Saturday, 9 March 2013

5 reasons why I'm not proud to be British

I am British. Everyone who I've seen on my family tree is British, therefore I am fully British. Am I proud of this? No, I'm not. The stereotypical Brit is a drunken football fan who is incapable of dressing according to the weather and looks down on other nationalities, perhaps as a result of the expansion of our former empire built through colonisation and the outcomes of World Wars I and II. I think it’s quite clear that this doesn't apply to the majority of Brits, but there are many aspects of Britain that hinder my pride for my nationality.

1. We don't care about the environment.

A worrying number of Brits still don't think that we need to recycle or can't be bothered. Apparently choosing the correct bin to put our rubbish in and emptying it is too much effort. This is a lot different in many other countries. In Germany and Finland people receive money for each bottle that they recycle. I think it’s sad that you need to pay people to recycle, although this has raised awareness of the importance of recycling and people using these systems now actually want to recycle other items. Recycling saves the energy (1 recycled tin can powers a television for 3 hours) that would be otherwise required to produce these items again. Production along with other polluting factors such as transport is increasing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which has caused the global temperature to rise. 

As a result, weather patterns have changed in some areas, which have had devastating effects such as increasing the number of natural disasters and causing complications in agriculture. It’s more than just the polar bears who are suffering. And guess what? The most affected areas are the underdeveloped countries in the global south. So whilst they struggle to survive, we experience little effects except slightly stranger weather patterns than usual and the lack of the ability to see the stars in the sky due to the smog lingering in big cities. Furthermore, many people believe that a change in global temperature is natural and has occurred throughout history. That is correct, but take a look at the graph below and then tell me that the current global temperature is natural.

Another thing is transportation. The legal age to start driving on public roads in the UK is 17. When I turned 17 I was suddenly surrounded by people who couldn't seem to stop talking about driving. Am I the only person who doesn't understand this fascination? Cars are now used to travel distances that could easily be travelled in a similar amount of time for a similar cost by train, bus or bike or even walked. Of course many people require a car to commute distances that may be otherwise difficult via public transport, but what I don't understand is why people use them when they don't really need them. I live in an area where the longest distance I need to travel is about 2 miles and I don't feel that need regular access to a car. People could be encouraged to take public transport instead, but the price of it in this country is ridiculous. 

As if transportation issues weren't bad enough, when you get to the local supermarket a large amount of the produce has been imported from abroad. Check the labels next time you go. Why do we buy tomatoes that have been grown in Spain when they can be grown in this country? Why are tomatoes imported from Spain cheaper than those grown in this country? Because the workers aren't paid a fair wage due to high demand for cheap goods. Realistically, are most people going to pay £2 for British tomatoes instead of £1 for Spanish tomatoes? Probably not, I don't, even though I care about the consequences. I can guarantee that every item we purchase and every choice we make will be somehow related to ethics and the environment. Nobody is perfect and everyone has their faults, but if we could all work together we could improve the world so much. I believe that this country should develop a long-term strategy to combat climate change through investing more in environmental alternatives such as recycling and public transport and educating people to appreciate them.

2. We don't care about politics either.

The proportion of the British public that vote in elections is decreasing rapidly. I'm sure that Emmeline Pankhurst (leader of the suffragette movement that fought for the vote for women in Britain) is turning in her grave knowing that women would rather stay in and watch Big Brother than get to the polling station to cast their vote for the future of the country. Speaking of which, almost twice as many votes were cast in Big Brother than the2003 local elections. Why is this happening? People think that politics doesn't affect them and don't see the point in voting as so many politicians are corrupt. Politics affect everyone living in the country somehow, whether it is the minimum wage, benefits, university fees or pension. Those who sit in the House of Commons are elected by the British public to represent our views. If we don't vote, how can they represent the country's views democratically? How can abstaining from voting change corruption in the government? If anything, not voting is allowing this corruption to continue. We can't really complain about the government if we don't participate in elections. If we use our vote wisely, campaign and demonstrate we can show our government how we feel about their behaviour and change how our views are being represented.

3. We want to leave the European Union because we have too many immigrants.

If we're concerned about national politics then surely we must be concerned about the impact of international politics upon our country. Similarly, if we're interested in international politics then surely we must be interested in our country's contribution and involvement. I can't understand how anyone can be interested in one and not the other. The expansion of international organisations such as the European Union has allowed greater freedom of movement across borders, thus encouraging migration. The media has the power to promote propaganda and indoctrinate its audience, which has led to ignorant attitudes and the intolerance of other cultures and languages. Many Brits claim that if we allow immigration, immigrants must have reasonable understanding of the English language, but if we travel to a country in which English is not spoken, the impacts of the sentiment upon our own abilities seem to be forgotten. 

