How to destroy a culture

History offers us many terrible examples of attempts to destroy cultures through violence and oppression. What it also demonstrates is that, so long as there is someone left alive who cares, and either has access to memory or other sources, something of the culture will survive. People will go to remarkable lengths to protect the things they are passionate about.

As a consequence, I am endlessly confused by the people who think that immigration, and Europe, can somehow damage British culture. I find it doubly odd when you factor in that our radio stations are not carrying anything like as much European pop music as they do American songs. Our cinemas are not awash with arty continental films, but with Hollywood films. Our televisions are not broadcasting French sitcoms and Italian dramas to a great degree (I gather there was a Scandinavian  woman with a jumper, but it’s hardly a cultural takeover).

I have a suspicion that many of these fanatical defenders of ‘British culture’ would struggle to identify anything iconically British. Chicken tikka masala, perhaps.  Football, which clearly no one else in Europe plays. Saturday night drunkenness, which literally no other country on the planet goes in for. King Arthur (and many of his stories actually come to us from the French, but who’s counting?) Defenders of ‘British Culture’ also don’t seem to know that since the last ice age, all we’ve had is immigration. Our language is a composite of the languages of settlers, and invaders. Our traditions and history are deeply intertwined with the histories and traditions of people across that tiny strip of water. Really, it’s not a lot of water, people have been back and forth across it in boats for thousands of years.

A culture dies when no one cares about it. How many people who claim to be pro-British culture have any involvement with, or interest in any British traditions? I suspect most of them don’t. I note that every single folk person I know has made no suggestion that we need to protect our traditions from other people. Why would we? Other people’s traditions are not a threat. Cultures die when people stop caring about them.

The threat to Britishness does not come from outside. The threat to Britishness, and I do think there is one, comes from the apathy of the British. If we don’t care about our history, heritage, landscape, unique natural phenomena, folklore, and traditions, that’s our fault. No good blaming people from other cultures. It’s not like anyone is closing our libraries and museums, selling off our most environmentally important landscapes for development, fracking our land, destroying our archaeology in the name of progress, taking away funding from indigenous language projects, or creating a culture of forced work mobility to undermine communities… Oh, that would be our government, wouldn’t it?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

17 responses to “How to destroy a culture

  • kabrown4

    Great article.

    I have always very much been of the opinion that immigration enriches our culture rather than damages it. I think as a historian I do think in the long term though; culture is not something that is static. It is dynamic and ever changing, and people who only think in the present moment see that as threatening (somehow). I find many of the some people have this some argument about the development of linguistics and the living language as well.

    Languages and culture both change; generally I think you should embrace it and live according to the culture that you identify with but respect others are different. Otherwise you are one of those people who would prefer the world to be an exceptionally boring place by everyone being the same.

  • Robin

    Yes I enjoyed reading this so much it felt like your words were all perfectly fletched arrows hitting with a very satisfying thunk an image of the big stupid ape face of anti immigration, lock all gates to the outsiders, delcare ourselves a closed doors autocracy ruled by people those idea of british culture comes down to selling off what we value and giving nothing back..!!

  • Eliza Armitage

    I believe that those who fear the loss of British culture are actually mourning the loss of…the Raj. Empire. Warm beer on the cricket green and old maids cycling to morning Mass through the mist, pace John Major. The good old days that never really were, when Britain was at some perceived peak of power; so let’s Make Britain Great Again! Sounds horrifyingly familiar…fearing the loss of power and influence, but calling it culture, and blaming immigration for time not standing still.

  • Sheila North

    Excellent blog. I enjoy folk, Morris dancing, British history, folklore, etc. But then, I’m an American – here since ’86, naturalised 6 years ago – so what would I know?

  • Linda Boeckhout

    Spot on; it’s the same here (in the Netherlands). This discomfort towards other cultures is perhaps even caused by the void people feel. They are often so out of touch with their own heritage.
    The range of religion is a wholly other matter -secularism and a multicultural society pose complex questions in which we do need to debate the boundaries. But there is no use in muddying the waters with talking of the threat of other cultures, just for the sake of it.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Certainly I see it here in the United States, especially this fear of Muslims. Our schools fail to educate, little history, science , no art, no music and nothing on how our Constitution works. Kids are taught only how to regurgitate the one right answer to a test, but not how to think, not how to question, not how to determine good information from bullshit. Nothing that might make them independent, nothing more than how to be a interchangeable cog in the great machine, orderly and mindless. Our only hope may be the change over to the Hispanic majority in the next few years. Hopefully they will bring some life back to this country.

  • jrose88

    Yes. But then, if they taught us more about things like the electoral college we might be able to fix it so it actually makes sense, and that would totally overthrow the status quo. Gasps and horrors.

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