London Pride 2015: who’s afraid of the rainbow?

There’s something very optimistic about a rainbow. It’s an image with many connotations; leprechauns and pots of gold, a sign from God, and of course the LGBT community. It is the championing of the rainbow by the latter group, however, which perhaps best reflects that aforementioned optimistic impulse.

A rainbow is vibrant, perhaps too vibrant for some, but this is precisely why it cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the rainbow of the LGBT community is more than just a colourful mascot, it represents the diverse spectrum of human sexuality and gender identity, which, like the original rainbow itself, is completely natural.

You may wonder why I am focusing so much on something which seems so self-evident. The truth is, I experienced some thinly-veiled homophobia recently which specifically involved the mockery of people drawing rainbows on their faces for the London Pride Parade on Saturday the 27th of June, and it’s got me thinking about those peppy little arches ever since.

I returned from a day in central London with a piece of rainbow cake as a souvenir, I treat I had bought from the Soho Hummingbird bakery which seemed rather apropos, though actually it’s a hallmark of the establishment and wasn’t actually related to Pride at all. It was this that first indicated to a certain someone what sort of apparently frivolous activities I had been getting up to that day. This person, who shall remain anonymous mostly for the sake of propriety, but also because they don’t really deserve any acknowledgement, then went on to say in a mocking baby voice:

“Let’s paint rainbows on our faces whilst people have died in Tunisia.”

This comment upset me on many levels, not least because it was spoken by an individual relaxing on a Saturday evening with a beer in hand, hypercritically implying that the Gay Pride Parade was disrespectfully frivolous in the face of a tragedy. Pride, in this person’s eyes, is not just reduced to an ephemeral and perhaps even immature past-time, but one which is offensive just for existing coincidentally not long after a terrorist attack in a different part of the world. Of course, these two events bear no relation to each other, and I hope it goes without saying that disrespecting the victims of the Tunisia attack is the last thing I want to do.

When I tried to point this out, I was met with the response, “well I suppose life goes on,” thus the person in question provided a perfect rebuttal to their own previous statement. Although I don’t usually see eye to eye with David Cameron, after the attack he urged people to live their lives as normal. Maintaining a daily habitus is essential in the face of terrorism because its aim is to incite fear and manipulate people. London Pride is not a usual daily occurrence by its very nature, but as a celebration of the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity, it reflects aspects of people which are very much quotidian. Furthermore, embracing human variety is a figurative middle finger to terrorism, and the warped ideals and prejudices that it represents.

When confronted with the reality that uncountable people have died just because they happened to be gay, this person simply stated that they “don’t care about them.” The idea that some lives are inherently worth more or less is incredibly toxic, and indicates just how deeply prejudice can run. To be made to feel guilty for supporting something which is essentially a celebration of human life by a person who elects to empathise only with people they can immediately identify with, demonstrates the kind of bleak irony that is so often infused in a homophobic outlook. If you profess to be compassionate and stand for social justice, the least you can do is to be aware of your double standards.

#rainbowcakegate

#rainbowcakegate

The Big Bad Rainbow

Now, I want to get back to that rainbow. The responses to it, I think, illustrate well the kind of contradictions at play in the prejudice against it as a gay rights symbol.

The mockery of it being painted on peoples’ faces, for example, stems from an association with the rainbow and childish, fairy tale scenes.  The thing is, it’s true that a rainbow does conjure up the kind of camp stereotypes that are commonly associated with the gay community, and the notion of a ‘fabulous,’ ostentatious aesthetic.  That’s fine, because the thing about a gay rights symbol is that you can identify with it however you see fit, even if that only extends to its intention as an inclusive image. In which case, to merely dismiss the Gay Pride rainbow as perhaps garish or immature is to miss the point of the symbol entirely. Also, just because London Pride included a wealth of colourful floats doesn’t mean it was a superficial and shallow event. The fact that there is a specific day when LGBT folks are not only allowed, but in fact expected to occupy space in central London is exemplary of the power of public events to not only increase the visibility of a group, but to disallow them being ignored or segregated to niche spaces.

