Thursday, 13 March 2008

Eh, What? NuLabour's citizenshit proposals

Lord Goldsmith has unleashed his recommendations for improving citizenship in Britain (1). They include:
  • Establishing a new national public holiday,
  • Council tax discounts for volunteer work,
  • Changes to current categories of citizenship,
  • Language loans for new immigrants to learn English,
  • A type of community service to enhance "citizen education",
  • Special ceremonies for school-leavers. (2)

Look, its really easy to be cynical about these things. Government initiatives intended to increase 'cohesiveness' and 'community' are always limp-wristed, namby-pambly, silly and slightly embarrassing. ut criticism should be tempered with acknowledgement that there is a problem. Simply saying, "stuff that for a bunch of PC codswallop, I'm alrigh Jack," isn't a viable response.

That said, these proposals are terrible, ball-achingly bad. So I'm going to lay into them without any pretence of having better ideas to put forward.

Can you imagine what a new public holiday, lets call it Britannia Day, would be like? Can you envisage how horribly naff it would be? The whole idea just screams 'Millenium Dome.'

The problem with public displays of national chauvinism is that they always celebrate the wrong stuff. Britons are good at many things. Self-deprecation is one of them. But you can't celebrate self-deprecation. Anyway, it would only be an valid celebration of all things British if it could be held on when it guaranteed to rain, heavily. If it could be scheduled to coincide with a significant sporting defeat, even better. Then it might work. But the suggestion that it coincide with the queen's diamond jubilee provokes thoughts of Wat Tyler in me.

Council tax discounts for volunteer work sounds like a good idea, but as soon as you do that, it isn't volunteer work any more. Why work it through the convoluted tax system? Just send them a cheque as a reward for services rendered. Thoguh I suspect that the likes of the BNP and religious crackpots of all stripes will immediately define all their activities as volunteer work deserving of rebates. Only evil minded ass holes would put themselves forward for it. So another silly idea.

I have no idea what "changes to current categories of citizenship" means, but it sounds very sinister. It reminds me of the (deeply under-rated) film Starship Troopers, where human society was divided into 'civilians' and 'citizens' - the latter being the superior creatures who took it upon themselves to ensure the fascist regime ruling Earth was strengthened and replicated. So another bad idea.

Not looking to good, is it?

There's nothing wrong with "language loans for new immigrants to learn English," but the fact that its being proposed here shows what a shoddy, shambollic state the british immigration system is. This should have been addressed years ago. And the 'indigenous' population needs help with talking and writing as well.

As for community service to enhance "citizen education," this again sounds Orwellian. It suggests the 're-education' camps in the PRC, where political dissidents are forced to work as slaves for western multi-nationals, to teach them the error of their way (4).

And speaking as a teacher, I would shoot myself if I had to sit through "special ceremonies for school-leavers." Seriously. And I thought the emphasise was on keeping kids in education, not tempting them to leave with the promise of a Certificate of Adulthood and a '$5 off' voucher for the local brothel.

So a big thumbs down for Goldsmith's idiotic proposals. WHich isn't to say that there isn't a problem. But I think the sreal solution is far simpler - redistribution. Societies where the gap between the top and the bottom is narrow tend to be better places, and have a stronger sense of their identity, than other places. Now, you might argue that the USA - where the disapirty between top and bottom is extreme - has a strong sense of identity. But it is also a miserable, crime ridden, divided and fractious place. You can't argue that a country with 1% of its population in prison is a happy country (5). And it is big on the sort of cant that Goldsmith is proposing. Which shows that they just don't work.

1 - 'Goldsmith unveils proposals to strengthen citizenship,' byRosalind Ryan and agencies, 11th of March, 2008, in The Guardian. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/mar/11/britishidentity). The actual report can be read here: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Politics/documents/2008/03/11/citizenship-report-full.pdf
2 - ibid.
3 - 'Wat Tyler,' Wikipedia article summaring the career of the Britain's Mao Tse-Tung, viewed on 13th of March, 2008.
(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Tyler)
4 - 'NZ pushes free trade with China forward,' by Sarah Matheson in the Epoch Times, 17th of September, 2007. (http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-9-17/59871.html). It should be noted the source of this statistic is a member of Falun gong, and I have not been able to verify it. On the otherhand, given the size of the PRC, the vileness of the chinese government, a reverse burden of proof applies. It sounds so much like something they would do, that they need to demonstrate that they aren't.

5 - 'New High In U.S. Prison Numbers,' by N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post, 29th of February, 2008. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/02/28/ST2008022803016.html)

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