“I believe that, in order to live a full and satisfying life, a man needs to have a picture not only of the community to which he belongs and of his place in it, but also of the place and destiny of that community in the outside world.This is, as it were, the frame of reference within which his life is lived, which gives it… a meaning and a purpose beyond the narrow confines of place and date.
If you care to call this patriotism, so much the better.”
Enoch Powell, from ‘The Nation in the World’ in Freedom & Reality
Today, much hand-wringing, many desperate sounding semantics and industrial quantities of political bravado is or are given to thoughts on young people’s place in the world in England. I myself have documented the plight of England’s NEETs – or those not in education or training.
I have always found Enoch Powell’s aforementioned statement on what constitutes happiness fascinating. Taking Powell’s thinking as a framework, I shall endeavour herein to demonstrate how current political, educational and cultural thinking has failed young people, and empirically attempt to suggest possible solutions for these sophisticated problems.
So firstly, what are the factors that are prohibiting the ‘full and satisfying life’ that Powell believes is possible? Primarily, it is a chronic lack of aspiration; a key factor in the inability to perceive a place for oneself in the community in which one lives.
Studies emerge on a regular basis as to the root causes of a perceived ‘anti-aspirational’ culture that permeates English society. In 2008, the BBC noted on a report by The Association of Teachers and Lecturers that poor, white boys
“… have the lowest aspirations of all ethnic groups.”
One aspect of the report was particularly depressing, but nonetheless fascinating…
“The areas with the lowest educational aspirations, termed “low horizons” by the researchers, were characterised as deprived, close-knit cohesive communities with high levels of social housing and a history of economic decline.
The areas also tended to be inward-looking. with low population mobility, and few wider connections with people outside the immediate area.
The report said: ‘Residents may lack broader links with people places outside their immediate neighbourhood.'”
A resounding vindication of Powell’s viewpoint.
The Prince’s Trust recently published a fascinating survey, entitled ‘Broke not Broken’ into this problem. Its key findings were startling. According to the results, 26% of young people from deprived homes believe that few or none of their career aspirations are achievable. Furthermore,
“The survey of more than 2,300 people aged 16-24, also revealed that young people from deprived homes feel that “people like them don’t succeed in life”, and are significantly less likely to imagine themselves buying a nice house or even finding a job in the future.”
In addition to this, it stated that
“More than one in six of those from poorer homes, surveyed in the ‘Broke not Broken’ survey, said their family and friends had made fun of them when they talked about finding a good job.”
This sort of negative attitude, which actively creates a psychological barrier to work and thus deprives the individual of the meaningful social function of work within their community, is a root cause of anti-aspirational thinking. The Prince’s Trust’s proposed solution? Very simple indeed.
“… I set up and ran a weekly ‘Job Club’ from a youth centre. During this weekly club, unemployed young people would come together for a morning, work on their CV, interview techniques, job application forms and find out about education and apprenticeship opportunities. It gave them a reason to get up in the morning, and provided them with encouragement and motivation, something not all of them got at home.”
Whilst I would not usually hesitate to suggest that the state should not take over the role of the parents and family in promoting positive attributes, here we can see the tangible benefits to communities of this service. Thus we can see that Powell’s notion holds water: the importance of a place in the community to aspiration and leading a satisfying life is not to be underestimated.
But there are wider reaching rationales and a broader malaise in our culture that informs our perspective about ourselves as English people; our lack of faith in our nation. In January, leftie defeatist – and noted for her disdain for England and Englishness – Madeleine Bunting, suggested that it is not only imperative for Britain to accept its irrelevance, but that it has already taken place.
“It’s particularly hard for Britain, still suffering from post-imperial withdrawal, where political leadership requires claiming a prominent role on the world stage. Nick Clegg’s brave foray proposing a realistic national modesty during the election proved brief: irrelevance is a concept the British have yet come to terms with.”
Of course, my own input and analysis is here nearly superfluous. If there has ever been another quite such a devastating knockback, such a clear disincentive to all peoples of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I have not yet seen it.
Simon Heffer picked up a very similar thread shortly afterwards. It is clear that the language and ideology of decline has a powerful impact upon its populace – particularly if we take the Powellite definition of patriotism to hold elements of truth.
For a start, to say that we are ‘irrelevant’ or ‘in decline’ is, to use a Powellism, arrant, manifest nonsense. Our scientists are constantly in the news for their innovations for the betterment of all mankind, whether it be cancer tests and research, analysing dinosaur skin or researching hardier crops for the third world. Our people – particularly our architects – hold positions of significance and are involved in important work across the world. And that is to say nothing of the historical significance and unquantifiable wealth of our exports of democracy, buildings, infrastructures, justice, technology, ideals, settlements, values and much more besides.
The good news? Wide ranging and comprehensive research says people that recognise these things about their nation are actually happier! A Gallup Organisation poll says:
“In the study, more than 130,000 people in 128 countries answered questions posed by the Gallup Organization about how satisfied they were with life, country, job, home, and other areas. People with good feelings about their country also tended to have a rosy outlook on their personal life.”
And to defy Mrs. Thatcher and her New Labour acolytes…
“And a high GDP doesn’t necessarily buy happiness: People in poorer nations feel especially good about their lives when they are satisfied with their country.”
All in all, we see resounding evidence that Mr Powell’s notions of happiness are substantive and a viable basis for improving the lot of many millions of our countrymen. It’s even good news for the major political parties. While they’re likely to avoid anything connected with Enoch Powell, Labour and the Liberal Democrats needn’t deviate from their core notions of community and the Conservatives’ (or David Cameron’s) much vaunted and much maligned ‘Big Society’ could be said to have a practical and wide-ranging meaning.
So rather than being defeatist, rather than being negative about our role, our people, our prospects and our nation, let us celebrate. Who we are, what we have done, where we are now and the kind of people we already and wish to produce. Let us be taught to seek meaning in our communities and in their part in the fabric of the nation. Let us take pride in ourselves.
Above all, let us shrug off the arrogance of those who would say that national pride is divisive. Let us recognise the importance of patriotism to aspiration.