How Britons think people become ‘integrated’


by Sunny Hundal    
10:30 am - January 16th 2013

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This week the think-tank British Future published their extensive report State of the Nation: Where is bittersweet Britain heading?, which also included questions around immigration and integration.

They commissioned four focus groups to dig into what people think integration means, and to explore how they think the process of integration works in practice.

British Future summarised their findings on integration as such:

Firstly, there was strong agreement, pretty universal among the participants in these groups, about what the essential foundations of integration are: respect for the law; the ability to speak English; and the desire to contribute and to work were all seen as obvious and common sense requirements, in the realm of personal behavour. This reflects a robust and widely held sense of what many people think of as pretty self-evident common sense foundations for integration.

If somebody did not speak English, and did not intend to do so, then that would not only make it very difficult to fully participate in our civic, political life or the economy, but would also express a lack of interest in doing so.

Secondly, those foundations do unlock a broadly held commitment to fair treatment – that those who do play by the rules deserve to be treated as members of the British club.


(the focus groups were carried out by ‘Britain Thinks’)

This looks to me like a fairly sensible list. What do others think?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Awful list, I was born here and never do half of that stuff

2. Chaise Guevara

I agree with Jon about the list, several of them don’t apply to British-born me (be proud of our national anthem? “Nurr nurr nurr nurrrr nur-nur”? Seriously?). Priorities seem fairly sound, though. I’d call the results positive.

I don’t agree, but can understand their thinking behind it. Abhor all of 3 though. I do none of those things.

Fully participate in national holidays? Does that include joining in any riots on May Day?

@Chaise G

I think there is a difference between being proud of the concept of one’s national anthem and actually thinking it is a good piece of music.

I’m pretty sure most people think the French and Russians have a better national anthem than Britain.

Though we have a better flag and passport.

Sensible list? Exactly what proportion of Brits wear the Poppy on remembrance day?
Tell me how much of the British population act on all these requirements, before imposing it on migrants.
Utter nonsense!

6. Mat Morrisroe

I won’t sing our national anthem because it locks people into the politically non-neutral support of monarchy – so why should other people have to just because they were born somewhere else?

This acceptance of xenophobia of late, Ed Miliband saying we shouldn’t have allowed so many in etc. is very, very dangerous. Do we believe that all humans are equal or not? Because believing all are equal and discriminating because someone’s geographical origin are mutually exclusive.

Jon is on to something there, with tier 3 at least. Surely immigrants shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than other people? I’m an atheist and a republican, so obviously I’m not going to be proud of a song about ‘God’ and ‘Queen’. I’m not going to ‘fully participate’ in, say, jubilee celebrations or religious holidays (assuming ‘full participation’ means something more than just giving someone a Christmas present or an Easter egg). So what? ‘Personal adoption of British national identity’ is not about turning yourself into a sort of living stock photograph representing Britishness. I’m reminded of the Coopers on Goodness Gracious Me, forever trying to live up to some ludicrous stereotype of Englishness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKc9EXo_CoU

“Get a job”

Yeah, like it’s that easy.

You can tell that lot live in cloud cuckooland can’t you.

I love the reliability of the British left. It’s as much a feature of the British landscape as the red pillar box.

It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would be more ashamed of being caught standing to attention during God Save The King than of stealing from a poor box” – George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 4 Shinsei

“I think there is a difference between being proud of the concept of one’s national anthem and actually thinking it is a good piece of music.”

Sure.

“I’m pretty sure most people think the French and Russians have a better national anthem than Britain.

Though we have a better flag and passport.”

We do have a fecking awesome passport, it’s true.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Mat

“won’t sing our national anthem because it locks people into the politically non-neutral support of monarchy”

Not to mention the somewhat contentious concept of God. Although I admit my main objection to it is that it’s crap.

5 – more than you’d think, I suspect.

The number of poppies distributed during the Poppy Appeal 2011 rose by half a million to 45.5 million, not including wreaths and other Poppy items.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/news/poppy-appeal/poppy-appeal-2011-smashes-all-records-to-reach-%C2%A338-million

Obviously, a lot of people buy more than one, but that’s still a helluva lot of poppies being worn.

13. Ivo Petkovski

There’s something in that Orwell quote – if you’re honest, even if the anthem wasn’t about the Queen or God, you’d still probably find it a bit embarrassing to stand up and heartily sing it. I probably would. There’s just something rube-ish about the act itself.

“Be proud of the National anthem and national flags”?

Stuff that for a feudal, jingoistic, forelock-tugging, I-know-my-place throwback to the days when the general populace’s primary role was as cannon fodder.

“I love the reliability of the British left.”

Yeah, Tim – damn us for having actual principles that believe in and are prepared to stand for, rather than adpoting the rightist approach of whoring them out to the highest bidder.