In the Pride Parade, LGBT culture is not just out of the closet, it’s literally dancing in the street.

Of course, for all the homophobic killjoys out there, this is the height of offensive activity. How dare gay people be out in the open and having fun? Those who are casually homophobic but like to hide it behind the ridiculous justification of “I don’t mind it, as long as it’s not rubbed in my face,” must get really chafed heads from Pride. And let’s not even mention the whiplash they suffer from their bad case of Double Standards.

The idea that Pride is somehow a corrupting force also reflects back on peoples’ perception of the rainbow as a childish symbol. I’ve seen a tweet complaining how by appropriating this sign, LGBT people had tarnished a once ‘innocent’ piece of childhood imagery. However, what the LGBT  pride rainbow represents isn’t a matter of innocence or otherwise. It is a matter of representing those who historically have not fit the status quo of cis gender heterosexuality, since even before such categories were firmly entrenched in common parlance. Now, in a 21st century world, this rainbow promotes wider visibility, which can only be a good thing. After all, people often fear what they don’t understand.

The rainbow is only a rainbow, and it’s probably not even a symbol that all LGBT people identify with. Yes, the rainbow is only a rainbow, but it is also a symbol with much more depth than just seven colours. That’s a contradiction that some may not be able to grasp, and that’s a shame, because all human life is full of contradiction.

Lots of different groups were represented at London Pride, including the navy.

Lots of different groups were represented at London Pride, including the navy.

Contextual privilege

Speaking of contradictions, let’s return to the idea that attending Pride is a privilege. When I was implicitly criticised for going to the parade in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, it appeared that to do so was to indulge in some decadent luxury. The thing is, in a global and historical sense, to be able to freely take part in such an event is a privilege. Living in a first world country in which it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, British people are privileged compared to those who have no legal safeguards (at least in writing, if not always in practise).  Yet, the right to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a privilege. It is a fact of life for millions of people worldwide. When you understand that contradiction, you can see how important an event like Pride is. It is a privilege to attend in a relative sense, but absolutely, it is not. This is why Pride needs to be celebrated openly-it has a right to exist, and that right is precious.

I would also like to highlight another type of privilege, the one which homophobic and transphobic people experience. This is contextual privilege; the privilege of power, institutional or otherwise, or the social backing of others who will support and further perpetuate your prejudice. Luckily, the importance of this kind of privilege is waning. As the visibility and understanding of LGBT people increases, casual prejudice is more likely to be called out.

To even be prejudiced against any group is a luxury, and one that no one is entitled to.

The Monochrome Problem

Homophobia and other forms of prejudice, I think, are the product of a very particular type of thinking which daubs the world in black and white. Through the monochrome lens, all morality is absolute and there is no room for interpretation or acknowledgement of personal bias. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey-the world is actually an incredibly colourful place, albeit a confusing one. It’s no surprise that some find it easier to edit reality according to their insecurities, as if putting the world through some rather boring Intagram filter.

This is the Monochrome Problem. How dull it must be to only perceive existence through black and white. Yet this explains why some feel they are entitled to pass judgement on people who have nothing to do with them, and whose lifestyle has no direct impact on them. I dare say the same people who make it their personal vendetta to limit the agency of others would be irate if the state or some kind of pressure group tried to meddle in their affairs. Irony must be a difficult concept for those with the Monochrome Problem; it’s far too subtle a shade.

A flag proudly flying.

A flag proudly flying.

Everyone loves a tragic back story

Although it shouldn’t be necessary, I do feel a need to personally qualify this piece. You’ve probably already guessed why I’m so passionate about this particular issue, though I’m under no illusion that anyone is particularly interested in my sexual orientation.

