The FINANCIAL --As the Olympics, the greatest spectacle on earth is about to begin and
the Royal Barge, ready to take the Queen who celebrates the 60th year on
the throne finalises plans for its epic journey down the river Thames,
the British and indeed millions of others who have made Britain their
home are in a lifetime celebratory mood.
The streets of London - every shopping mall and restaurant, every school, man and woman – are decked with British flags and thousands of royal memorabilia which makes one of the world’s oldest monarchies stand tall and proud.
There is something very special about the Queen herself, adored by millions not only in Britain, but around the world. The earlier pictures of herself ascending the throne at the young age of twenty seven show her to be a dazzling, very beautiful woman with all the charm and glitz of royalty. At the same time, she brought to the monarchy in Britain a distinct and unique class in statesmanship. As she matured into the queen she is now, she traversed a great sixty years of history with a sense of total balance, commitment to her status as the Queen of England, loved by millions around the world and at home.
The name British is a brand by itself. It has been built through the years of it’s long and chequered history, its wars and peace, its dynamism, its global language, its ingenuity, its love for freedom, its monarchy, its colonial empire where the sun never set, but above all, its unique sense of nationhood where democracy, tolerance and the ability to build a highly multicultural society have been the grid and hallmark of the nation’s very essence and existence. For me, London is perhaps the finest city on earth, with its ancient architecture, the streets, the malls, the parks, its ivy league educational institutions, its transport system, its shopping centres and above all, it’s British people who have an absolute sense of humour that makes the current recession a mere travesty of global mischief.
Britain has often been referred to as an island in the European continent, with its pound as currency and its trade routes more with the outside world than with Europe. Although part of the European Union and with so much traditions and history enmeshed with the French, the Germans and the Russians, British remain somewhat different and distinct from the continental Europeans. They have also cleverly, and subtly, built a great divide between them and the mainland Europeans, giving themselves a clear image of being British. They do not have a great cuisine to boast of, but never mind, they now have the world cooking every conceivable food at every street corner. They do play all the European games from soccer to rugby to basketball, but they also play a very special game called Cricket, a single “Test Series” being played sometimes over thirty days which no one in Europe understands.
From the one time colony called India to so many other colonies in Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, British flag still remains part and parcel of the history of a multitude of nations. The colonies are gone, but the language, education, roads and railways and the somewhat irritant and inefficient bureaucracy they left behind still give Britain a distinct advantage with trade, technology transfer and investments. Overall, with the exception of some very stupid things that the British Raj did in their colonies to humiliate the natives, suppress freedom movements, jail intellectuals and rob the nations of their wealth to fill the coffers back home, British have endeared to most in the colonies as a respectable and fair-minded people. The fact that they left their colonies without rupturing existing relationships and cordiality was a major diplomatic victory which ensured continuing relationships and partnerships. Without a single exception, the British are always welcome in their former colonies which have now matured into key nation states. The most singular disaster which the British created was perhaps the division of India and Pakistan which have, since partition, remained bitter enemies unable to find a common ground. The “divide and rule” policy format the British adopted in their colonies did work well for them, but it had undoubtedly left behind much destabilisation in many countries.
During the last sixty years of the Queen’s monarchy, much has changed in Britain. London has become probably the most cosmopolitan city in the world with over fifty percent of residents being of non-British origin. The city has been transformed into a unique cultural melting ground with every conceivable nationality, speaking multiple languages with a fascinating blend of colours and characters that are unmatched. The mere cacophony of languages, faces and expressions itself is a seductive delight. Add to this the millions of tourists who visit London for sight-seeing, shopping and just wandering around, you have a city built for fame.
Latest statistics also show the quiet evolution of a new species of British. Close to two million young people in Britain today are of mixed marriages, across so many nationalities, with new shapes and colours as well as a totally new wave of thinking and existence. They all call themselves British and speak English with some distinct blends of the Queen’s English. This is a new and dynamic generation, mixing old traditions and cultures of their parents and grandparents with new and the modern, bringing a wonderfully new dimension to what was years ago a somewhat stereotyped and monolithic culture. As time goes and as this new generation of neo-Brits come of age, the British will once again have a clear edge on the global stage.
Britain’s strength is in their institutions of judiciary, education, governance and the highly cherished human rights protection, rule of law and order. There have been some flirtations with unorthodox modalities of arrest and detentions of suspected terrorists, but the British public ensured that the country kept its course on human rights and democracy intact and sacred.
Rupert Murdoch and his media empire was a powerful force in Britain for years and were one of the most influential king-makers. When the Group’s phone-hacking scandal was unearthed, the government and the British institutions spared no pain in investigating every aspect of the scandal with the full force of the law of the land. That intervention, without fear or favour, is symbolic of Britain’s highly priced value system and which makes the nation perhaps the finest custodian of personal and public freedom.
For the British, the Queen and indeed the British monarchy, are treasured symbols of the nation’s history, its maturity and its status in the world. There is no building on earth which is more revered by its people than the Buckingham Palace. It is totally British, perhaps the centrepiece of the British Brand. It makes the British very special.