Yeah, Tim – damn us for having actual principles that believe in and are prepared to stand for, rather than adpoting the rightist approach of whoring them out to the highest bidder.

I wasn’t damning you, it’s endearing. Republicanism is my all-time favourite hopeless cause doomed by the earnestly counter-productive attitudes of its adherents.

17. Sunder Katwala

A commentary by me on these findings at this link.
http://www.britishfuture.org/blog/integration-attitudes/

I think there is a robust view on ‘common sense’ essential foundations, which are seen as pretty self-evident, such as the ability to speak English, and quite a liberal view about what should not be demanded beyond common citizenship. For example, our 2012 state of the nation poll found 7/10 people wanted more done to avoid segregation in schools (a view held a bit more strongly by non-white Britons) but rejection by four to one of a “cricket test”.

That was clearly part of the discussion about British symbols like the Monarchy or the poppy too, as I note, from observing a couple of these groups in Leeds.

“The third level of integration is about emotional attachment to British identity, and symbols of identity. These were given lower priority, particularly because of an understanding that this will take time. And participants also observed that they themselves differ about the Monarchy, or the wearing of poppies: the same choice was therefore open to new Britons who felt integrated, though a genuine emotional attachment to these or other British institutions would signal a felt sense of shared British identity.

The idea of personal “choice” was quickly voiced to immediately trump discussion of whether people should be judged by whether they watch the same TV programmes and films, or which sporting teams they support”.

So don’t have a value system outside of the “British” one (or at least keep quiet about it! What are “Britis” values anyway? Colonialism? Paternalism? Callousness towards the poor? Jingositic patriotism?), love Britain to a degree that most British people don’t and geta job in a nation suffering an unemployment crisis if you want us to accept you?

That’s not at all a bizarre set of standards that we don’t hold ourselves to!

“This looks to me like a fairly sensible list.”

I agree, Sunny. (And your pieces here and in the Guardian about race and integration are always worth reading.)

But the responses here are, as Tim J points out, stereotypically left-wing. I can understand people knowing the national anthem but not caring for the words (which don’t appeal to me much) and so being largely indifferent to it. What I can’t comprehend is hating or rejecting it, when it’s part of our culture and so part of our individual identity.

20. white trash

“What I can’t comprehend is hating or rejecting it, when it’s part of our culture and so part of our individual identity”

Er, hello-o Tone, just off the top of my head, Page 3 is part of our culture, as are “rivers of blood”, “moaning minnies”, plastic white bread and the Saturday night puke and punch up.

Are we supposed to not hate or reject these things that are just as much part of our culture?

Oh, and I also reject your glib identification of national culture and individual identity while we’re at it, thank you.

The really important ones are:

learn English
abide by our laws
abide by our values (This is too vague and I would like those values to be specified. Immigrants need to understand that in Britain women and children have rights, and that this is a democracy.)

22. the a&e charge nurse

‘This looks to me like a fairly sensible list. What do others think?’ – meaningless, unmeasurable twaddle ……. obviously?

Speaking the lingo, getting a job and abiding by the law have got sweet fa to do with being british since they are pretty much universally expected.

The defining quality of being british nowadays is the ability to wear a horse hair vest while arguing against anybody else’s definition of what being british actually means (since none escape various forms of stereotyping).

Just accept that unlike any other country in the world national identity in britain means everything, and nothing.

WT @ 20:

Sorry, I should have said ‘defining parts of our national culture’ rather than just ‘culture’.

What always surprises me is that people who loathe the monarchy, despise the Union Jack and national anthem, are ashamed of our imperial past and despise our Christian heritage, continue to live here when these things make them so angry and unhappy.

I’m pleased to read that level 3 was only raised in response to prompting, if this means that other people are as indifferent to these extravagant manifestations of patriotism as I am. However, I am rather alarmed that Sunny thinks they are ‘sensible’. I am not proud of the flag or the anthem (what’s to be proud of? I didn’t write/design them), I don’t wear a poppy or celebrate royal weddings etc, but my national identity is in my opinion beyond reproach. I am, though, proud of, for example, the NHS. our democratic traditions, our artistic and musical achievements – Shakespeare and the Beatles – which don’t appear in this list except perhaps as the single weasel-word ‘heritage’. The flag-wagging activities listed in section 3 don’t make someone any more British than I am. They represent patriotism as an arcane hobby – picture of the Queen on the wall etc – which apart from the poppy I suspect most people regard as a bit weird.

25. Mat Morrisroe

It would also probably help if ‘Britain Thinks’ (if rank xenophobia can be said to be thinking at all) could actually write in English when pushing the line that everyone has to speak the language, see the first bullet point under 3

26. So Much for Subtlety

This looks to me like a fairly sensible list. What do others think?

