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Discuss The Features Of Britishness.

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Introduction

Discuss The Features Of Britishness. The title of the essay implies that there is one type of 'Britishness', and therefore that there is only one identity that applies to all citizens of the British Isles. This essay believes that there is no such thing as a single British identity, and will show this by looking at the class system, the regions, religion, and the projected and perceived images of Britons. Britain has one of the oldest and deepest-rooted class systems in the world, a hangover from feudality and the wage labour of the industrial revolution. Class 'segregation' is still found in British society, with members clubs, private box seats at theatres, etc still extant. Class is one of the touchiest subjects in Britain, despite the claims of sociologists such as Peter Saunders1 (quoted Mackintosh & Mooney, 2000, p106), who argues that class divisions have been replaced by divisions "...on the basis of private ownership of the means of consumption." Ask any British person their class, and they will have a firm response: beware especially of those who can tell you they are upper-middle class with a straight face. The problem of class in society has remained despite many claims over the years that the class system is dying: social polarisation is growing - "...Britain displays a growing polarisation between a relatively affluent majority and a large, excluded minority." ...read more.

Middle

Northern Ireland also has it's own parliament, when the government decides it can be trusted to run itself, but Northern Ireland is possibly Britain's biggest identity crisis: Ulster, an predominantly Protestant region, is separated from the Catholic Eire, yet a third of Ulster is in Eire, and in some parts of northern Ulster, Catholics outnumber Protestants. The fighting over Northern Ireland is particularly bitter, and yet Ulster has never set forward any desire to be a separate state on its own - "On each side the desire is for the territory to continue to be, or to become, part of a larger nation." (Cox, 1989, p37) Cox goes on to describe the Northern Irish as "...neurotically undecided as to what they actually are." Showing that not only identification with an identity other than a supposed 'British' identity, but identification with no identity at all, can be divisive. The varied identities or lack thereof throughout the British Isles show that no such thing as 'Britishness' exists. Religion is the most divisive subject in the world, let alone in Britain - look at Israel/Palestine for example - and in Britain too it contributes to the creation of many different social, and cultural, identities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many European countries see the English as thugs, based on the performance of English fans at football matches. In literature, British identity is portrayed in different ways: the middle class man described by Graham Greene (1999, p9) as having "...retired from the bank two years before with an adequate pension and a silver handshake." is not the same man Philip Larkin (1990, p208) says of "I work all day, and get half drunk at night". In film, the unemployed men shown in The Full Monty bear scant resemblance to any character John Cleese or Hugh Grant has ever played. Thus, in terms of Britain's projected and perceived images, there is so much variety that there cannot be said to be one main form of 'Britishness'. In conclusion, this essay believes that such a thing as a 'British' identity does not exist. There are many different identities within the British Isles, based particularly on class, region and religion. There is not even a single caricature of 'Britishness' - Britons may be perceived as aristocratic snobs in one part of the world, and as violent hooligans in another. Even encompassing all by saying that anyone who resides in Britain is British leaves no room for those whose great-grandparents moved abroad to the empire a century or more ago, yet who still call themselves British. Presented with such a wide range of identities, the notion of a single type of 'Britishness' falls apart. ...read more.

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