I’m bisexual. This is something I hardly ever mention even in passing to anyone, ever. This is partly due to social awkwardness, but also through a fear of having to justify myself or of being ridiculed. Fortunately, I have a boyfriend who doesn’t bat an eyelid about this sort of thing, but I’ve had difficulty raising the subject even with people I’m very close to.

On two particular occasions at school, I was jeered at by other students in front of an entire class and the teachers present due to the perception I was a lesbian. I doubt anyone present remembers this apart from me, but the fact that even educational professionals just watched and wouldn’t intervene has haunted me ever since. As a teenager, I was convinced that this proved I was monster who deserved everything I got. I internalised the mockery and despised myself.

I am tired of being afraid of other peoples’ squeamishness of anything that doesn’t fit into the neat little box of their personal experience. I’m tired of censoring myself, of pretending I’m not hurt when someone is casually homophobic, or in particular, if female same-sex attraction is treated as a joke, a male fantasy or a farce for attention. Just because I’m different from the apparent ‘norm,’ doesn’t mean I’m invalid.

At the same time, my sexuality doesn’t really matter all that much, it’s just a fact of life. Until this simple concept is accepted, though, I’ll keep on writing pieces like this.

Are you afraid of the big bad rainbow? Do you want to live in a monochrome world? If so, good luck-bigotry ain’t what it used to be.

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The British Aspiration: to shop at John Lewis

“Aspiration is not the preserve of those who shop at John Lewis. Aspiration is universal; it is felt by Asda and Aldi shoppers too.”

This is not a farcical statement, though I wish it were. Andy Burnham, the apparent favourite in the competition for Labour Party leadership, recently said this when visiting Ernst & Young in London. ‘Aspiration’ has become fashionable, most particularly in the political rhetoric of the Labour Party. Yet, the true significance of this concept in relation to the British public at large remains elusive, which is perhaps why Burnham was moved to so ineffectively define it.

Of course, the general sentiment of Burnham’s statement is not inaccurate. The ability ‘to aspire’ is indeed a “universal” one which is arguably intrinsic to human nature. The fact that this needed to be said, though, is rather disquieting. The framing of aspiration within a construction of supermarket hierarchies is even more disturbing, and much more telling. Implicitly or not, Burnham is defining aspiration according to consumption, and this is precisely why I find this remark so poisonous.

Though it might appear that focusing on one political sound bite is petty and unrepresentative, I have done so precisely because I think it is a useful way to approach the wider trope of aspiration in Labour’s post-election politics. Furthermore, analysing political quotations may seem like an excuse to merely argue semantics. However, the current prevalence of aspiration as a tool of rhetoric with social class connotations, deliberately implied for political gain, entails that the interpretations of this word are particularly powerful and should be explored.

The first point to be made is that Labour Party aspirational politics are very much reactionary in nature. After their defeat in the May general election, Tony Blair wrote a piece for the Guardian entitled “Labour must be the party of ambition as well as compassion.” Whether this was intended or not, what the article makes clear is that appealing to peoples’ aspirations is essentially a means to an end, and that end is political power. Indeed, Blair declares “the route to the summit lies through the centre ground.” Basically, one can assume this metaphorical place is populated by the moderate middle class, an aspirational group of people that Blair wants to shake hands with en-masse. Isn’t it laudable that the Labour Party wants to re-acquaint itself with the average British person, especially after failing in the last general election? Well, it would be, except no such person actually exists. This isn’t even so much as a bad case of preaching to the choir, it’s even worse- apparently Labour wants to preach to an empty room of stereotypes. Blair even said it himself; the “centre ground is as much a state of mind as a set of policies.”

The idea of a “centre ground” moderate Britain is so nebulous, and yet so apparently inoffensive, that anchoring it to the concept of aspiration makes it appear less divisive. This leads us back to the underlining paradox of Burnham’s statement about aspiration being represented equally among people, whilst simultaneously defining them by how they consume. When he launched his bid to be the next Labour leader, Burnham defined aspiration as “giving every single person the dream of a better life, about helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow.” Aspiration is tied down to notions of business growth, of brand success, of corporate capital. Aspiration is apparently for everyone, yet at the same time is marked by inequality, defined according to profit margins.

