I’ve always felt uneasy when I’ve heard a politician
Say we ought to place more focus on promoting ‘British Values’ –
Even more so, now we’re living in an era when it’s trickier than ever
To determine what exactly Britain ‘values’…
We’re told it means the rule of law, of democratic governance,
Acceptance of all other people’s faiths and cultural perspectives,
The liberty to be ourselves, to live our lives and live them well
And benefit from sharing this collaborative collective,
And anyone with half a mind would really have to fight to find
A good excuse to undermine such noble ways of living
When so many souls have fought and died,
Protested, bled and sacrificed
Defending basic human rights
Which we should all be given.
Now, the issue that I have is when we label such things ‘British’,
When such fundamental values don’t apply to just one nation
And should simply be what we expect as civilisation makes progress
And sheds the prejudice which hampered older generations.
Yet still, there’s some who think that we’re superior in some regard,
As though we’ve never made mistakes and done things worth regretting,
And when checking through our history, it’s clear to see there used to be
Some other things we valued which we’d rather be forgetting…
We used to value king and country, used to value church and God,
We used to value our stiff upper lip – ‘Keep Calm and Carry On!’
We used to value naval trade routes held to keep the empire strong
And to believe with all conviction that Britain could do nothing wrong;
We used to value simply marching into countries not our own
And stripping those who lived there freely of their families and their homes
And carving ancient nations up into corrupt exclusion zones
To build new bureaucratic boundaries on a mound of blood and bones;
We used to value owning people as a tradable commodity
And value lengthy jail time for love dismissed as sodomy;
We used to value leaving women home alone to raise the kids
And valued precious social status based on paint and powdered wigs;
We valued opium prescriptions for our daily aches and pains
And valued children trapped in factories to earn the family wage;
We used to value different genders getting different rates of pay
And keeping people segregated based on how they chose to pray.
A couple of hundred years ago it must have seemed impossible
Such fundamental cultural conventions could be overturned,
Where now they serve as
Permanent reminders of our past mistakes,
Of greater changes still to make and lessons yet to learn.
You don’t get to pick and mix your past, that’s just a fact of life,
To only choose the pieces you can use and set the rest aside,
To only focus on components that promote your sense of pride
And treat the rest as an embarrassment you do your best to hide.
Every relationship is based on being open, being honest,
And you cannot love something if you cannot accept its truths;
So if you really ‘love your country’, then you need to stop pretending
Exploitation and oppression were just things it didn’t do.
And if you really ‘love your country’, look at how it treats its people
And all the things it’s done to undermine their quality of life,
Created devastating failure that betrays a generation
While its voters’ inclinations keep on drifting to the right,
Because maybe we shouldn’t proudly tout our so-called ‘British Values’
When there’s still systemic troubles causing problems to this day,
And any progress which we might have made is mired in hypocrisy
As other vital values have been slowly chipped away;
We used to value education as a fundamental right,
That every child was a treasure and their futures should be bright,
But now we’ve turned schools into franchise chains
And brainwashed all the kids
So they can grow up driving cabs and serving coffee to the rich.
We used to value sharing knowledge, now the libraries are closed
And every college needs a sponsor to support their basic needs,
You can’t pay for your university unless you’ve earned a bursary,
And even then you’ll drown in debt by the time you finally leave.
We used to value honest conduct, value democratic truths,
Like the assumption our own government would fight against abuse
But now the cretins we elected measure each neck for the noose
And then sell guns to other countries to oppress their people too.
We used to value having an NHS, our proudest institution,
With a soothing balm and healing hand for every wound and sickness;
Now they’ve cut its guts out, bled it dry, for the private sector to capitalise,
They don’t give a damn who dies – that’s just the cost of doing business.
Do you see the point I'm trying to make?
The arrogant hypocrisy?
The belligerent insistence we're still better than our peers?
When we're the ones who gave these bastards
The position and permission
To erode the soul of Britain, and they've been doing it for years.
You want to be proud of your country?
Start by honestly admitting
When it's splitting hairs and dodging facts to make itself feel better,
Don't just accept what's simply stated,
Get informed and educated,
Because nothing’s going to change if we can't learn to work together.
Whether you feel the same as I do, and believe the truth will out,
Or if you think I'm talking rubbish and I ought to shut my mouth,
I wish that Britain could be somewhere I could say makes me feel proud
And I believe we'll get there someday, but right now I don't know how...
But if we try to fight injustice, if we try to find a way,
If we're determined that these circumstances really have to change,
If we accept that we're all different yet essentially the same
And if we turn our full attention on the ones we ought to blame
Then we can remake our own present, we can own up to our pasts
And we can move on to the future with a new hope in our hearts,
When we can proudly say our nation made the changes that it had to,
And then maybe we can reach a Britain we can really value.
With a swig of your drink and a shrug of your shoulders,
You spark up another of my cigarettes
And declare with frustratingly casual ease
That you don’t give a damn about politics.
I’d tried to engage you on relevant topics
And learn your opinion on current events;
If you had a perspective on civil unrest.
Economic distress and the latest protests.
I wasn’t intending to lecture and preach
Or to teach you the tenets of my manifesto,
Just to engage in some lively debate
On the worrying state of contemporary issues
Which you had appeared to be up for discussing,
Judging by how you’d just spent half an hour
Complaining about what you’d paid for your pint;
How you wish that the buses and trains ran on time;
How the sum of your wages is on the decline
Even while cost of living continues to rise.
Now I may have let all of these grievances slide
But then you said something that really provoked,
And I felt a compulsion to draw you a line
When you told me that you hadn’t bothered to vote.
“What’s the point of a vote? We all know how it goes –
You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Politicians don’t listen, some things never change,
I won’t waste my time playing the government’s games.”
Believe me, I get what you’re trying to say,
We all feel disenfranchised in this day and age,
But regardless of circumstance, one fact remains –
That if you don’t participate, you can’t complain.
You were given the chance to express your opinions
Even if doing so felt like a drop in the ocean;
You were given the right to be heard,
And the chance to help put real change into motion.
But no, you so freely abandoned a right
That souls the world over continue to suffer and die for,
Something that past generations and civilisations
Have sent populations to die for,
Fought for their freedom from tyrannical fascists,
And I don’t mean to sound so melodramatic
But how do you ever expect things to change
When you won’t life a finger or even engage?
You were given some power, however minute,
And the hope that maybe you’ll be doing some good,
As a single statistic we’re easy to stall
But when shouting together, they can’t ignore us all.
So no, I won’t hear you complain anymore
Unless you make an effort to be more informed,
Or to have an opinion, it’s the least you could do,
Or else don’t be surprised when someone steps on you.