and enhance it. Ireland of today is not Ireland of 20 years ago, nevermind 590.

British Unionists are often as nationalist, indeed more so. Save the pound!

But the conception of who you are and where you come from is often invented and simplified in order to fit the narrative of the ‘nation’.

The UK is certainly not exempt from that,either.

The strands of culture, common origin, history and so on are necessarily prescriptive and exclusive.

To an extent. It is impossible to draw a line around one group without leaving people outside it. If you define "British", then you implicitly define "not British".

Would most Irish nationalists believe that there is no contradiction in me being both Irish and British? Would most British people?

I don't think that is where the problem lies. I think most Nationalists are capable of accepting you can be both. I think they are also completely capable of understanding that dual identities are not necessarily equally important, and by doing so you've drawn another line separating yourselves from us. And - this is the key point - how that is applied to the question of sovereignty and rule exposes a key difference that goes past simply identity issues.

These are still the building blocks of the Republic’s national identity in a way that Britishness does not require, in your opinion because it is a weaker, more airy fairy notion. In my opinion that is not necessarily the case. I believe it can be a great strength.

I didn't say it was a necessarily a weaker notion. I said it was weakening: surely beyond doubt at the present, if nothing else.

When this debate comes up, the building blocks of Britishness inevitably turn to shared history, shared culture, shared circumstance, shared values. Those that feel or are labeled as excluded are fingered a slacking in one or more of these categories. The best arguments are the ones that say that those elements can expand to encompass new things, rather than those that say those indicators do not matter.

Naturally Britishness is an identity and a label. That does not mean that it must define itself by indicators which nationalists require. Why do nationalists constantly argue the inauthenticity of Britishness? Because it lacks clear indicators which nationalists look for. It is overarching and inexclusive. It permits much easier access than traditional nationalist identities.

It has little to do with indicators. If Britishness is inorganic, then it is manufactured - usually to allow the influence of those outside organic identity or constructs to have influence where normally they would not. If it is imposed rather than accepted, it acts as a point of friction. Second, the introduction of another layer is not necessarily a process of addition: it also requires us to give something up that we may not be willing to give. Aside from the big things, like Scotland losing its Parliament at the time of Union, it may act to suppress or suffocate the subidentities that make it up. It also increases the democratic distance between the people and the ultimate power.

In terms of easier access, I'm not necessarily convinced it acts much more than a crutch. Plenty of studies show that many second generation immigrants feel more "British" than "English". So they become strangers in their own country. It strikes me as a get out and avoiding the issue.

The rise of nationalism coincides with diminished institutions alright. Necessarily it coincides with a loss of British identity as nationalism demands a repudiation of British identity. None of that makes nationalism the principle driver behind the UK.

Which seems to me to miss the link between institution, experience and identity. And part of the problem for the Union at the moment is no one can articulate much use or particularly drivers for it, certainly at the top political level.

Chekov said...

“It might not diminish the character, but it does evolve and enhance it. Ireland of today is not Ireland of 20 years ago, nevermind 590.”

I would not deny that involvement in the EU has enhanced Ireland, both north and south.

“British Unionists are often as nationalist, indeed more so. Save the pound!”

There were sound economic reasons to save the pound. Had the ROI’s currency been as strong and influential as sterling the Euro debate would’ve been much harder to win.

“The UK is certainly not exempt from that,either.”

It is not. But it developed in most part prior to modern nationalism and therefore evaded the most self-conscious excesses of ‘nation building’.

“To an extent. It is impossible to draw a line around one group without leaving people outside it. If you define "British", then you implicitly define "not British".”

Yes you do. But if you insist on a broader definition inevitably you will exclude less people who wish to access that identity. The Russian language is instructive in its treatment of the subtleties of national identity. There are two terms which mean ‘Russian’. Russki denotes ethnically Russian people, Rossiyane denotes citizens of Russia. Britishness is firmly within the latter reading of identity; nationalism generally understands identity as something more akin to the former.

“I don't think that is where the problem lies. I think most Nationalists are capable of accepting you can be both. I think they are also completely capable of understanding that dual identities are not necessarily equally important, and by doing so you've drawn another line separating yourselves from us. And - this is the key point - how that is applied to the question of sovereignty and rule exposes a key difference that goes past simply identity issues.”

Well I do think there is a problem inherent here. Nationalism might accept that I can call myself Irish, but it is also insistent that that identity is pretty much worthless (and certainly is not being fully realised) unless it enjoys political expression. I accord worth to that identity because it partially defines me in a cultural and geographical sense. I can access that identity (and others) without it/them necessarily corresponding to my political identity (although it/they might).

“I didn't say it was a necessarily a weaker notion. I said it was weakening: surely beyond doubt at the present, if nothing else.”

Weakened yes, continuing to weaken, not necessarily.

“When this debate comes up, the building blocks of Britishness inevitably turn to shared history, shared culture, shared circumstance, shared values. Those that feel or are labeled as excluded are fingered a slacking in one or more of these categories. The best arguments are the ones that say that those elements can expand to encompass new things, rather than those that say those indicators do not matter.”

