Hope And Glory

Reading the UK papers in the hotel restaurant this morning before walking to the office – through Guildford, a town so relentlessly charming that I described it to my wife as “a parody of a British town” – I come to a section in the Telegraph (which I understand is one of the more conservative papers) about patriotism as a response to 7/7.

They had a series of articles:

What does it mean to be British? – a set of reader comments
We want to sing Land of Hope and Glory
An opportunity to be British and proud of it

and finally,
Ten core values of the British identity.It’s interesting to me; I’ve argued in the past that a form of constitutional patriotism is possibly the solvent for the “Bad Philosophy” that I believe enables terrorism – and particularly enables it among the disaffected young men who live in immigrant communities, and who are looking for something they can believe in in which they believe they can participate.

In America, things are somewhat different:

Salem Salamey is president of the Lebanese American Heritage Club, and a long-time resident of Dearborn. He says, “We have participated in the Memorial Day parade for the last 17 years. In fact, we are pretty close to beginning to lead that parade because every year we move up one slot. Of course, it’s a day of commemorating the fallen Americans who fell in the line of duty defending our values, American values of liberty, justice, equality and democracy.”

It’s funny, but that parallels pretty closely what the Telegraph suggests as the ten core values of British identity:

I. The rule of law. Our society is based on the idea that we all abide by the same rules, whatever our wealth or status. No one is above the law – not even the government.

II. The sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. The Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the land. There is no appeal to any higher jurisdiction, spiritual or temporal.

III. The pluralist state. Equality before the law implies that no one should be treated differently on the basis of belonging to a particular group. Conversely, all parties, sects, faiths and ideologies must tolerate the existence of their rivals.

IV. Personal freedom. There should be a presumption, always and everywhere, against state coercion. We should tolerate eccentricity in others, almost to the point of lunacy, provided no one else is harmed.

V. Private property. Freedom must include the freedom to buy and sell without fear of confiscation, to transfer ownership, to sign contracts and have them enforced. Britain was quicker than most countries to recognise this and became, in consequence, one of the happiest and most prosperous nations on Earth.

VI. Institutions. British freedom and British character are immanent in British institutions. These are not, mostly, statutory bodies, but spring from the way free individuals regulate each other’s conduct, and provide for their needs, without recourse to coercion.

VII. The family. Civic society depends on values being passed from generation to generation. Stable families are the essential ingredient of a stable society.

VIII. History. British children inherit a political culture, a set of specific legal rights and obligations, and a stupendous series of national achievements. They should be taught about these things.

IX. The English-speaking world. The atrocities of September 11, 2001, were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the anglosphere – on all of us who believe in freedom, justice and the rule of law.

X. The British character. Shaped by and in turn shaping our national institutions is our character as a people: stubborn, stoical, indignant at injustice. “The Saxon,” wrote Kipling, “never means anything seriously till he talks about justice and right.”

Not for the first time, we have been slow – perhaps too slow – to wake up to the threat we face. Now is the time to “talk about justice and right”, and to act on our words.

Interesting stuff.

And of course, I can’t get away without my daily N.Y. Times bash. From the Telegraph:

So what do foreign correspondents think of the British?

Sarah Lyall, of The New York Times, says: “It used to be about the stiff upper lip, cream teas and cricket, but all that changed after Princess Diana died. The British don’t have an obvious set of values now other than their knack for self-depreciation.”

Hmmm.

One thought on “Hope And Glory”

  1. You know, there are a few cultures, a few people throughout history to whom the whole human race owes a large debt of gratitude, because they created things with endurance beyond empires.

    The British are one of them, and these values both explain why and outline their lasting legacy to the world.

    I know it didn’t get a lot of comments, A.L., but file this post away in the back of your mind and refer to it every now and again. It’s what I call an “anchor post”.

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