Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Old Country Has Forgotten

Stephen Taylor has an excellent post here on PM Stephen Harper's speech to the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in London. The PM expresses a decidedly unfashionable view on the benefits arising from former British colonialism.

It strikes me that there is some irony in the fact that many of the virtues of good governance, social order and responsibility that the British imposed on their colonies have been maintained by the independent states making up the Commonwealth, while the British themselves have largely abandoned most of the things that made them Great.

I have travelled widely throughout Commonwealth countries and have lived here in Canada for 10 years, but still occasionally make it back 'home'. Modern Britain is a mean, materialistic, society, with little regard for education, order and respect. What matters now is what car you drive, what training shoes you wear and how much your house has gained in value in the last week. Crime is rampant, albeit mostly petty crime, and many people live daily with a fortress mentality.

By contrast, Australia, India, Singapore, New Zealand and to a lesser extent Canada, maintain many of the traditions of social order and good governance that the British left with them. In Perth, Australia, it is illegal for a teenager to sit on public transit if an adult needs a seat. Without exception, the young people I met there were polite, respectful, well educated and proud to be so. In Britain it's fashionable to be as ignorant as possible.

India and Singapore have maintained the 'old-fashioned' British education system, while in Britain that has wilted. The Commonwealth remembers what the Old Country has forgotten and is the better for it.