I haven’t argued that those things do not matter.

“It has little to do with indicators. If Britishness is inorganic, then it is manufactured - usually to allow the influence of those outside organic identity or constructs to have influence where normally they would not.”

No national identity is organic. Nationality is a manufactured concept.

“If it is imposed rather than accepted, it acts as a point of friction. Second, the introduction of another layer is not necessarily a process of addition: it also requires us to give something up that we may not be willing to give. Aside from the big things, like Scotland losing its Parliament at the time of Union, it may act to suppress or suffocate the subidentities that make it up. It also increases the democratic distance between the people and the ultimate power.”

Firstly the UK, and by extension Britishness, is currently not imposed on any of its four constituent parts. Each part remains a willing participant. You might argue this will not continue to be the case, but at the moment it is. Secondly every process of state building, every political institution will involve ceding some level of sovereignty for the greater good. That is the nature of societies, never mind states. In the first instance people may not be prepared to give things up (see the Lisbon Treaty), but a much more compelling argument is needed to break up an established state.

“In terms of easier access, I'm not necessarily convinced it acts much more than a crutch. Plenty of studies show that many second generation immigrants feel more "British" than "English". So they become strangers in their own country. It strikes me as a get out and avoiding the issue.”

Non sequitur. This simply means that ‘British’, with the accessibility it offers, is more meaningful in terms of self-definition for these people. They are not strangers in their own country because they feel British.

kensei said...

There were sound economic reasons to save the pound.

The debate on the Euro in the UK has convinced me the economic case can largely be made depending on ideological view. And that wasn't the undercurrent behind the campaign.

It is not. But it developed in most part prior to modern nationalism and therefore evaded the most self-conscious excesses of ‘nation building’.

Now that is overreach. You could possibly argue it was more interested in Empire building than "Nation building", but nationalist sentiment ran as strongly in the UK as anywhere else in the early 20th century. England in fact, contained possibly the first modern nationalism. King and country motivated men in Britain long before multiculturalism was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

Britishness is firmly within the latter reading of identity; nationalism generally understands identity as something more akin to the former.

No that's strictly ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism takes the latter view. Most countries are a mix of both.

Well I do think there is a problem inherent here. Nationalism might accept that I can call myself Irish, but it is also insistent that that identity is pretty much worthless (and certainly is not being fully realised) unless it enjoys political expression.

It isn't worthless, but we simply look at and wonder what worth it is to you: most Unionists don't seem to have a use for it, could well get upset if you suggest they are Irish and don't define their cultural, much less political expression in that way - it's "Ulster" or "Ulster Scots" - and often define themselves in complete opposition to Nationalist Irishness. Where is the overlap between your Irishness and mine? Or is this simply a function of living here, but a disjoint set? Honest question, because if we can't answer that then I'll have a bloody hard time convincing anyone of the merits of a United Ireland.

I accord worth to that identity because it partially defines me in a cultural and geographical sense. I can access that identity (and others) without it/them necessarily corresponding to my political identity (although it/they might).

And that is important. Why do you want the SE of England to make your laws? Beyond all questions of identity, it seems undignified and likely to leave you worse off. That strikes deeper than simply identity politics.

Weakened yes, continuing to weaken, not necessarily.

Trend like is runnig one way at the moment. Show me some signs otherwise, and I'll give you it.

I haven’t argued that those things do not matter.

But you do suggest they should be underplayed when discussing Unionism. They remain powerful forces.

No national identity is organic. Nationality is a manufactured concept.

I don't agree. Nationalism rose from the bottom up. It is sustained from the bottom up. It cannot be imposed from the top down, no matter how much you'd like it to. Brown is illustrating this perfectly at the moment.

Firstly the UK, and by extension Britishness, is currently not imposed on any of its four constituent parts. Each part remains a willing participant. You might argue this will not continue to be the case, but at the moment it is.

I'm not so sure that having 40%+ of the population opposed and a small majority holding the line is easily described as willing.

Secondly every process of state building, every political institution will involve ceding some level of sovereignty for the greater good. That is the nature of societies, never mind states. In the first instance people may not be prepared to give things up (see the Lisbon Treaty), but a much more compelling argument is needed to break up an established state.

The compelling arguments remain the same: control of sovereignty, better, more reflective governance, a more cohesive state, greater protection of rights and freedoms and so on. You may disagree, but nationalism and republicanism stretches beyond the identity as much as unionism.

Non sequitur. This simply means that ‘British’, with the accessibility it offers, is more meaningful in terms of self-definition for these people. They are not strangers in their own country because they feel British.

And they are surrounded by English and Scottish people. They are kept separated out, different where I feel they would be better accept accepted as the same as their neighbours. I can see the arguments for the other approach, but I personally don't like them.

Chekov said...

