- . . (UK - Tradition and modernity. A personal view)

- . . (UK - Tradition and modernity. A personal view)

UK- Tradition and modernity. A personal view

A culture is the sum of all the things by which humanity can choose to


I have chosen to paraphrase Brian Enos (British musician) words about

culture to start my essay with because they are related to the issue of

multiculturalism that I wish to approach in my paper. Starting from my

belief that a country is what her people are, I think that the complex and

diverse nature of todays British society can be better understood if we

take a close look at the ones who are actually forming this society- the

British people

Since the battle of Hastings. Say the word British and the thoughts of

most people would be directed to the language of Shakespeare, to the famous

British accent, to the royal succession, to Big Ben, to the 5 oclock tea,

to the black humor, to the bowler hat and so on.

About fifty years agoSay the words British people and the following

might cross their minds: conservative, traditional, polite, stiff,


NowadaysSay the words British identity and you might find it described

only by fluctuating.

Strange, you might add, arguing that a portrait of British people or

on the meaning of being British can be drawn in precise lines. In fact,

just above, people proved to have long-established guide marks when it

comes to sketching them. A simple, new and controverse word such as

fluctuating seems rather unsuitable to stand near the traditional and

well-known British identity.

Still, the significance of fluctuating British identity might pop

anxiously in your mind, arising the curiosity to search for even a seed of

truth in it. And, if thats the case, I believe the starting point should

be the very basic element of this identity: the character and personality

of the British people.

The key question to be reviewed is whether a single and unvaried British

temper entered the gates of this millenium.

A return to the historic events might provide part of the answer to this.

After the Second World War, Britain faced an influx of European refugees.

As a result of it, sizeable groups of Americans, Australians, Chinese and

even Indian or Pakistani settled down and concentrated in communities in

particular British areas. Unsettled Multiculturalism written by B. Hesse

gives a detailed description of the process, concluding that throughout the

following decades, the new foreign-born element of the population induced

by the immigration waves reflected its own image in the British identity.

The cultural prints left are in fact the assumptions and aspirations, the

values and believes of each community, that have shaped and outlined the

countrys identity.

Nowadays precisely this diversity of backgrounds and experience define

Britain as a multicultural country. The traditional Being British has

certainly taken centuries to forge but I strongly support that only by

submitting to a modern and constant process of renewal with elements from

different cultures can a nation survive, open new and expanding horizons

for its society and build a common cultural framework for its people. Most

countries embrace this flexible attitude of taking in a new human input but

to me what is uniquely British is the ability to preserve the core

traditional values of the culture and add to them the spice ingredients

of modernity. These dont manage to alter British tradition, seconds J.

Rutherford in his book Young Britain, but improve its taste, its

glorious achievements so that a better and more complex heritage can be

passed to the next generations.

From my point of view, reconciling tradition with modernity in Britain is

like putting in a glass the oil (British culture) and water (foreign

cultures) together. Theres no mixture in this, in fact both remain

distinctive entities and conserve their properties. But most important, the

content of that glass will grow, as you continue to pour in it the vitality

of water. Salting and peppering the British culture with a multitude

of values from foreign cultures would certainly complete the fruits of

tradition and bake a more vibrant, modern and dynamic British identity.

And precisely the main ingredient used to bake it is the peoples


Psychology recognizes that the individuals identity is closely determined

by the framework of various social encounters and experiences. As C. Squire

clearly stated in Culture in psychology, only the collectivitys accounts

provide the foundation for individuals to make sense of their personal

experience and therefore for constructing their identity. The rule is in

fact a simple one and I could formulate it like this: people FORM a society

but the society, too, FORMS people.

If at the macro- cultural level described above the frame traditions of the

immigrant people are just an addition to the host countrys cultural

heritage, without changing it in any way, at the micro- social level the

common life of the native British involves an interaction with people from

different backgrounds and a mixing with their habits, views, way of

dressing, music, sport and so on. In such a fluctuating context, its

almost impossible for the native British individuality to remain the same,

emphasize R. Baulock, A. Heller and A. Zollberg in the study The Challenge

of Diversity Integration and Pluralism in Societies of Immigration. Yes,

it shelters its primary and traditional moderation, politeness,

stiffness, but at the same time combines them with modern and

distinguished Indian, American, Chinese or Asian flavors. Certain old

inside-British stereotypes have been eroded by the new fluid identities and

every field of modern British life stands as a living proof to testify


However, theres no recipe to indicate us what exactly will the notion of

Britishness comprise if so many cultures become integrate parts of a long

and famed British structure. Indeed the result may be unknown, but the

cooking stages are obvious for anyone who walks on the streets of Britain


Cut into slices and attentively viewed, the traditional British life is

increasingly spread with stereotypical immigrants traits and practices

such as vegetarianism, meditation or yoga, explain Mike Storry and Peter

Childs in British Cultural Identities. The same authors agree that the

list could endless go on, from the new sports adopted to various forms of

entertainment, fashion styles and even to food or drink. If these are just

a few of the foreign whip creams to adorn the British life, than a

further distinctive relish of it is given by festivals and significant

dates. These are in my perspective the most clear example of culture link

between the uprooted people and the native ones. They settle perhaps the

most democratic arena where expression and change can take place and where

tradition embraces modernity in one and unique combination wrapped in a

British manner. The Chinese New Year or Halloween are just a few

celebrations that show traces of foreign influence, but that acquire

British dimensions because the land, the fireworks, and most important the

people that take part at it are British. Sharing a common joy, being

together for the same holiday borrowed or not, unit people and set up the

groundwork for a transfer of cultural identity pieces. Some of them remain

pure British, others emerge as a mixture of cultures. If the first

category embodies British traditions, the second deals with modern British


A newborn child in Britain nowadays will be marked by both of them and will

mould its personality from traditional British dough but with small

modern drops of American flexibility, Chinese perseverance, Asian

patience, European innovation, Australian cheerfulness. Perhaps in this

inner mixture will the notion of being British truly see its future.