[June, 2014 – Tragic pertinence needs must rework and repeat]
What would you have us value, then?
What passes for these British traits?
Is it the wilful diminution of democracy
That separates the people from the State?
Or maybe our incessantly insistent view
That what we do is “help” the world for its own sake?
I think I’ve got it: it’s that fair play code we think we own!
How righteously polite we are!
Perhaps we should commission us a global honour mission
Thus we won’t feel so perceptibly alone.
So, is it in our famous law and order you’ve translated into Money talks?
Our globe-anointed tolerance that shadow-stalks the local masses?
Could it be the age-old choreography between the economic classes?
Is it in our Blighty-quaint ability to wait in lines? The neoliberal culture of
I’ll only pay for mine?
Stiff upper lip, is it?
The non-complaining strategy that manifestly rhymes
Neurotic and sclerotic with our passive-born aggression?
Or perhaps it’s that amazing, self-congratulating way
We tend to trip out on our history’s big lessons?
No, wait! Don’t tell me! Let me guess:
You mean like how you cherish our belovèd NHS?
Or could it even be our undeniable capacity
To finger-point with swinging lead and buried heads?
Or might it be our deep, rich, grass-root, time-was Cool Britannia,
Now, by Cowell’s ilk and cynical palaver, made an operatic lather?
Is it in the way we gush and gift a paltry nobody to unreserved celebrity
And rush to make pariahs of the stars beyond our knowing?
Is it how we gloat and glower over uncontested power?
Yes! It surely has to be the Press, with all its freedom to impress?
Or is it how we toe the line
When Lord America decides
We might be useful hand-tools, after all?
Is it our poodle disposition or our sniffy exhibition
That defines our island character?
Do Britain’s expositions make her values truly worthy
Or just pompously perfidious and small?
What the hell and where the heck
Are all these dandy ‘British values’?
Suffer me my ignorance but,
Is it in the way you favour those already able?
Is it how you keep your brother
Or the fear that looks for other
In the refugee and immigrant?
The prisoner? Disabled?
Is it how you treat the NEETs?
The homeless, sleeping on the streets?
The single parent? Needy elders?
Every worker like a serf?
Is it how you are transfixed by everybody’s patriotic worth?
Perhaps you’d like our babies stamped at birth, like eggs,
With redly roaring lions? Then, once they’re schooled and duly cloned,
Be branded with a standard – maybe tractors backed by Union Flags
To make their British value known –
For, what is value worth that can’t be shown?