“The debate on the Euro in the UK has convinced me the economic case can largely be made depending on ideological view. And that wasn't the undercurrent behind the campaign.”

The most compelling reasons offered as to why the UK should remain outside the Eurozone were economic.

“Now that is overreach. You could possibly argue it was more interested in Empire building than "Nation building", but nationalist sentiment ran as strongly in the UK as anywhere else in the early 20th century. England in fact, contained possibly the first modern nationalism. King and country motivated men in Britain long before multiculturalism was a twinkle in anyone's eye.”

The fact remains that a self-conscious exercise of inventing the nation did not take place. Which in my eyes means that adherence to the state is a more organic construct than anything born out of 19th century romantic nationalism.

“No that's strictly ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism takes the latter view. Most countries are a mix of both.”

That mix varies considerably and it leans considerably towards ethnic nationalism in small countries like Ireland, Latvia, Croatia etc.

“It isn't worthless, but we simply look at and wonder what worth it is to you: most Unionists don't seem to have a use for it, could well get upset if you suggest they are Irish and don't define their cultural, much less political expression in that way - it's "Ulster" or "Ulster Scots" - and often define themselves in complete opposition to Nationalist Irishness. Where is the overlap between your Irishness and mine? Or is this simply a function of living here, but a disjoint set? Honest question, because if we can't answer that then I'll have a bloody hard time convincing anyone of the merits of a United Ireland.”

Certainly there is little overlap when you present Irishness as necessarily a nationalist phenomenon. Culturally I would imagine we could find a fair bit of common ground that could be characterised as distinctively Irish.

“And that is important. Why do you want the SE of England to make your laws? Beyond all questions of identity, it seems undignified and likely to leave you worse off. That strikes deeper than simply identity politics.”

The SE of England doesn’t make my laws. Parliament is based in the SE of England, that is all.

“Trend like is runnig one way at the moment. Show me some signs otherwise, and I'll give you it.”

Actually polls have shown reasonably steady support for the Union over the past 10 years.

“But you do suggest they should be underplayed when discussing Unionism. They remain powerful forces.”

That isn’t where the emphasis should lie.

“I don't agree. Nationalism rose from the bottom up. It is sustained from the bottom up. It cannot be imposed from the top down, no matter how much you'd like it to. Brown is illustrating this perfectly at the moment.”

Nationalism manifestly did not rise from the bottom up! Was it Gellner who said nations do not create nationalists, nationalists create nations, or something similar? The self-conception of a nation is an intellectual work and it is invariably shaped by an intellectual elite.

“I'm not so sure that having 40%+ of the population opposed and a small majority holding the line is easily described as willing.”

Obviously you can only be referring to Northern Ireland. Neither Scotland not Wales has near 40% opposed to the Union.

kensei said...

The most compelling reasons offered as to why the UK should remain outside the Eurozone were economic.

You never got the impression by the end that the "Five Tests" were a smoke screen for political expedience? There were good economic arguments against, but equally good economic reasons for.

The fact remains that a self-conscious exercise of inventing the nation did not take place. Which in my eyes means that adherence to the state is a more organic construct than anything born out of 19th century romantic nationalism.

The truth is somewhat in the middle. Scotland and England were always considered two separate nations, and in a more democratic age I sincerely doubt that the Union of Parliament would have passed. The Union was ultimately successful because there was a basis for organic growth to occur. And the Victorian age, and One Nation Toryism helped cement it. Contrast the experience in Ireland, where it failed because it sufficient organic basis to grow together, indeed forces tend to pull them apart.

That mix varies considerably and it leans considerably towards ethnic nationalism in small countries like Ireland, Latvia, Croatia etc.

Which is a simplistic line taken only because it supports your preferred mode of governance. There is a strong element of ethnic nationalism within Ireland: the country has been monoethnic until recently (not helped by partition, I may add). But to discount the tradition that comes through Tone, The Young Irelanders and others, and the embedded success of the Constitution, democracy and the courts is simply dismissive. The test I suppose, will be in dealing with the amount of new people that have come in. I have no doubt that civic nationalism will grow stronger to accommodate them. You suspect something else will occur?

Certainly there is little overlap when you present Irishness as necessarily a nationalist phenomenon. Culturally I would imagine we could find a fair bit of common ground that could be characterised as distinctively Irish.

Where? Language? Sports? Literature? Appreciation of success? There are a lot of historical overlap, but since partition? There has been divergence even if you look just within the Northern state.

The SE of England doesn’t make my laws. Parliament is based in the SE of England, that is all.

What SE England wants, SE England gets. Every man, woman and child in NI could be opposed to a measure, and it won't even register beyond the margin of error in UK wide opinion polls.

Actually polls have shown reasonably steady support for the Union over the past 10 years.

Something has clearly shifted in Scotland.

That isn’t where the emphasis should lie.

Perhaps not. But they are there, they do matter, and they do tend to undermine arguments of moral superiority over nationalisms.