In our modern, capitalist world, perhaps this is the reality that we should accept?

Well, call me a crazy communist, a misguided graduate or a political hipster, but I just don’t.

Shadow shopping

For me, an aspirational Labour party would be one that actually found a way to practise what it preached and prioritise both compassion and ambition, without implying the two are necessarily mutually exclusive.  An aspirational Labour Party would be one that could envisage successful people as not just profiting from business, from their own personal growth and that of others around them. Better yet, is it not impossible that business and welfare could actually contribute to each other in a more meaningful way than a PR stunt? We could aspire for innovation, which is something Blair touches on in his piece:

“The world is an extraordinary market place of new thinking right now.”

It is true, the world is full of possibilities, but not all opportunity comes with a price tag, nor should it. To label the innovative potential of our planet a “market place” renders what should be priceless as just another good to be bought and sold. Blair is right to call on the Labour Party to be more forward-thinking and to seek inspiration from further away than their nicely polished front doors, but by employing a consumer metaphor he reveals how truly stifled his thinking is.

Some people may believe aspiration is just about money, and this appears to be the target audience of Labour with their new favourite buzzword. Whilst buying into a consumer-driven world may push the buttons of some, it only further stigmatises those who cannot afford tore-affirm themselves with their own purchasing power. A consumer, business-driven notion of aspiration might give a pat on the back to “wealth creators,” but at what cost to those who can’t afford to pin their hopes on their next bank statement?

The message is clear: the Labour Party values people who earn enough to aspire to consume. If you can’t consume much, then you better work harder-Andy Burnham doesn’t like people who are “handed everything on a plate.” If you want that to be a nice plate from John Lewis, work harder, buy into The British Dream of blood, sweat and department stores, and you might just be happy one day.

Even the greediest person doesn’t just aspire to be rich. It might be a cliché, but money certainly isn’t enough to buy the happiness of anyone, so shallow sentiments about aspiration definitely won’t. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to buy nice things, but surely our identities and dreams extend beyond a scanned barcode? Surely we can aspire to help our most vulnerable without demeaning them? Surely the Labour Party can aspire to be better than this?

And if I still haven’t convinced you just how banal the Labour concept of aspiration is, just remember: if you work hard enough, one day you too can shop at John Lewis.


The image featured here is “Shadow shopping” by Matthew G, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Protesting against austerity is actually really fun

Like thousands of others, on Saturday the 20th of June I marched in protest of our government’s austerity measures. Estimates of the number of people involved vary, but the exact figure isn’t as important to me so much as the sense of solidarity I had on the day. Writing about austerity is a solitary activity, but also sometimes a dispiriting one that since the general election result has often felt like hitting my head against a grimy wall alone whilst a few bystanders look on from the distance with little interest. I’ve even felt a little embarrassed to share my views, afraid that some of my acquaintances would be offended by my lack of political apathy, or mistake my ramblings as purely self-indulgent, when they also do really come from a place of real concern.

When I arrived outside the Bank of England on Saturday to swathes of people, chanting, bustling, sporting some questionable hairstyles in some cases and perspiring in almost all, my first feeling was one of relief. Here, all kinds of people from different walks of life were united in their common disgust for the indecency of austerity. I was relieved, because, thank goodness, it wasn’t just me knocking my head against a brick wall; we were all doing it together.

image

Central London is taken over by protesters.

