Akala asks: Which set of British values do you identify with?
“British values” as defined by the state were actually won through serious political struggle, Akala has said, describing what we’ve come to know as inherently British as a “distortion of history”.
“Some of the people of this island have a much more interesting, subversive, counter-cultural set of traditions buried beneath the surface. These traditions don’t fit the elite’s message that they alone are responsible for everything that’s good in society,” he said in a video for the Guardian’s In My Opinion series.
Using the Peterloo Massacre, striking miners and the Suffragettes as examples of history we’re generally not educated about in school, Akala says these groups of people represent a different set of British values.
“A tradition embodied by the John Brown Women’s Society from Sheffield, who refused to make manacles for factories that supported slavery, but because they were poor – and women to boot – their names have vanished into history.”
Bringing it to the present day, Akala says these same values are embodied by “activists, youth workers, school teachers and nurses that go that extra mile for the people they are trying to serve” – while the work they do is regarded as “anti-British or anti-state until they bear fruit that the state then wants to claim for itself”.
Closing, he said: “The question in these tumultuous times, is which of the traditions of the people of this island will you be drawing on and identifying with? The one that promotes and reinforces race and class oppression, and explains away the genocide of empire as a civilising mission? Or the one of relentless activism that secured for us the very fragile freedoms that we have today?”.
Food for thought from Akala, as always. Don’t forget to support the 10 Years of Akala tour.