Sunday, 4 August 2013

An Exchange of Views with Sunder Katwala

This is an exchange if views between Sunder Katwala (Director of British Future) and myself on the Telegraph website below the line of an article he authored (LINK to article).

I think it was a very valuable exchange, in which we both expressed our very different views on the issue of multi-racial and multicultural Britain. I'm republishing our exchange here in the hope that we can continue our discussion and eventually come to a mutual understand.

  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder, Your name alone tells me that we belong to different nations, as does just  a glimpse of your face.
    That does't mean to say we can't be friends or at least get along. Certainly we should respect each other as individuals. But please, don't try embracing me as belonging to the same nation, because we don't. That is just the power-politicing of the British state - the same one that took us into the First World War - and its political elite, who want to impose the oxymoronic absurdity of "multi-ethnic nationhood" on us.
    I don't blame third world immigrants, or their descendants, for wanting to enjoy the benefits of British, or any other western state's citizenship, but I feel a far stronger bond with other native Europeans (and European Americans and Australians) than I do with non-European immigrants like yourself - unless I get to know them personally, of course, which is a very different matter, as I elaborate on in the blog I have linked to below.
  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder Katwala
    So, which nation do my children belong to? They have been born here, since 2006, to parents born here in the 1970s, with grandparents born in the 1940s and 1950s in England (1), India (1) and Ireland (2). 
    Do you make a distinction between them and Sebastian Coe, who also has an Indian grandparent? If so, why?
  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder, When your numbers were small, to embrace you as one of us was a reasonable and civilised thing to do, because it didn't undermine our identity as essentially a nation of closely related European peoples (you add a few drops of colour to a big pot of white paint, and for all intends and purposes it remains a pot of white paint), but there are now too many of you. We can't embrace you all without losing our own ethnic identity, which forms the natural basis of national identity and genuine nationhood.
    The state has long posed as our nation in order to legitimise itself and its ruling/political elite, but as recent developments conclusively prove, it is not a nation at all. Not a "nation state", as it claims, but a "patron state", which plays us, its clients, off one against the other.
    Like you, I have a lot of sympathy for the fundamental ideas of socialism, which, like nationalism, is deeply rooted in man's inherently social and tribal nature. Only the state is no substitute for our tribe, or nation, as it deceitfully claims to be.
    I would be interested in hearing your response to the blog I linked to on The Paradox of Race Does and Doesn't Matter, and also to this blog on The Perverted Darwinian Nature of of the State and civilisation itself.

  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder Katwala
    Sorry, you failed to answer the question. Are you including or excluding my children? Are you excluding Sebastian Coe too. Is it names that matter? Or glimpses of faces? (They aren't that visibly ethnically different, but maybe its the surname that counts).
    More seriously, your argument fails to provide any future for this country. It is a multi-ethnic country now, which remains majority white and white British, and that can not be reversed, certainly not in any peaceful or democratic way.
    My Dad was born a British subject in India. Like those who came over on the Windrush from the West Indies, a lot of effort went into telling them they were British. They believed what they were told, and were then told it hadn't been intended or (as you say), that the offer was made but it was rescinded. I am confident of my place in this country, and want everybody else to be too.
    But I don't see the case for such a level of pessimism that the British or the English have lost their national identity. I see the Jubilee street parties. I see the plans to commemorate our history in 2014. I see the power of the English language and its literature - from Chaucer and Shakespeare, yet it power also to absorb immigrant influences from Beowulf to Eliot, Shaw to Stoppard and Rushdie, without ceasing to be a single tradition. 
    Michael Gove put this case very well a few years ago
    "I happen to think that request or demand gets its wrong, and that there is a better metaphor. A metaphor that somebody who was themselves a migrant to this country came up with. That was the metaphor that TS Eliot used when he was describing the great tradition of English literature. Eliot described the presence of each new author in the tradition as subtly altering how we saw that tradition.
    What Dickens, or Hardy, or Yeats or indeed Eliot himself contributed to English literature changed how we see all of English literature. And so when we think of Britishness, it is impossible to think of it now without the contributions of each successive wave of new citizens.
    Not just in the sense as Robin Cook famously pointed out that chicken tikka massala is now Britain's favourite dish. Some of those who best summed up how Britons think were not John Bull figures themselves. There is no better author who better understands the English tradition of liberty than Isiah Berlin. There is no better student of British history than Lewis Napier. There is no better exponent of the British tradition of pragmatism and empiricism than Karl Popper
    All of these figures sum up what it is to be British, what it is to have a British sensibility. They are all people who took their place in an existing tradition and subtly altered it by their presence. And that particular British tradition, as Liam argued, has been uniquely open to the world".

  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder, I can't really answer your question because I don't see Britain as a nation anymore. To me it's just a nasty, mercenary state (the same one that used to allow its children to be exploited in its mines and factories) posing as a nation, in order to facilitate society's self-exploitation to the advantage of its ruling elite and their favoured clients (to which you, of course, and indeed, myself, belong).
    I don't relate to your sense of Britishness anymore than I image a Native American relates to Barak Obama's or George Bush's sense of American identity, or an Aboriginal Australian to Kevin Rudd's sense of Australian identity.
    I'm a Native Briton and European whose sense of national identity is inseparable from his ethnic identity and origins, which stretch back through more than 2500 years of recorded history and on into prehistory. You are welcome to your own, globalised British identity if that is what you want, but please, don't include me. It is not where I "be-long".
    [Britain]  is a multi-ethnic country now, which remains majority white
    But for how long? We have already been reduced to an ethnic minority in our capital city, and are on course to soon become so in the country at large.
    Although, I don't believe that Native Britons, and Europeans in general, are going to allow themselves to become an ethnic minority on their own continent without a fight, which means that we are heading towards civil war. It is a war that I hope we can avoid, but at the moment the prospects don't look good. It feels to me very much like 1913 all over again . . . 