I’ve seen the left criticised before for having no sense of humour and taking itself too seriously. Perhaps this is true in some cases, and I know that when it comes to politics I can be far from humorous, but then again, the pain and suffering that austerity has the potential to inflict is hardly a brilliant punchline. Yet, many of the protesters on Saturday certainly weren’t afraid of dipping into satire, and the many light-hearted placards that populated the crowd were what really made the whole experience hilarious in a bizarre kind of way. Everything from one sign which simply had a picture of Grumpy Cat with the caption “no,” to a picture of Theresa May with the Mean Girls quote “you can’t sit with us,” the full spectrum of banal to brilliantly witty was on offer.

Austerity is...bananas.

Austerity is…bananas.

After hours of waiting and surviving stifling narrow streets which bottle-necked the protesters, the demonstration culminated appropriately at Westminster. Sure, there were those apparently so sincere they felt the need to hide their faces with balaclavas, but ultimately it was a relaxed and welcoming demonstration that was a testament to the diversity of people who dared step beyond the cyber soap box, and quite literally make a stand against an ideology which has no humane or economic sense. So maybe it wasn’t just a case of bashing heads against an imaginary wall, but an attempt to tear it down altogether – with just a bit of comedy and controversy mixed in of course.

A placard with character.

A placard with character.

Leftists, let’s not ‘tie our own noose’ on social media

We’re living in a post-apocalyptic world. Seven days on from Polling Day when David Cameron took the Iron Throne and sent his vampiric minions to suck the poor dry after the death knell of The Exit Poll, the end is nigh.

Apparently, this is what the left wing sounds like to ‘shy’ Tories on social media.

In truth, there has been trolling, hyperbole and digital mud-flinging on both sides. I’ll be the first to admit that I was angry at the election result, and allowed myself to wallow in the black comedy of articles such as Stuart Heritage’s “The country is screwed, the electorate is evil…but here are nine reasons to be cheerful” which mentioned something about the existence of coconut cream pies as a silver lining. Clearly, Heritage wasn’t being entirely serious, but the sentiment that “the electorate is evil,” and more precisely all those who helped usher in a Tory majority are despicable human beings, isn’t really an acceptable response to Cameron getting elected, no matter how attractive it may appear to be.

Shy Tories and psycho socialists

Social media, that ripe can of worms that it is, has proved a fertile battleground for both the left and right to stigmatise each other and reinforce negative stereotypes. The Shy Tory is one label that has been plastered round the internet a lot recently, partly due to the inaccuracy of the polls in the run up to the election but also as an indication by some that the left has been intimidating people, plus as a jibe to apparently guilty voters by the left itself. And so it is that extreme caricatures are drawn: the left are all psycho socialists looking for any reason to riot and daub offensive graffiti on war memorials, whilst the right are all coy, smug self-interested people who probably secretly want to bring hanging back. Actually, in an anti-austerity protest on the 9th of May on Whitehall, the phrase “F*** Tory scum” was sprayed onto a memorial honouring the role of women in World War Two, and David Cameron has recently appointed two ministers to his cabinet who have in the past openly supported the reintroduction of capital punishment in this country. However, these cases are clearly not representative of the country at large.

The political tribes of the internet may feel powerful behind their computer screens, but keyboard warriors only have as much legitimacy as you’re willing to give to digital skirmishing. On my own news feed, I’ve seen people from both political persuasions lashing out at the opposition and accusing all its members of being immoral, ignorant, or just plain stupid. In the case of the left, this has been particularly damaging in cementing the impression of poor losers who don’t respect the democratic choice. Yet behind the red haze of leftie rage, there is a deeper sadness which I think many have failed to understand.

For me at least, this election result wasn’t so upsetting because the Tories are in power for five more miserable years or even because I know I’ll have to continue to see Cameron’s shiny face everywhere.

It was completely crushing because it represented the United Kingdom choosing austerity over welfare.

I understand that many people are worried about the economy, I am too, but not only does austerity not make sense in a time of economic downturn when spending is needed to encourage growth, it also represents an ideology which is incomprehensible to the left for precisely this reason: it punishes the poorest and most vulnerable of our society the most.

