Citizenship should be about your values, not knowledge

The Rev Canon Bob White with representatives of the groups involved in our Christmas campaignh run with churches in Portsmouth - Comfort and Joy

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There’s a book on the shelf in our upstairs loo about becoming a British citizen.

My son bought it for my husband a while ago, as a joke and as a poke at my husband’s Canadianness.

I have a vague idea about the majority of the legislative points, but were I called on to be specific I might find myself spouting poppycock

The love of maple syrup, ice hockey and snow was getting too much for us all and my son thought it was time that the immigrant amongst us learned the basics.

That’s where all the odd books are kept – on the shelf in the loo. Toilets do fashion some strange reading material. I’m quite convinced some publishers dedicate their lives to finding the next big book to take pride of place in the little room.

A ‘dip into, step out of’ kind of book, with a touch of humour added to the mix.

Not that becoming a British citizen has any humour in it – quite the reverse. It’s a very serious little ditty with pages and pages of dry information about what it is to live on our fair isle. Covering many topics from A-Z and then back and forwards a few times.

Two points really stood out for me. The first? I would fail the citizenship test as I can’t answer a lot of the questions.

I have a vague idea about the majority of the legislative points, but were I called on to be specific I might find myself spouting poppycock.

And the second? Well, it’s this. Our society is all about control. From the first to the last in this book, being a British citizen means giving in to the hundreds and hundreds of rules – some major, some minor but all about how we spend our time almost every second of the day.

It’s quite frightening when you sit down to consider how much control there is, both in your own home and outside, and how we’re totally bound by rules and regulations so bred into us we have no choice but to obey.

Every now and then we push our boundaries and break free – like zipping the wrong way down an aisle in a car park to get the ultimate spot (but only when there’s not another car around).

My husband was here long before the test was put into place, which is lucky for both of us as I fear his knowledge is as poor as mine. I’m a good citizen, I do my best by others and contribute to society. But this book defines citizenship by knowledge rather than values.