A site called Icons (www.icons.co.uk) is trying to identify icons of Englishness, as opposed to Britishness. It is a non-profit organisation whose aim is to "provide stimulating interactive ways of exploring different cultural landscapes." They want to stimulate debate about the value of various icons of Englishness.
The Guardian had an item in its newsblog on this subject (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2006/01/09/identity_parade.html) which brought out the Englishness in its contributors, who offered various ideas for icons, and silly suggestions. My suggestion was for a Wedgewood plate of marmalade on toast.
Funnily enough, the same day I read an article in the New Criterion (http://www.newcriterion.com/archives/24/01/its-the-demography) by Mark Steyn on the demographic impact of decreasing birth rates amongst Europeans on the one hand, and high birth rates amongst immigrant populations, especially Muslim ones on the other. The maths is pretty straightforward.
"Much of what we loosely call the western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most western European countries."
Not the geographical names, but the culture. Western culture is on the decline and will be gone within a century. The irony of coming across this article on the same day as I read about the English icons promotion, was not lost on me.
We had better bring together as many as possible while we still have them, because in a few generations, the people for whom they are icons will be no more than memories.
I am wondering whether European governments are actually considering demography seriously, or whether it'll be someone else's problem, by which time, of course, it'll be too late. France has taken measures favouring large families - you get tax breaks and cheap train fares, generous child support and a medal (!) and I think other European countries should follow suit.
Maybe what'll happen is that all the Europeans will have to move to one country, say France, and leave the rest of Europe to the 'immigrants' who'll be predominantly Muslim. It'll be like Israel all over again. Why choose France? Well, it has the nicest climate and most varied scenery so it gets my vote. We'll all become just Europeans as nitpicking about who is English, French, German, etc. will be totally pointless and the only indications that Europeans were ever distinct cultural entities will be icon exhibitions based on websites like 'Icons' in museums to which children will go to point and make jokes.
It's all rather sad really.
Still, I've done my bit with my 2 children, and I'm too old for more, so it's over to the young and fertile. Guys 'n' gals, we're counting on you for the survival of the Western World. Get breeding!