Do you think that your country’s historic politics changes the way society perceive individuals now?

Posted by admin in UK Contributor / February 14, 2020

Name: Rebecca Hawkins

Age: 16

Hometown: I am from Romford, which is in a suburb of London.

History has an irrefutable influence on society today. Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of historical determinism or reject it entirely, it is undeniable that history has at least one hand on the rudder directing the course the of present. Individually, humans are unpredictable, but en masse historic policies have shaped us and our society more than we realise. Britain’s historic policies are just as important today as they were when they were first implemented, certainly not because they dictate the future, but because they have shaped our societal and cultural mindset, and will continue to do so.

Recent events have shown clearly how much historic policies have affected how we perceive ourselves and other individuals. Brexit, whatever the gloss about funding the NHS or taking more control of our economy, was fuelled by misplaced nationalism. There was a complete denial of the fact that we would lose the bulk of our political influence if we left the EU. Why? Because in the past, Britain used to be “great”. Britain used to have an empire that spanned half the world. Britain used to have a “special relationship” with the US. Of course, it is undeniable that Britain still has one of the largest economies in the world, so would not become entirely irrelevant, at least not immediately. But why would the EU make Brexit easy for us? They want to make us an example, and therefore it is naive to expect the Brexit deal will contain many advantages for Britain.

We could have used the EU to cultivate useful political influence, albeit in cooperation with other countries. However, our own historic nationalism has blinded us to our own lack of importance.
Other countries, including China, are on the rise. To deny that is to remain trapped in an imperial past. Who in the future is going to want to listen to a tiny island isolated from the US by a vast ocean and from the EU by unreconcilable hostility?

Our country’s historic politics have also had an influence on our attitudes towards Russia. We are not returning to a Cold War with Russia; the world has changed too much. The characteristics that defined the Cold War are no longer present. Yet a Cold War rhetoric still persists in the language of politics today. Only a few weeks ago, Theresa May condemned Russia for trying to ‘sow discord in the West’, sparking widespread debate and inciting a scathing and belittling response from Russian officials. The Cold War has undoubtedly shaped our collective mindset. Without a doubt, recent Russian actions – including the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and the suggested (although not entirely confirmed) interference with the US election in 2016, to name a few – have
been extremely subversive and strike an ominous note for the future. However, rather than consider the fact that relentless NATO expansion could be perceived as an aggressive move, we immediately assume that we are returning to the days of the Cold War. Is it reasonable to believe that Russia would feel secure with NATO, itself a Cold War institution, encroaching on its borders?

We allow our historic mindset to enslave us rather than to liberate us. Theresa May stated that ‘we do not want to return to the Cold War’. Just the fact that such language is being thrown around is evidence enough that we haven’t left the Cold War behind. Our historic policy, for better or worse, continues to shape the way our society views countries such as Russia. It is also one reason why we continue to threaten hostility instead of openly and actively working towards reconciliation.

Awareness of the past can help shape our country in positive ways too. Ever since the development of the Welfare State in the 20th century, there is more of an awareness, more of an expectation that the government should intervene and implement policies that would benefit the less fortunate individuals in society. Whatever the criticisms of social welfare policies today, no current government would get away with a complete return to a laissez-faire attitude. Social Welfare provision is riddled with problems and the 2017 Budget has made no mention of much needed reforms, but Welfare Policies remain at the forefront of discussion because we expect the government to act, to take some responsibility for individuals within society. Our historic Welfare traditions have changed how our society treats individuals, and this is certainly an improvement.

Just because Britain has many dark aspects to its past does not mean that we are forever doomed to repeat them. Expanding our knowledge of our historic policies can highlight how we can still
change society for the better. Denying that Britain has always been a multicultural, ethnically diverse nation only limits our future potential and what could be our role in a chaotic, increasingly intolerant, world. Britain has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees, from the French Huguenots to the Jewish children of the Kindertransport. This is a past we should not forget.

This is a past that we should allow to shape us. Britain’s historic politics have had a great impact on the way society views and treats individuals. In some cases, it has negative effects, trapping our society in the mindset of an era long gone. In others, it can help us to perceive individuals in ways that can be beneficial and humanitarian. What is required is awareness and acknowledgement of the past. History does not dictate the future, but we can’t completely escape it either unless we consciously choose to. We should use our knowledge of Britain’s historic politics to make well informed decisions about whether to embrace the past, or to reject it entirely.

The future is ours for the making.

More about Rebecca:

I go to the Sixth Form in Brentwood School I like Romford because of its proximity to the vibrancy of London but also the countryside of Essex. You get to enjoy both worlds!

I am a castle-loving history freak who wants to spend the future either road tripping from historical place to historical place, or locked in a dark room tapping away at a keyboard. I get excited about poetry, dead historical people and classical music. My favourite way of spending my spare time is writing novels and obsessively drinking tea.

Author: admin

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