It is much easier to be offended by the vandalism of a war memorial, for example, than it is to be offended by welfare cuts. The Whitehall war memorial, even if you only see a picture of it in a newspaper article, is far more tangible and widely acknowledged than the suffering of those on benefits. Of course, the memorial is a testament to the hard work, and indeed the sacrifices of women during the war, which is precisely why defacing it in an anti-austerity protest is so deeply disrespectful. At the same time, our respect for the women of war, I hope, goes beyond what is essentially a large inanimate object. It is easy to forget that those who depend on welfare are actually real, living people when they merely become statistics in political parlance. I believe that there is a huge disconnect in the general public consciousness between the concept of welfare cuts and what it actually means in real terms for those who will struggle just to feed themselves as a result.

It is difficult to bridge this disconnect. Certainly, playing into the hands of trolls by insulting Tories on social media won’t do it. The only way to make any difference is to turn the smart phone off and do something that’s more than clever: practise what you preach.

I realise that there’s a certain irony in a blog post that espouses turning away from the digital world to make a difference, but it’s a start. Now more than ever, campaigning on social issues, donating to your local food bank and volunteering in your local community is the way to directly retaliate against austerity in the best way possible. The Mirror recently published a list of “7 ways to make a difference if you oppose the Conservative government” which could at least spark some ideas for how you might like to feel more involved in mitigating the issues that concern you. Not only can we help people, we can demonstrate that liberals and the left wing are clearly much more than sore losers.

That ‘noose’ metaphor

I used a rather unpleasant metaphor in the title of this piece not just for effect but also in reference to the rather disturbing juridical mores of certain recently appointed Tory cabinet ministers. It is more than a little concerning that the new Justice Secretary Michael Gove once wrote a Times column in 1998 entitled “Bring back the noose,” whilst the new Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions Priti Patel has also openly supported the reintroduction of capital punishment in the past. I’m not actually convinced that the new government will try to bring back hanging, but what it certainly does want to do is scrap the Human Rights Act.

In addition to the fundamental nature of our basic rights being reinterpreted, the membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union is being questioned. David Cameron’s majority is allowing his government to make a very large and very lasting impression on the country. The first impression of the left after the election result wasn’t good. Let’s break free of the noose of fear and loathing, and do something about that.


The artwork featured above is by Kenny Cole and was used under a Creative Commons license. The artist’s Flickr page can be found here.

A challenge to the ‘single story’ of modern Britain

Recently, I was watching a TED talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, entitled, “The danger of a single story.” In this, she discusses how the construction of limited narratives pertaining to particular peoples and places creates a warped, bias perspective on the world. Today, the 7th of May 2015, it appears that the political character of the United Kingdom is on the knife’s edge as its citizens prove the mightiness of the pen over the sharp implement and cast their votes. What is at stake? For many, it appears that it is the very identity of the country itself.

I have to preface this discussion with the obligatory nod to self-reflexivity and declare my own bias. Admittedly, I am just one online commentator out of countless, just another drop from the internet cloud, and a privileged one at that. Being a white, middle class, cisgender woman in a heterosexual relationship, and a leftie at that, you could argue that my perspective on the country is just another ‘single story.’ Yet, the existence of my own bias, and indeed every other that exists in the form of over 60 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom is in fact integral to my argument against the single story of Britain.

Not surprisingly, the media portrayal of immigration is a topic Chimamanda confronts in her talk, specifically her shame at unconsciously falling under the spell of the negative characterisation of Mexico in the United States. Immigration isn’t a topic that has merely reared its head so much as had a tantrum and stamped its feet in the run up to the general election. The horror story of immigration, with the benefit-scrounging and potentially HIV positive migrant protagonist is one that Nigel Farage has relished retelling again and again. The demonisation of migrants is one of the best examples of the danger of the single story in modern Britain. For me, the day the political tale of Britain appeared to turn into a black comedy was when Farage blamed being late for an event because an increase in immigrants had caused the M4 to be “not as navigable as it used to be.” This quote reveals that the apparent scourge of immigration is in fact only one chapter in the greater British chronicle of how it “used to be.” I’ll return to this story later.

