Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Race, State intervention and National Identity

today in the US we have the first Afro-American Presidential candidate in Obama and the first woman running for President in Hillary Clinton.

wow. make that double wow.

having watched American politics for a long time, i am flabbergasted. In the Reagen years I would never have thought of America having candidates from minority commmunities running for President. It is all the more astonishing given that mainstream US is very conservative. anti abortion, anti gay etc.

I think we are seeing a seismic shift here in US politics and minority relations. Its possible, probable in fact, that Obama and Clinton will not win the elections and we end up with another white middle aged male as President. But having Obama and Clinton getting considerable TV and mindspace in the next few months alone will have a significant impact on the conscious and subconscious of middle America.

so where does that leave the UK? the UK has always been a liberal home for views on abortion, gay rights, minority rights yet the UK has yet to have a black candidate for prime minister. Oh yes, we had a woman prime minister, the iron lady, but no black prime ministers or prime ministerial candidates. The UK has always followed a state driven initiative of improving race relations. is it because of this state intervention, which is often heavy handed, that is preventing black candidates to come to the fore? is it state intervention that is stifling activism that has lead to the US getting its first Afro American candidate? isnt it ridiculous to have the prime minister, chancellor and parliament lending their voice to the noise over the irrelevant Celebrity Big Brother?

i think it is. The UK is fast becoming
a nanny state where state is expected to, and does, guide citizens on how to lead a life.

take the latest Unicef report on a survey of childrens' well being in different industrialised countries. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6360517.stm. UK comes bottom.

reaction from a concerned public : "

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne accused Chancellor Gordon Brown of having "failed this generation of children".

"After 10 years of his welfare and education policies, our children today have the lowest well-being in the developed world," he said."


and here i was thinking upbringing of children and their well being was the primary responsibility of parents! no doubt the government will bring out a series of measures to monitor childrens' well being which includes incentives and penalties for defaulting parents.

a change of government is fast becoming attractive. provided the Tories take a fresher approach.

coming to national identity, i think the current lack of a unified national identity and debate on B
ritishness is down to decades of lack of appropriate state intervention. I am a naturalised British citizen. There wasn't a Union Jack in sight during my naturalisation ceremony. I cant think of any more damning evidence about national identity (lack of), than this.

citizenship is a privilege. its granting should be underlined by making an occassion of it. The single most important visual affirmation of identity is the national flag. and yet it is absent in these ceremonies.

maybe the state should devote its time to this. and maybe it will lead to an abatement of radical fundamentalism.

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