To:    Guardian CiF
Re:   Britishness, identity and the nation state
Date: Wednesday 6 June  07


In response to Jonathan Freedland's suggestion of a Britishness test for everyone.

Link to article and thread at The Guardian.

The emotions associated with personal and group identity are comparable to those associated with sex.

For a start, they are deeply rooted in human nature and behaviour, which evolved over millions of years, when we lived in extended family groups in the natural environment - not in the artificial, "socio-economic environment" we struggle for survival and personal advantage in today.

The same emotions, and the behaviours they drive, vary greatly, from individual to individual, and within the same individual over time and circumstance, in both importance and expression, from being a virtual irrelevance to being an all-consuming passion, from being a source of great joy and fulfillment to being a source of misery and suffering. They can carry us to the greatest heights of what it means to be human and to the lowest depths of our brutish nature.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that "identity" (personal and group identity, relating to the present and the past, and going back for generations and millennia), like sex, is an extremely important matter. Jonathan Freedland here sounds to me like a sex-education teacher, imbibed with the "progressive", permissive attitudes of the 60's, but clueless as to the meaning and depth of the subject, giving a very boring and misleading (potentially corrupting) talk to a class of 14-year olds.

Does it not occur to him that others might long for - and need, even if they are unaware of it - as deep and meaningful a sense of personal and group identity has he has, I assume, from being a Jew?

As far as I'm concerned, the sense of "British" identity our politicians and political commentators are desperately trying to sell us is a load of bollocks, with the purpose of serving their own self-interests by legitimizing the power structures of this nation state, on which, granted, we ALL depend, but which are deeply rooted in our animal nature and behaviour, and exploited (as they always have been) by our social elites - to which Jonathan, of course, now belongs.

2nd Post
"British identity" is about legitimizing and strengthening the "nation state" we take for granted, while neglecting what its origins and purposes are.

Evolution adapted human nature and behaviour to life in extended family groups, which were held together by strong emotional bonds of family affection and loyalty, and mutual material dependency. Now, we no longer depend on our extended family, but on the state, which has effectively taken its place, and in return demands our loyalty (and taxes). MONEY - provided we have enough of it - gives us the illusion of personal independence, but this rests and depends entirely on the power structures, laws and law enforcement of the nation state.

When extended family groups merged or were incorporated into larger social units - which, from an evolutionary perspective, occurred relatively recently - a new situation arose, in which cunning and/or powerful individuals were able to exploit other individuals' dependency and sense of loyalty to their own advantage. Thus emerged an aristocracy and priesthood, the former exploiting society through physical intimidation and the power of the sword, the latter through emotional intimidation and the power of the word (of God or the gods).

These two elites formed a complementary and all-powerful alliance which exploited the mass of society (the peasantry) to their own advantage, although it was always presented, not as exploitation, but as "service". There were, of course, rivalries and conflicts within the aristocracy and priesthood themselves, and between the two, but they generally knew when to stick together in order to suppress and exploit the peasants. To confuse matters and give credibility to the myth of "service", most members of the aristocracy and especially the clergy, sincerely believed it themselves, and some even tried to live up to it.

Society is no longer dominated by an all-powerful alliance of aristocracy and clergy, but by other, less ridged, more "meritocratic", elites and alliances, still driven by the same, deeply rooted patterns of behaviour: cooperation when necessary (when it suits us, or we are forced to) and the continuing (Darwinian) struggle for survival, status and advantage in the artificial "socio-economic environment" that has effectively replaced the natural environment - which, incidentally, is why we persist in giving absolute priority to economics (the household of man in the socio-economic environment) instead of to ecology (the household of our planet in the natural environment) when it is obvious (were we not blinded by normality and dependency) that human survival now urgently demands the opposite.

Like those of yesteryear, today's elites are convinced themselves, and assure everyone else (which in politics and the media they are very well positioned to do), that they are absolutely essential to the functioning and general welfare of society, and that any advantages they enjoy are wholly rational and justified. Of course they are - just as those of the aristocracy and clergy once were.

That, I think, is enough for one post, but I will follow it up later with another.

3rd Post

Modern society combines and confounds what were once, when human nature and behaviour were still evolving, two distinct environments: one's own extended family group, on the one hand, and the natural environment, which included other, rival, groups of humans, on the other.

This is why the artificial, socio-economic environment (and order) in which we now live is so confusing, stressful and dysfunctional (e.g. crime and antisocial behaviour): one moment we view others as members of our own group, the next we see them as strangers, members of a rival group, with the very different emotions associated with each. Added to which, members of what is definitely supposed to be our own group (compatriots) are busy seeking to exploit us (quite legitimately, as workers, tenants, consumers, or whatever), instead of cooperating and sharing with us "on an equal basis" for our mutual benefit in exploiting the natural environment or "other" groups of humans.

I hope that here and in my previous two posts I have sufficiently made my case in explaining the socio-economic "state" we are in - both in the sense of "nation state" and "mess".

It is not just socially unjust and inhumane, as it always has been, but now also materially quite unsustainable; because, dominated by our blind, dumb-animal nature, we are bound to give priority to economics (and our own, particular, narrow and short-sighted self-interests) instead of to ecology, which we have to do if we don't want to joint the dinosaurs before the end of this century.

But how to extricate ourselves from our seemingly hopeless situation, from a socio-economic order on which we ALL totally depend, but is so deeply rooted in and dependent on our animal nature?

The answer has to lie in recognition of the actual situation, as opposed to the myth, of what it means to be "British" (or any other nationality), and in the freedom of individuals to create alternatives to the nation state by deciding for themselves which groups they belong to, with what priority, and to self-organize accordingly.

The Internet and biometrics (necessary to combat identity deception) now provide the means. It's up to us to start getting our act(s) together.

It will amount to the biggest and most profound revolution in human history and needs to be prepared with great care and caution (including a commitment to non-violence), but we need to get a move on. Time is running short, with a ruthless Mother Nature already "warming up" for the job of reducing human numbers and activity to sustainable levels, which we are currently incapable of doing ourselves.