Nationalism manifestly did not rise from the bottom up! Was it Gellner who said nations do not create nationalists, nationalists create nations, or something similar? The self-conception of a nation is an intellectual work and it is invariably shaped by an intellectual elite.

It seems to me they are mutually reinforcing. Nationalism did not appear out of nowhere. There were undoubtedly proto-nationalisms within Europe that nationalism tapped into.

In any case, this is a tautology. All ideas need some intellectual elite to help start the idea, and maintain direction. It is as true for supranational ideas as it is with nationalist ones. But the engine, the thing that drives it, has to come from the body of the people. Brown is clearly an intellectual. But his conception of "Britishness" is flounders.

Obviously you can only be referring to Northern Ireland. Neither Scotland not Wales has near 40% opposed to the Union.

Well here is obviously a place apart, as much as you'd like it otherwise. But I've seen polls in Scotland above 40%, though the opposition is nowhere like as harderened and the polls volatile. Something has clearly shifted there. How far, for how long and to what ultimate end I am not sure.

Chekov said...

“You never got the impression by the end that the "Five Tests" were a smoke screen for political expedience? There were good economic arguments against, but equally good economic reasons for.”

I got the impression that, had it been manifestly clear that GB would’ve benefited from the Euro, had the arguments been overwhelming, then the pound would’ve gone.

“Which is a simplistic line taken only because it supports your preferred mode of governance. There is a strong element of ethnic nationalism within Ireland: the country has been monoethnic until recently (not helped by partition, I may add). But to discount the tradition that comes through Tone, The Young Irelanders and others, and the embedded success of the Constitution, democracy and the courts is simply dismissive.”

And it’s rightly dismissive because those elements were unable to loose themselves from Catholic, Gaelic ethnic nationalism. Look at the IRA, a vehicle for republicanism, which claims to be secular and inclusive – a viciously sectarian outfit.

“The test I suppose, will be in dealing with the amount of new people that have come in. I have no doubt that civic nationalism will grow stronger to accommodate them. You suspect something else will occur?”

Perhaps not. But nevertheless I’m happier with the civic credentials of the UK than the emerging civic credentials of the Republic of Ireland.

“Where? Language? Sports? Literature? Appreciation of success? There are a lot of historical overlap, but since partition? There has been divergence even if you look just within the Northern state.”

There may be difference, there may be diversity, but there’s a good deal of common experience. Most Irish people north and south converse in a common language, watch the same sports, read the same literature to the extent that anyone does. I’m not sure what you’re driving at with ‘appreciation of success’. I’d say the overlap varies according to class and experience.

“What SE England wants, SE England gets. Every man, woman and child in NI could be opposed to a measure, and it won't even register beyond the margin of error in UK wide opinion polls.”

NI and other regions have actually benefited in terms of funding and the like. We’re actually over-represented at Westminster (or we would be if all our MPs would attend). The SE England has more people. And?

“Something has clearly shifted in Scotland.”

Well, no it hasn’t. It’s remained around the 30% mark when people are actually polled on the constitutional question.

“It seems to me they are mutually reinforcing. Nationalism did not appear out of nowhere. There were undoubtedly proto-nationalisms within Europe that nationalism tapped into.”

Of course there were elements of proto nationalism. That does not detract from the fact that there was a self-conscious process of nation building and nationalism created, rather than tapped into, nationalist sentiment, for the most part.

“In any case, this is a tautology. All ideas need some intellectual elite to help start the idea, and maintain direction. It is as true for supranational ideas as it is with nationalist ones. But the engine, the thing that drives it, has to come from the body of the people. Brown is clearly an intellectual. But his conception of "Britishness" is flounders.”

Nationalist ideas appeal to various needs which people have it is true. They appeal to populism, they are not driven by it, nor are they organic as you suggested. Brown’s conception of Britishness is neither here nor there. It is something which he brandishes in one hand whilst weakening the Union with the other. I know that the United Kingdom is as artificial an idea as any other, the difference is that I don’t accept that other ideas are more natural, more self-evident, more pre-determined, which is why I am not a nationalist. It’s a more honest position. Britishness is invented. So what? So are all nationalities.

kensei said...

I got the impression that, had it been manifestly clear that GB would’ve benefited from the Euro, had the arguments been overwhelming, then the pound would’ve gone.

You don't think the Mail would have ran a "Save the Pound" campaign even in that case? In real life, you rarely get clear cut decisions. You get a jumble and have to make your best judgment. You can easily make a case either way for the UK in the Euro.

And it’s rightly dismissive because those elements were unable to loose themselves from Catholic, Gaelic ethnic nationalism. Look at the IRA, a vehicle for republicanism, which claims to be secular and inclusive – a viciously sectarian outfit.

I don't agree that those institutions did not loose themselves from purely ethnic nationalism, and it is certainly completely untrue over the course of the past 15 years. If the majority of people in a state are the one race, creed, and culture, then politics will reflect that. But I don't believe there was an attempt to suppress anyone else. There is not moral equivalence with the North.