Immigration is not always beneficial to everyone, including immigrants. Immigrants will not necessarily be people that you like personally, understand or who contribute to the economy, but they are not always bad either. In fact, they are human beings that can, just like any other member of the population, vary wildly. And herein lies the ultimate fallacy of the single story. Labelling people as “immigrants” not only dehumanises, it homogenises, which is simply inaccurate.

There are other categories which have been created for people to make writing single stories about them easier. One of these is the caricature of the benefit thief. The stigma associated with claiming benefits is convenient in a political climate in which the deficit has been hung around our necks like the albatross from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a collective guilt that feels all the more heavy when welfare cuts loom on the horizon. The single story of benefit fraud allows us to render those in poverty, those disabled and others who need help from the state as The Other, when in fact those who claim benefits are not just a statistic but individuals who lead myriad lives and should not just be defined by boxes ticked on an administrative form.

It’s time now for a personal anecdote, because a bit of irony in discussing the single story seems appropriate. I had an acquaintance. He can be called, Tom, Dick or Harry, it doesn’t really matter, and for the purpose of this piece I’ll go no further. This acquaintance seemed to be obsessed with the supposed omnipresent nature of what he referred to as “pickeys.” He referred pejoratively to people who he believed were constantly watching, ready at any moment to steal tools which were left unguarded. Furthermore, he was known for having a hatred of brown squirrels, due to their history of almost driving red squirrels into extinction in the United Kingdom. In this way, even a squirrel can be labelled as a dangerous ‘immigrant,’ while it is easy to forget that they were originally brought in as a novel addition to estates in the 1870s. What this anecdote demonstrates is that a single story can lead people to actively dislike and discriminate against certain groups of people, and that the single story is very much compatible with ideologies about British identity.

So what does it mean to be ‘British?’ The answer seems to come from that chronicle I mentioned earlier, the one about how it “used to be.” There can be great nostalgia in the single story. This is a subject that Guardian columnist Zoe Williams has touched on in her article: “Let’s ditch the nostalgia that’s invaded our TV and seeped into our politics.” Though I don’t quite agree with her call to “burn the bunting,” she does make the interesting point that the recent popularity of vintage aesthetics and thrift does complement the austerity story and the connotations of British stoicism that both are woven into. Of course, a love of vintage does not have to be associated with the deficit, but nostalgia and a need to attempt to pin down a ‘British’ identity and values are important to the austerity story because without them there would be no proposed happy ending. The Puritanical urge, that sense that if it hurts it must be good for you, relays back into the feedback loop of striving for a supposed pure ‘Britishness’ which can only be attained by travelling back in time, and disassociating with The Other, which can only be won through…austerity.

Yet this single story Britain is the exact opposite of what it pertains to be. It could be believed that driving away immigrants and minorities of all kinds would create a somehow more complete, more wholesome country. Yet, as Chimamanda puts it:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

Austerity Britain is one story. So is the nostalgia for days gone by, a different Britain, and I’m not discounting that because it is clearly prevalent in constructions of national identity. However, there are also the stories of minorities, who are far from ‘minor’ and bring their own perspective. There are so many different cultures, colours and creeds in Britain, and they all have their own stories to tell, whether you care or agree. There is not one inherently British story, because how could there be? The world is constantly in flux, and all our stories are changing.

If you think it is only the status quo, the stereotypical traditional British person that can bang at the door of Number 10 Downing Street, then perhaps you should consider an alternative plotline. I believe there are other stories out there, and I don’t think they are the stuff of Arthurian myth and legend. There are Others. And to paraphrase Walter White, they are the ones that knock.


Sources:

https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-30370570

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/30/ditch-nostalgia-television-politics-austerity-bake-off