I think it is not really about integration. It is getting people to say what they don’t like about immigration without sounding racist.

So it means most British people think too many immigrants don’t want to learn English, are criminals, are exploiting the generosity of the British public through the welfare system, don’t want to be part of British life and so on.

So over all it is a pretty depressing read.

Do people in North Wales who don’t speak English have to learn to? Or people in the highlands and islands?
Do immigrants have to publicly express their gratitude to “our brave boys”???
If I don’t have to why the fork should they?
Sounds like The Great Loyalty Oath Crusade from Catch-22 to me.Count me out,Blue Labour bullies.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 TONE

“What always surprises me is that people who loathe the monarchy, despise the Union Jack and national anthem, are ashamed of our imperial past and despise our Christian heritage, continue to live here when these things make them so angry and unhappy.”

Remove the bits about the Union Jack and imperialism and change “loathe”/”despise” to “are mildly irked by” in all cases and you’re describing me.

The answer is that it doesn’t make people unhappy. These things have very little effect on one’s day-to-day life, especially if you reject them. Why would you leave all your friends behind merely because you object to having a hereditary figurehead?

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 John Bax

“They represent patriotism as an arcane hobby – picture of the Queen on the wall etc – which apart from the poppy I suspect most people regard as a bit weird”

Wait, are you saying that some people don’t have a picture of Her Majesty on the wall? Who do they offer thanks to before dinner?

CG @ 28:

“Remove the bits about the Union Jack and imperialism and change “loathe”/”despise” to “are mildly irked by” in all cases and you’re describing me.”

Sure, I can see that. But don’t assume everyone is as balanced as you are. I know and have known several hardcore obsessives who fit my original description; and some people who post on here who might fit the same category. Their anger and unhappiness about the British flag, history, constitution and Christian heritage is/was almost palpable. I shared an office with one such, and it was distracting and unpleasant. I used to wonder why he didn’t just emigrate to or seek asylum in Cuba since he thought the country was so wonderful.

“Why would you leave all your friends behind merely because you object to having a hereditary figurehead?”

People emigrate for all sorts of reasons, and it’s much easier to keep in touch with friends now than it ever was before.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 TONE

“I used to wonder why he didn’t just emigrate to or seek asylum in Cuba since he thought the country was so wonderful.”

Inertia, probably. Or more likely it didn’t bother him all that much and he just liked a good whinge.

“People emigrate for all sorts of reasons, and it’s much easier to keep in touch with friends now than it ever was before.”

It seems like a pretty stupid reason, and speaking for myself, keeping in touch via Facebook, Skype etc. kinda sucks compared to the pub.

Most people only know the first verse of God save the Queen, so why would anyone expect an immigrant to know the whole anthem.

An old neighbour, who i lived next door to for over thirty years, was Chinese. In all that time we never discussed anthems, poppies or flags. We would talk about things we had in common.

I am not proud of the flag or the anthem (what’s to be proud of? I didn’t write/design them)… I am, though, proud of, for example, Shakespeare and the Beatles

Um? You didn’t write them either you know…

In my dreams… I suppose I am proud to belong to the culture which produced these things. It’s difficult to see why anyone would be proud to belong to the culture that produced the Union Jack or God Save the Queen, though.

The first two tiers (the spontaneous ones) seem to be very reasonable and applicable to most other immigrant/new host country situations. The third list is a bit more esoteric. There are lots of native Britons who don’t wear a poppy on Remembrance Day.

36. white trash

Good points Chaise.

And what daft comments from Tone. For a start, I never said I hated or rejected the things I mentioned, I was just pointing out that they are as much a part of our culture as the things you mentioned – a fact which you haven’t been able to deny.

Even if I did dislike any or all of those things, it’s hardly a reason to leave the country, is it? There’s a helluva lot more to a place than that. Besides which every country in the world has its quota of big-mouth nationalists, lunatics, and thoroughly nasty types. Britain’s no exception.

Why should anyone be forced out of their land by anything? Surely it would be more courageous and show greater moral fibre to stand and fight for what you believe – or do you just resort to running away when things get tough?

And furthermore, unpacking your daft comments still further, you also glibly assume that it is easy for people to just up and emigrate. Maybe, if you have a bit of cash backing to get started, are educated, speak foreign languages, and aren’t tied down with commitments and family, friend networks in the UK.

And in unstable times like now, being a foreigner in a country not your own can be very dangerous.

i dont intergrate with nobody,human beings get on my nerves,animals are better company and dont talk back,as for white trash,as a white man,i object to you using that racist name,you would not use an id called black or brown trash would you,grow up mate and stop being so racist.i am very sensitive you see…

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 37

I find your attitude that other people “talk back” to you far more worrying than White Trash’s ironic screen-name. Not to mention that you’re in another thread fantasising about beating people up.


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