I could equally point to a number of miscarriages of justices within the British system up to quite late in the day that had at their heart more than a little bit of ethnic prejudice at the heart of it.

Program on the other week - interview with Jim Davidson showing clips. As late as the 80's he was doing racist skits. That has changed, thankfully. So has Ireland.

The IRA killed a lot of Catholics too. It wasn't driven by sectarianism, but it was certainly infected with it. No doubt you'll come back with some retort about defending the IRA. It'd be to miss the point.

There may be difference, there may be diversity, but there’s a good deal of common experience. Most Irish people north and south converse in a common language, watch the same sports, read the same literature to the extent that anyone does. I’m not sure what you’re driving at with ‘appreciation of success’. I’d say the overlap varies according to class and experience.

"To the extent that anyone does". Both liking football does not constitute an overlapping culture.


NI and other regions have actually benefited in terms of funding and the like. We’re actually over-represented at Westminster (or we would be if all our MPs would attend). The SE England has more people. And?

Overrepresented and still no influence. We've been able to free ride rather than try to achieve ourselves. Great. Manchester might have a higher population, but it isn't supposedly a coequal part of a larger whole. In the US, Kansas gets as many Senators as New York. But you're content to bend over and take what you are given. It's undignified.

Well, no it hasn’t. It’s remained around the 30% mark when people are actually polled on the constitutional question.

Which is to ignore the polls you don't like because of x,y,z. The polls are volatile. They weren't before. I am of course, happy for you to bury your head.

Of course there were elements of proto nationalism. That does not detract from the fact that there was a self-conscious process of nation building and nationalism created, rather than tapped into, nationalist sentiment, for the most part.

That's simply assertion. The UK government presented an alternative to nationalism at the turn of the last century. More forcefully, in a number of ways. the stronger, more organic idea won out.

I know that the United Kingdom is as artificial an idea as any other, the difference is that I don’t accept that other ideas are more natural, more self-evident, more pre-determined, which is why I am not a nationalist. It’s a more honest position. Britishness is invented. So what? So are all nationalities.

Actually, you do argue that Unionism is somehow inherently a morally stronger or more self evident position. If you have moved from that, quite happy.

Chekov said...

“In real life, you rarely get clear cut decisions. You get a jumble and have to make your best judgment. You can easily make a case either way for the UK in the Euro.”

Exactly. Which means that you cannot present British opposition to the Euro as manifestly an instance of nationalism, because actually much of the argument was based on economics.

“I don't agree that those institutions did not loose themselves from purely ethnic nationalism, and it is certainly completely untrue over the course of the past 15 years. If the majority of people in a state are the one race, creed, and culture, then politics will reflect that. But I don't believe there was an attempt to suppress anyone else. There is not moral equivalence with the North.”

But the state was built around one race, creed and culture.

“I could equally point to a number of miscarriages of justices within the British system up to quite late in the day that had at their heart more than a little bit of ethnic prejudice at the heart of it.”

And I would reply that those miscarriages took place in the extreme circumstances of a vicious ethnic / sectarian campaign.

“The IRA killed a lot of Catholics too. It wasn't driven by sectarianism, but it was certainly infected with it. No doubt you'll come back with some retort about defending the IRA. It'd be to miss the point.”

Whatever drove it, its methods were viciously sectarian.

“"To the extent that anyone does". Both liking football does not constitute an overlapping culture.”

And what does constitute overlapping culture then? Is it speaking Irish, playing GAA and carrying an Irish passport?

“Overrepresented and still no influence. We've been able to free ride rather than try to achieve ourselves. Great. Manchester might have a higher population, but it isn't supposedly a coequal part of a larger whole. In the US, Kansas gets as many Senators as New York. But you're content to bend over and take what you are given. It's undignified.”

Westminster is a unitary democratic parliament. It’s a very simple concept.

“Which is to ignore the polls you don't like because of x,y,z. The polls are volatile. They weren't before. I am of course, happy for you to bury your head.”

I’m working from polls which ask a clear and honest question.

“That's simply assertion. The UK government presented an alternative to nationalism at the turn of the last century. More forcefully, in a number of ways. the stronger, more organic idea won out.”

I must’ve missed the United Kingdom splitting up along ‘organic’, nationalist lines.

“Actually, you do argue that Unionism is somehow inherently a morally stronger or more self evident position. If you have moved from that, quite happy.”

But I’m not arguing from a position of competing nationalisms. I’m not arguing that ‘my nationality is more authentic / right’ than yours. I’m arguing the benefits, strengths, nuances which the UK offers and which Britishness affords.

kensei said...

Exactly. Which means that you cannot present British opposition to the Euro as manifestly an instance of nationalism, because actually much of the argument was based on economics.

I can present it as such, because it was a big part of the campaign that was run: and it's a big part of the opposition to Europe in general. It is by no means the exclusive issue, but then I never said it was.

But the state was built around one race, creed and culture.

