Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Integration v Preservation

Over the years, Britain has developed into one of the multi-cultural giants of the world. On our tiny little island, we have over 60 million people, split into the following ethnicities:

Britain has been known- almost infamous- for its lax immigration control, highlighted in the summer of 2011, which saw the end of Brodie Clarke, and the entrance of an unforeseen amount of illegal immigrants.
This, combined with a -usually- tolerant public, the glorified Human Rights Acts and a highly protective benefits system makes Britain a hotspot for immigration, and therefore a variety of ethnicities. We therefore should not be surprised that Britain, in all its history and culture and glory, is changing.

And on each side of the story are people fighting for a different country. There are those with their hearts in the past, wistful for a different society; perhaps, one could argue, a stronger, more collective and spiritually together one than our explosion of cultures allows us to preserve. But there are also those with more progressive ideologies, looking to a future with a more open mind, accepting of a change in cultural identity.
Ultimately, we will lose the classic image many preserve of this romantic past. Perhaps we will never again see innocent nurses dancing with brave young soldiers, or elderly couples sipping tea with their Yorkshire Terriers yapping playfully at their heels. Oh god, we can’t lose the tea...
Britain will change, just as the dramatic Tudors gave way to the more reserved Stewarts, and the classical Roman Empire fell apart to leave way for the Germanic Tribes and Byzantines. Progress is natural in an ever evolving world. As agricultural Britain was pushed aside by the Industrial revolution, there may have been moans and discomforts and dissatisfied citizens, but ultimately it bred the society we live in today, and all the beauty of the past. It didn’t stagnate. It flourished. Without the acceptance of new ideas you probably wouldn’t be able to read this article, because we wouldn’t have mass printing, free education or the internet. Mull that over for a minute.

Nostalgia for the past is common in everyone, and often goes back to a time in one’s childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. For this reason, younger people are often more accepting of changes to their culture than older people. They have less of this nostalgia to cling onto.
However, our vision of the past is anything put clear. Psychologists reveal that nostalgia is mainly displaced, and our memory, helpfully or not, often avoids moments of displeasure or pain. Try to remember your most painful moment. You can probably recall the occasion, but the specifics and details of the pain are quite indescribable. To fully understand your experience you would have to completely revisit it, and afterwards you would still fail to fully remember the physical details.

Furthermore, we usually resort to nostalgia at our most difficult moments. At these times, the past is obviously going to appear remarkably more beautiful than you could have described it at the time, because for a few moments, in comparison with a down time, your past is the most golden thing in the world.
The past also shines of prospects, freedom and youth. Even if you are remembering a moment that is truly bliss, and cannot comprehend a difficult childhood, this is often because of the joys that abandon us as we age. Childhood is, in reality, a time without responsibility or stress. Adolescence is the beginning of a future only you can shape. Regret is normally absent, and therefore these times can appear more perfect because of the stage you were at in your life.

For these reasons, those who discourage a progression and change in culture do so off a basis that is not necessarily trustworthy. It is easy for us to look back and see only greatness. When we really look back and see what our culture existed of back then, do we want to remain there? Can change really be that bad? Because each era had its faults and its imperfections, and the integration of different cultures into Britain cannot really destroy anything of huge consequence.
Different political parties have varying views on the integration of different races, and therefore different cultures, as is represented in their manifestos. Possibly the most close minded to the possibility of change is the BNP (British National Party), who’s ideology states that multiculturalism cannot work, as to integrate into a different culture, one or other of the two societies would have to lose their cultural identity. They accept other ethnicities existing in Britain on the grounds that they mould themselves to the British culture.

They do not, however, understand that no culture is clearly defined, and within it the people have the right to choose for themselves what traditions they will follow. If someone has moved into another country, surely they believe in its most fundamental laws, and therefore there is no problem? Small differences are exciting to debate, and often more personal than of cultural values.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Liberal Democrats, who are possibly the most open to the possibility of multiculturalism. Their leader, Nick Clegg, believes in engaging with difficult and different viewpoints, rather than ignoring them. He supports the integration of other cultures, not alienation.
Ultimately, by fighting crudely against multiculturalism, as many groups of people have-namely the EDL and BNP- Britain does not present itself as a society to preserve. No matter what its argument, racist assaults and offensive language is nothing but shameful, and to be used for any cause immediately defeats all purpose of the cause.

It isn’t just that change is inevitable, it can be welcomed! Integration comes with many benefits, such as a further understanding of varying beliefs, and a country full of exciting people. As long as all parties are willing to move together, and not stubbornly reject conformity and compromise we can allow for freedom of belief and prompt adaption. Conformity. A new collective can be formed, just as supportive as those of the past.
I believe that change is good. We won’t lose our culture, we’ll progress naturally into a fresher one as long as we work together. Ultimately, it is down to the individual to decide what their values are.

What do you think?

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