Saturday, January 26, 2008

Less Is More:“Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco”

photo by marguerita: A poetic license portrait of the Queen.(Elizabeth)
LONDON — It was a lofty idea: formulate a British “statement of values” defining what it means to be British, much the way a document like the Declaration of Independence sets out the ideals that help explain what it means to be American.Because of the peculiarities of its long history, Britain has in modern times never felt the need for such a statement.What does it mean to be British? How do you express it in a country that believes self-promotion to be embarrassing? And how do you deal with a defining trait of the people you are trying to define: their habit of making fun of worthy government proposals?Nor did it help when The Times of London cynically sponsored a British motto-writing contest for its readers.The readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (Asbo stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was “No Motto Please, We’re British.”As for the statement of values, Mr. Wills of the Justice Ministry said that the government would soon hold “an extensive and intensive” period of consultation with regular people on what being British means to them. After that, it will convene a “citizens’ summit” of 500 to 1,000 people who will deliberate on the matter. The final decision on the statement will be made by Parliament.

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