Furthermore, immigrants are criticised for taking our benefits and jobs. Workers from abroad can't actually get benefits unless they are from a country within the European Economic Area, in which case they have the same rights a British citizen but must have been employed in the UK before receiving benefits. Many immigrants also work in unskilled professions that us Brits don't want to do, so why are we complaining? Coming to this country is probably far harder for the immigrants than it is for us to accommodate them. Some immigrants come here because their home country is poor or they are persecuted there due to political views, religion, or sexuality. But do they get treated sympathetically here? No. We interrogate them and judge them based on the spelling of their name or their accent no matter whether they speak good English or not. Hence applications for work, school and housing are all made much more complicated. 

I don't think this is at all justified and I happen to have many foreign friends because I find that they are so much more open-minded than the British. Some of them even have a more extensive vocabulary than me. What people seem to have forgotten is that the EU brings so much more to Britain than a so-called influx of immigrants. Some people complain that a large proportion of EU funding is going to countries that are suffering due to the Eurozone crisis, such as Spain and Greece. This is what the European Union is for - it’s a union. All the countries are members so we can support each other’s weaknesses and assist with development in these areas. I am a Spanish student and through the support of the EU's ERASMUS scheme I will be spending one year in Spain that will provide me with invaluable skills in communication and intercultural awareness that I would not otherwise not have. The EU also supports Britain in the development of numerous research and building projects. Without being a member of the EU we will no longer have that support. Similar to Spain and Greece, if we were in the midst of a crisis, I'm sure we would also require EU support.

4. We don't want to talk.

There are too many topics that are taboo. The British can't have a conversation about religion, politics or the environment without somebody getting angry or offended. So, we turn to talking about the latest episode of The Only Way Is Essex or who is dating who in the world of celebrities. When the conversation moves in this direction I must seem oblivious because I don't have a clue what people are talking about. In all honesty I don't care how much Beyoncé’s latest dress cost her. I don't hear anyone gossiping about the jumper that I bought from Asda last week. This is why so many celebrities have a ridiculous amount of money and still act like imbeciles. We give them the fame and attention that they want and worship them like they're some kind of god. 

I'm not saying it’s easy for celebrities; on the contrary it must be very difficult to live with either a lack of privacy or constant criticism. Still, there are so many more things in the world that we need to be thinking about. I don't care if Rihanna has gone up a dress size. People in developing countries are probably less than size 0 because they don't even have enough to eat. Why can't we just listen to each other’s opinions without causing or taking offence and talk about something more meaningful?

In the words of P!nk: "Where have the smart people gone?"

5. Our education is dependent on our parents' income.

So where have the smart people gone? Well, one place they might not be going is university seeing as the government that promised us free tuition fees has now tripled them to £9,000 a year. This is incredibly expensive compared to other European countries in which some students pay 300 euros a year because their education is heavily subsidised by their government. I am a strong believer that education should not depend on where you are from, yet I cannot think of any education systems more expensive than the UK except the USA. If I lived in the USA, my future would be even more dependent on my parents' income; therefore I probably wouldn't be at university. 

We are constantly bombarded with news reports complaining about the excessive privileges of those on benefits, but what do we expect people to do if they aren't given a chance in education? I believe the controversy of benefits could be ended if the system used to distribute benefits was reformed so the people who need them get more and the people who receive them unnecessarily have them stopped.

I think that education is the answer to so many of Britain's issues. If people were educated to care for the environment, challenge everything they read, take an interest in national and international politics, tolerate other nationalities and religions and be open to discussing these issues then Britain would be so different to what it is today.


  1. Very interesting read - as soon as I saw the controversial title I was intrigued about what you had to say. Your argument is well articulated and is good to see you writing on this blog again :)

    However I think thankfully most of society ignores the embellished narrative that we will be overrun by immigrants perpetuated by certain media outlets. It is probably more to sell papers than a genuine concern that people have.

    I definitely agree people need more education, in particular to think more rationally, about immigration, politics and the environment. Hopefully the significant rise in the number of people going to university will help this as being a student forces you to evaluate your beliefs and convictions :)

    Obviously not everyone goes to uni as it is not right for them but the above trend will hopefully push the general media which influences everyone in a more favourable direction.

    1. Thanks :D

      You'd be surprised how many people actually believe what certain media outlets publish. It might not be so prominent when living and working in an educated atmosphere, but take a step outside and a significant amount of people do actually immediately believe what they see, hear and read despite being unable to defend their beliefs.

      I agree, I hope the educated masses will somehow control excessive biased media publications without moving too close to censorship.

  2. I am sure sadly there are many that do :(
    However there are many that also read the stuff and don't take much notice of it e.g. my grandparents, though thankfully they have now been persuaded to read a better newspaper than the Daily Mail :)

    People are resistant to change and tend to stick to getting the same paper for years even if it doesn't really agree with their views..