It only had one. You opted out. Not a lot of other options, realistically.

And I would reply that those miscarriages took place in the extreme circumstances of a vicious ethnic / sectarian campaign.

That is neither here nor there, frankly.

Whatever drove it, its methods were viciously sectarian.

Hmmmm. Skeptical of that. A car bomb in the centre of Belfast or London isn't sectarian. They would have been quite happy to shoot a Catholic RUC man or Soldier in the head. It helped there weren't many, but sectarianism isn't sufficient explanation.

And what does constitute overlapping culture then? Is it speaking Irish, playing GAA and carrying an Irish passport?

To an extent yes. There has to be some basis of shared experience, shared outlook. Ultimately, Irish Catholic life is not so different regardless of which side of the border you live on. It isn't so much speaking Irish as a vague affection for it or having trouble with it as school. Less Catholicism per se, but the life experiences and people that go with it. Some of that is "ethnic", some of that is cultural. less the passport, than the ideals that lie behind it.

There are certain touchstones that being a Belfast man or living in the 6 give me that I probably share with Northern Prods. But more at a remove, and even then shared more like two teams playing a game than being part of the same team.

Unionism as constituted currently is roughly opposed to every aspect of the first paragraph. If we are both "Irish", where do we agree, other than perhaps the rugby team? Happy to try to be more accommodating, but what is it you want to bring, exactly?

Westminster is a unitary democratic parliament. It’s a very simple concept.

Funny enough, I'm aware how it works. I know dictatorship works to, but that really isn't the point.

I’m working from polls which ask a clear and honest question.

You're taking a subjective view.

I must’ve missed the United Kingdom splitting up along ‘organic’, nationalist lines.

I was referring to Ireland. I have already conceded it was somewhat different in other parts. But hey, keep waiting, shouldn't be too long.

But I’m not arguing from a position of competing nationalisms. I’m not arguing that ‘my nationality is more authentic / right’ than yours. I’m arguing the benefits, strengths, nuances which the UK offers and which Britishness affords.

Except you are. I know you believe you aren't, but it is exactly what you are doing. You may hold perfectly rational arguments on a range of issues that you think proves Unionism is superior. But that is different from an inherent morally superiority.

Chekov said...

“I can present it as such, because it was a big part of the campaign that was run: and it's a big part of the opposition to Europe in general. It is by no means the exclusive issue, but then I never said it was.”

Ok then. You can present it as such, but then you’d be wrong and your point would be moot.

“It only had one. You opted out. Not a lot of other options, realistically.”

The state it seceded from was not so monolithic. So there were plenty of options.

“That is neither here nor there, frankly.”

Yes it is. It is contextually vital.

“Hmmmm. Skeptical of that. A car bomb in the centre of Belfast or London isn't sectarian. They would have been quite happy to shoot a Catholic RUC man or Soldier in the head. It helped there weren't many, but sectarianism isn't sufficient explanation.”

Just because every murder committed was not sectarian did not lessen the sectarian aspect of the campaign.

“To an extent yes. There has to be some basis of shared experience, shared outlook. Ultimately, Irish Catholic life is not so different regardless of which side of the border you live on. It isn't so much speaking Irish as a vague affection for it or having trouble with it as school. Less Catholicism per se, but the life experiences and people that go with it. Some of that is "ethnic", some of that is cultural. less the passport, than the ideals that lie behind it.”

It is purely and simply a prescriptive reading of identity.

“Unionism as constituted currently is roughly opposed to every aspect of the first paragraph. If we are both "Irish", where do we agree, other than perhaps the rugby team? Happy to try to be more accommodating, but what is it you want to bring, exactly?”

There are a host of commonalities but they aren’t within the prescribed selection which you want to focus on. You can’t find anything which you have in common with unionists whereas ironically Aidan on his blog says he finds a host of things which he has in common with ‘northern unionists’.

kensei said...

Ok then. You can present it as such, but then you’d be wrong and your point would be moot.

No I wouldn't. You cannot seriously argue that economics was the only argument behind the rejection of the Euro. It's so easily refuted: simply read a right wing paper of the time.

The state it seceded from was not so monolithic. So there were plenty of options.

At the time, it was a different kind of monolith; and quite content to teach Irishmen that they should be good Englishmen. Ireland was no more particularly diverse then than it is now, either. It simply supported two cultures on a bigger area.

Yes it is. It is contextually vital.

I believe you were telling em earlier that context does not excuse, and we can't escape responsibility for our actions. That blade cuts both ways.

Just because every murder committed was not sectarian did not lessen the sectarian aspect of the campaign.

Did the IRA appear overnight, deciding suddenly to kill Prods for no other reason than they were Prods? No. The IRA grew out of a time and context, and it had political goals. There was an certainly an aspect of sectarianism but that's what it is - an aspect, and not the whole. The focus on sectarianism is understandable, but it is an attempt to escape any culpability for what happened over the past 30 years, and to push blame on t'other side.