  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder Katwala
    Your problem isn't with my claim to my English and British identity. It is two-fold, and primarily with the broad, mainstream white English acceptance of my claim to British identity.
    Firstly, you have no proposal to make which would be accepted, either by Britons today generally, or by more than a slim minority of the white English/white Britons, whose identity you claim to speak for. I am confident the vast majority of white Britons accept that I am British too. This is also the case for English identity.
    Secondly, beyond your fear of civil war (though I am glad you hope it doesn't happen), you have no proposal to make about what happens to the citizenship and identity of the current British. Are you applying a grandparent test? Does one need four grandparents? What different civil and political rights do your insiders and outsiders have. 
    So please tell us what your future programme is, and how it will come about. If you are saying the nation is already dead, so it is all futile, I think the felt persistence of national identity for most people counts against you.
  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder, This is in response to your last post, which is lacking a reply button.
    First let us agree that WE have a problem (which I fear is leading towards civil war), rather than just you or I. Certainly neither of us, nor anyone else with an grain of reason and humanity, wants civil war. I assume that we respect each other and want to get on. 
    The problem is that you want to belong to my nation, while I don't FEEL that you do, because for me the natural basis of national identity is shared race and ethnicity. I'm not bothered about "racial purity", but about racial and ethnic "identity". As I've already said, if it were just you and few others, there would be no problem. But it isn't just you, but millions of others who have come here from a distant continents, because of the massive differences in wealth and opportunity - wealth and opportunities which my ancestors - not yours - created. The Japanese and some other Asian peoples have created their own prosperous societies, and don't come to Europe in their millions to take advantage of ours. And they very sensibly don't allow others to come and take advantage of theirs.
    Not that European civilisation and prosperity is sustainable as it is currently maintained, with or without the aggravating madness of mass third world immigration. We are light-years away from achieving a sustainable global economy, which is also leading to global conflict and catastrophe.
    The source of all our problems, I see in the perverted Darwinian nature of the state and civilisation itself. Until we recognise and develop an understanding of this, there is nothing we can do to avoid conflict and catastrophe, which is why I'm always going on about it.
    We need to recognise the essentially (perverted) Darwinian nature of our situation. Denying this, as we do, does't change the fact; it just makes it impossible to deal with consciously in as rational and humane a fashion as possible.

  • Commenter's avatar
    Sunder Katwala
    Dear Roger,
    I would like to take the challenge seriously. I believe it is more important to engage with those who are anxious, not confident, about our future. For me, an important way to engage is to ask "what shall *we* do now?" ... I am not sure 'it is simply too late to do anything' is a useful response.
    So here's what I would propose
    - We need clear  foundations of our common citizenship: I think we need everybody to speak English; obey the law; respect the freedom of speech of others. We need to encourage people to be committed to our society, and to making a positive contribution to it.
    -  For those who have that commitment to us, I want us all to be fully part of us. We don't have two-tiers of being British. I do think we want and need a Britishness which can include people across every colour and creed), with the space to respect the range of different English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and other routes to that shared Britishness. So we need a political community with shared rules, and I think common traditions and shared understandings of history matter too, though they are doubtless sometimes contested and contentious issue. But, in place of civil war, we could also favour finding room in a liberal society to have some plural disagreements about the attachments which matter. There might be many more traditional and modern associations (rural and urban, high church and secular. classical and popular culture, the monarchy and our modern sporting teams. Some contributions - the export of cricket and football, and the import from newcomers of fish and chips, tea and curry) that this encompasses.
     I think we can and should have a nation, and one that most people will respond to and value. Nor need it be dismissive of your more traditional understanding of who we are, except that it can't encompass your desire to exclude millions of British-born British citizens with a felt allegiance to Britain. But I don't want our inclusion to entail your dispossession, since I can't see how you insist that it must. Our presence is a result of your (and our) shared history. The English went out to the world; they did not stay at home in a fortified island. Everything that has followed is in part a consequence of that.
    This is a possible future. I am not sure you are offering us a future at all.

    I apologise about the delay in responding to your last post, Kunder, which again doesn't have a reply button.
    I think that this is a very valuable exchange of views we are having, which I hope will help us avoid the conflict between third world immigrants and native Europeans that is brewing, not just in Britain, but right across Europe, and in America too, where, although its founding race and still its ethnic majority, whites are not the native, i.e. indigenous, population, which creates a different situation than we have in Europe, where whites ARE the indigenous population.
    Clearly, you identify with the British state and accept its claim to representing a nation, which I don't. This is the fundamental issue which separates us. I hope to bring you - eventually -  around to my way of thinking and viewing our situation, which is very much outside of the political box, or boxes - in fact, outside the room in which the boxes are kept - in which we are used to thinking, being based on my own, human-evolutionary, i.e. Darwinian, perspective.

    Initial attempts at applying Darwin's ideas to human society went horribly wrong (especially when the Nazis got hold of them) and were thus discredited and dismissed as "social Darwinism", which it is now considered a moral imperative to condemn. The mistake of social Darwinists was to use the theory to rationalise and justify prevailing values and the status quo with its social and racial inequalities. However, as I elaborate on the blog I linked to, a Darwinian approach is absolutely essential to developing anything like a realistic understanding our situation, which is the only way that we can take any kind of rational control of it.
    We delude ourselves into believing that we are in control of our situation at the moment - because that is what our brain evolved to make us believe - but nothing could be further from the truth.
    This is all I have time for at the moment, although there are a number of things you say in your post that I would like to respond to.