- . . (UK - Tradition and modernity. A personal view)



                UK- Tradition and modernity. A personal view



A culture is the sum of all the things by  which  humanity  can  choose  to
differ

I have chosen to paraphrase  Brian  Enos  (British  musician)  words  about
culture to start my essay with because they are  related  to  the  issue  of
multiculturalism that I wish to approach  in  my  paper.  Starting  from  my
belief that a country is what her people are, I think that the  complex  and
diverse nature of todays British society can be  better  understood  if  we
take a close look at the ones who are actually  forming  this  society-  the
British people

Since the battle of Hastings. Say the word  British and the  thoughts  of
most people would be directed to the language of Shakespeare, to the  famous
British accent, to the royal succession, to Big Ben, to the 5  oclock  tea,
to the black humor, to the bowler hat and so on.
About fifty years agoSay the  words  British  people  and  the  following
might  cross  their  minds:  conservative,   traditional,   polite,   stiff,
moderate.
NowadaysSay the words  British identity and you might find  it  described
only by fluctuating.
Strange, you might add, arguing that a portrait of   British  people  or
on the meaning of being British can be drawn in precise  lines.  In  fact,
just above, people proved to  have  long-established  guide  marks  when  it
comes to sketching  them.  A  simple,  new  and  controverse  word  such  as
fluctuating seems rather unsuitable to  stand  near  the  traditional  and
well-known British identity.
Still,  the  significance  of   fluctuating  British  identity  might  pop
anxiously in your mind, arising the curiosity to search for even a  seed  of
truth in it. And, if thats the case, I believe the  starting  point  should
be the very basic element of this identity: the  character  and  personality
of the British people.
The key question to be reviewed is whether a  single  and  unvaried  British
temper entered the gates of this millenium.
A return to the historic events might provide part of the  answer  to  this.
After the Second World War, Britain faced an influx  of  European  refugees.
As a result of it, sizeable groups of Americans,  Australians,  Chinese  and
even Indian or Pakistani settled down and  concentrated  in  communities  in
particular British areas. Unsettled Multiculturalism written by  B.  Hesse
gives a detailed description of the process, concluding that throughout  the
following decades, the new foreign-born element of  the  population  induced
by the immigration waves reflected its own image in  the  British  identity.
The cultural prints left are in fact the assumptions  and  aspirations,  the
values and believes of each community, that have  shaped  and  outlined  the
countrys identity.
Nowadays precisely this  diversity  of  backgrounds  and  experience  define
Britain as a multicultural country.  The  traditional  Being  British  has
certainly taken centuries to forge but  I  strongly  support  that  only  by
submitting to a modern and constant process of renewal  with  elements  from
different cultures can a nation survive, open  new  and  expanding  horizons
for its society and build a common cultural framework for its  people.  Most
countries embrace this flexible attitude of taking in a new human input  but
to me what is uniquely  British  is  the  ability  to  preserve  the  core
traditional values of the culture and add to them  the  spice  ingredients
of modernity. These dont manage to  alter  British  tradition,  seconds  J.
Rutherford in his  book  Young  Britain,  but  improve  its  taste,  its
glorious achievements so that a better and  more  complex  heritage  can  be
passed to the next generations.
From my point of view, reconciling tradition with modernity  in  Britain  is
like putting in a  glass  the  oil  (British  culture)  and  water  (foreign
cultures) together.  Theres  no  mixture  in  this,  in  fact  both  remain
distinctive entities and conserve their properties. But most important,  the
content of that glass will grow, as you continue to pour in it the  vitality
of water. Salting and  peppering the British culture  with  a  multitude
of values from foreign cultures  would  certainly  complete  the  fruits  of
tradition and bake a more vibrant, modern and  dynamic  British  identity.
And precisely the main ingredient  used  to  bake  it  is  the  peoples
personality.
Psychology recognizes that the individuals identity is  closely  determined
by the framework of various social encounters and experiences. As C.  Squire
clearly stated in Culture in psychology, only the collectivitys  accounts
provide the foundation for individuals  to  make  sense  of  their  personal
experience and therefore for constructing their identity.  The  rule  is  in
fact a simple one and I could formulate it like this: people FORM a  society
but the society, too, FORMS people.
If at the macro- cultural level described above the frame traditions of  the
immigrant people are  just  an  addition  to  the  host  countrys  cultural
heritage, without changing it in any way, at the  micro-  social  level  the
common life of the native British involves an interaction with  people  from
different backgrounds  and  a  mixing  with  their  habits,  views,  way  of
dressing, music, sport and so on.   In  such  a  fluctuating  context,  its
almost impossible for the native British individuality to remain  the  same,
emphasize R. Baulock, A. Heller and A. Zollberg in the study The  Challenge
of Diversity Integration and Pluralism in Societies  of  Immigration.  Yes,
it  shelters  its  primary  and  traditional  moderation,  politeness,
stiffness,  but  at  the  same  time  combines  them   with   modern   and
distinguished Indian, American, Chinese or  Asian  flavors.   Certain  old
inside-British stereotypes have been eroded by the new fluid identities  and
every field of modern British life stands  as  a  living  proof  to  testify
this.
However, theres no recipe to indicate us what exactly will  the  notion  of
Britishness comprise if so many cultures become integrate parts of a  long
and famed British structure. Indeed the  result  may  be  unknown,  but  the
cooking stages are obvious for anyone who walks on the streets of  Britain
nowadays.
Cut into slices and attentively viewed,  the  traditional  British  life  is
increasingly spread with stereotypical immigrants    traits  and  practices
such as vegetarianism, meditation or yoga, explain Mike Storry  and  Peter
Childs in British Cultural Identities. The same  authors  agree  that  the
list could endless go on, from the new sports adopted to  various  forms  of
entertainment, fashion styles and even to food or drink. If these  are  just
a few of the foreign  whip creams  to  adorn  the  British  life,  than  a
further distinctive relish of it is given  by  festivals  and  significant
dates. These are in my perspective the most clear example  of  culture  link
between the uprooted people and the native ones.  They  settle  perhaps  the
most democratic arena where expression and change can take place  and  where
tradition embraces modernity in one and  unique  combination  wrapped  in  a
British  manner.   The  Chinese  New  Year  or  Halloween  are  just  a  few
celebrations that  show  traces  of  foreign  influence,  but  that  acquire
British dimensions because the land, the fireworks, and most  important  the
people that take part at  it  are  British.  Sharing  a  common  joy,  being
together for the same holiday borrowed or not, unit people and  set  up  the
groundwork for a transfer of cultural identity pieces. Some of  them  remain
pure British, others  emerge  as  a  mixture  of  cultures.   If  the  first
category embodies British traditions, the second deals with  modern  British
life.
A newborn child in Britain nowadays will be marked by both of them and  will
mould its personality  from  traditional  British  dough  but  with  small
modern  drops  of  American  flexibility,  Chinese   perseverance,   Asian
patience, European innovation,  Australian  cheerfulness.  Perhaps  in  this
inner mixture will the notion of being British truly see its future.