Again, I'm not defending the action, I don't believe violence was justified beyond perhaps defending one's homes at the start. But it is important to try and understand motivations, to try and prevent things happening again. You could do similar for the British or the Loyalists.

It is purely and simply a prescriptive reading of identity.

No, it is not. To share an identity requires you to share some of it's constituent parts. I am merely trying to ascertain what you think that this; where are the points of intersection lie.

There are a host of commonalities but they aren’t within the prescribed selection which you want to focus on.

I'm not prescribing anything. I am merely stating a fact: common history, common outlook, common culture are all part of a common identity. I didn't say it's the be all and end all. But a unique identity must have some unique aspects: it's not enough to say people like football, or follow certain English or Scottish teams. It's a point of commonality, but it extends beyond Ireland, and even well beyond the UK.

You can’t find anything which you have in common with unionists whereas ironically Aidan on his blog says he finds a host of things which he has in common with ‘northern unionists’.

I shall have to read it. I'm honestly not interested in what I think. I already know it very well. I'm interested in what you think.

Chekov said...

“No I wouldn't. You cannot seriously argue that economics was the only argument behind the rejection of the Euro. It's so easily refuted: simply read a right wing paper of the time.”

I can argue that it was the main argument. The Euro is in no way prima facie evidence for a nationalist impulse behind the UK.

“At the time, it was a different kind of monolith; and quite content to teach Irishmen that they should be good Englishmen. Ireland was no more particularly diverse then than it is now, either. It simply supported two cultures on a bigger area.”

Ireland has neither grown nor has it shrunk.

“I believe you were telling em earlier that context does not excuse, and we can't escape responsibility for our actions. That blade cuts both ways.”

Context does not provide an excuse. It explains why mistakes were made.

“Did the IRA appear overnight, deciding suddenly to kill Prods for no other reason than they were Prods? No. The IRA grew out of a time and context, and it had political goals. There was an certainly an aspect of sectarianism but that's what it is - an aspect, and not the whole. The focus on sectarianism is understandable, but it is an attempt to escape any culpability for what happened over the past 30 years, and to push blame on t'other side.”

The focus on sectarianism is an attempt to highlight that secular versions of Irish nationalism did not prevail. The ethnic / sectarian aspect was inseparable,

“No, it is not. To share an identity requires you to share some of it's constituent parts. I am merely trying to ascertain what you think that this; where are the points of intersection lie.”

But you’ve already tried to prescribe which points you believe are admissible for discussion!

“I'm not prescribing anything. I am merely stating a fact: common history, common outlook, common culture are all part of a common identity. I didn't say it's the be all and end all. But a unique identity must have some unique aspects: it's not enough to say people like football, or follow certain English or Scottish teams. It's a point of commonality, but it extends beyond Ireland, and even well beyond the UK.”

And you believe that we do not share a common history or aspects of the same culture. You think that Irish unionists do not access the same history, literature, music or whatever for the simple reason that the political culture is not the same and because there are also cultural differences. Well I beg to differ.

I come from a background where people were quite comfortable accessing Yeats as part of a common culture, watched Synge or O’Casey, travelled to Dublin to shop / watch rugby / go out or whatever, went to Donegal on their holidays, read Irish history as their own (albeit interpreting it differently). By the same token accessing British culture as our own as well.

kensei said...

I can argue that it was the main argument. The Euro is in no way prima facie evidence for a nationalist impulse behind the UK.

I think we're into the realms of subjectivity here. Talk of losing freedom or control of your destiny and flag waving as the Tories did in 2001 does not strike me as primarily economic. But you are refuting claims grander than I make. I simply state that it exists, and it remains a powerful force.

Ireland has neither grown nor has it shrunk.

We're discussing the pre-partition state. Tinker with words as you see fit. You get the point.

Context does not provide an excuse. It explains why mistakes were made.

So we agree those miscarriages of justice were unforgivable? Excellent.

The focus on sectarianism is an attempt to highlight that secular versions of Irish nationalism did not prevail. The ethnic / sectarian aspect was inseparable,

That makes a number of assumptions, one of which is that the argument ended.

But you’ve already tried to prescribe which points you believe are admissible for discussion!

I merely offered suggestions.

And you believe that we do not share a common history or aspects of the same culture. You think that Irish unionists do not access the same history, literature, music or whatever for the simple reason that the political culture is not the same and because there are also cultural differences. Well I beg to differ.

I didn't say what I believed. At the moment am choosing not to assume, because I want to find things out.

I come from a background where people were quite comfortable accessing Yeats as part of a common culture, watched Synge or O’Casey, travelled to Dublin to shop / watch rugby / go out or whatever, went to Donegal on their holidays, read Irish history as their own (albeit interpreting it differently). By the same token accessing British culture as our own as well.

Alright then, I'll change the question. I've read and watched Shakespeare, and can appreciate it, but it isn't "ours" so to speak. Can you appreciate Yeats as one of yours? Is this true of modern Irish authors or playrights, or only ones pre or around partition? When Harrington wins the Open, do you class that a source of Irish pride, or is it success for another place. Etc?

