Five words just aren’t enough

Defining ourselves as British is irrelevant and exclusionary.

Five words are all it takes, apparently. Or so says a particular Mr Brown, whose recent campaign aims to hold the mystical unifying power of Britishness over us. Five words he decrees: five words by Brits for Brits that will hold us all together.

I have two main problems with his plan. Firstly, what does Britishness even mean in our increasingly multicultural society? Secondly, isn’t the whole exercise just another political gimmick? Akin perhaps to a nineteen year old MP or hugging a hoody?

It seems to me that Britishness is increasingly un-British. National pride is a little too brash and, frankly, a little too American to stand up against your average self-deprecating Briton. The stiff upper lip lives on; flashing a flag about is considered uncouth, even racist, and this is as true on campus as it is on a national level.

York University is in its most international year ever. When we have students of nearly a hundred different nationalities studying on one campus, a pre-occupation with Britishness doesn’t really come off as the happy group hug it was meant to be. Quite the opposite, in fact; it leaves international students feeling somewhat left out.

In addition to the exclusionary nature of this concept, it somehow seems irrelevant. We come away from home looking to expand our horizons. Students all over York are sitting in kitchens, drinking cheap wine, denying their middle-class upbringings and refuting their British identity. When we are increasingly concerned with reconciling our disparate backgrounds, why is Brown now dragging us back down?

And even if we do define Britishness in its increasingly multicultural sense – five words? I had trouble constraining my ramblings to this paltry three hundred. I’m sure Brown didn’t mean this exercise to be an end to the situation, but I’m so bored of the government over-simplifying complicated situations for us proles. People should be asked to address the issues in their entirety. Don’t just give me five words: that’s not even a useful starting point.

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