And why do Unionists tend to set themselves in opposition to so much of Nationalist culture?

Chekov said...

“Alright then, I'll change the question. I've read and watched Shakespeare, and can appreciate it, but it isn't "ours" so to speak. Can you appreciate Yeats as one of yours?”

Well I don’t accept the distinction between ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ for a start. In so far as Yeats was an Irishman (Anglo Irish specifically) he is part of a culture which is partly mine, which I can subscribe to. I would say the same about Shakespeare.

“Is this true of modern Irish authors or playrights, or only ones pre or around partition? When Harrington wins the Open, do you class that a source of Irish pride, or is it success for another place. Etc?”

It is true of modern authors and playwrights. I believe there is a post celebrating Harrington’s victory on this blog. In the comments zone a Scots-resident Rangers supporter from Glengormley remarks, “And the fact that he is Irish makes it even better”.

“And why do Unionists tend to set themselves in opposition to so much of Nationalist culture?”

Well I think you’ve provided the answer by specifying ‘nationalist culture’ as opposed merely to ‘Irish culture’. ‘Nationalist culture’ has acquired an inextricable association with a political cause which unionists oppose. Of course opposing things which have acquired that association is not necessarily the brightest position for unionists to adopt, but emotionally that is the reason. As nationalists have sequestered more and more culture which might be defined as ‘Irish’ and linked it to their political position, so unionists have become more estranged from those things.

Chekov said...

"n so far as Yeats was an Irishman (Anglo Irish specifically) he is part of a culture which is partly mine"

part of a culture which is part of mine.

Gary said...

This explains it perfectly for me (THEIR OWN CULTURE), thank you......

“And why do Unionists tend to set themselves in opposition to so much of NATIONALIST culture?”

"Well I think you’ve provided the answer by specifying ‘nationalist culture’ as opposed merely to ‘Irish culture’. ‘Nationalist culture’ has acquired an inextricable association with a political cause which unionists oppose. Of course opposing things which have acquired that association is not necessarily the brightest position for unionists to adopt, but emotionally that is the reason. As nationalists have sequestered more and more culture which might be defined as ‘Irish’ and linked it to their political position, so unionists have become more estranged from those things"


Also Can I just say, I'm not quite as good with politics, culture, etc as you guys seem to be. However, going back a bit on this thread someone mentioned about 40+% opposed to the Union? When did we have a border poll? I must have missed that one. I assume you are going by the sectarian/tribal head count at election time? Voting for a party that one would associate with nationalism does not automatically equate a vote for the dissolution of the border. Think there needs to be small print whenever someone throws in comments like that to prop up their own political belief.



Anyway interesting debate guys but probably beyond my ability.

Chekov said...

Of course you're exactly right Gary. You're also very modest! ;-)

kensei said...

Firs up, interesting though in my experience there is once again a certain atypical quality to it.

Well I think you’ve provided the answer by specifying ‘nationalist culture’ as opposed merely to ‘Irish culture’. ‘Nationalist culture’ has acquired an inextricable association with a political cause which unionists oppose. Of course opposing things which have acquired that association is not necessarily the brightest position for unionists to adopt, but emotionally that is the reason. As nationalists have sequestered more and more culture which might be defined as ‘Irish’ and linked it to their political position, so unionists have become more estranged from those things.

The Nationalist population here is fairly uniform. Politics and culture inevitably get entwined, it would be almost impossible to keep them separate, particularly given the history where institutions of state where more or less set against them.

And I think that Unionism has ceded these things every bit as much as Nationalism has sequestered them. Unionism had more or less absolute power here for 50 years. It could have set policy for the Irish language, or St Patrick's Day parades or a range of other issues (tougher for the GAA, though) to its taste. It didn't. It demonstrated little interest. Sometime I get the suspicion that Unionism is more interesting in using their Irish aspect as a weapon more than anything else.

Third, I disagree that you must necessarily share in political goals to appreciate some expression that comes from it. Course, it helps, but if you block it out entirely then you've shut your mind.

Gary

Did your mother not tell you it's rude to address someone through another person?

This explains it perfectly for me (THEIR OWN CULTURE), thank you.....

Yes. You have a point here? Sometimes I make something or build something, and it's maybe not the best thing ever produced but I'm proud that I did it. Somethings come from Ireland, unique to the people there. They are ours. They are not necessarily the best thing ever, but it means something to us. It doesn't mean no one else can enjoy it. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy anything else. And there's fuck all sinister in it.

This is hardly unique. And given the acute bouts of Our Wee Countryitis I sometimes see coming out of Unionism here, definitely not unique to "our ones"

Voting for a party that one would associate with nationalism does not automatically equate a vote for the dissolution of the border.

Best guess we have. As and until we run that border poll, you can quote unreliable polling data, and I can quote verified votes for the parties that support the position. Have a nice day.

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