Sunder Katwala's latest book, ‘How to Be a Patriot: Why love of country can end our very British culture war’, offers a timely and thought-provoking exploration of patriotism and its potential to bridge the deep divisions within British society. From a personal perspective, the Director of the British Future think tank delves into the layered sense of identity, culture and community, challenging readers to reassess their own roles in shaping the nation.
"Having been thinking and writing about many issues of identity over a decade or two, my aim in this book was to try to step back and look at what is driving identity in these volatile and polarising times," shared Katwala.
Patriotism in a multi-ethnic society
One of the central questions addressed in the book is the definition of patriotism in a multi-ethnic and multicultural society. Katwala recognises that Britain is a country brimming with identity markers, such as faith, race, gender, age, and sexuality, and that a nuanced understanding of patriotism is essential in navigating these complex ideas. The British Indian author reckons we can find common ground and move beyond our differences by embracing a patriotism that acknowledges and respects diverse backgrounds.
"My question in writing this book had become less about whether Britain could find a place for people like me and much more about the ties that can hold our society together," he said.
"I have a positive experience of British identity. Growing up with an Indian father and Irish mother in the 1980s, I experienced positive changes in both opportunity and inclusion in British society. The open racism I saw on the football terraces as a teenager in the 1980s was challenged. There was a much greater British Asian and ethnic minority presence in our public life in the last two decades," the author shared his personal experience.
Britain: A Curious Paradox
Katwala's exploration of identity in Britain reveals a curious paradox.
"To outsiders, and to many in Britain too, there seems a curious paradox between some of the sharply polarised identity clashes in Britain over Brexit, immigration and asylum, multiculturalism and integration, the future of the United Kingdom, yet also an increasing sense of voice, presence, and status of ethnic minority Britons in our society," he observed.
While Britain may often resemble the United States in political arguments and divisions, Katwala believes that the issues of social change and relationships are much more nuanced.
"So, I wanted to reflect on how we can build on that to bridge our divides," he said.
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We shape the future of modern Britain
Katwala reminds us that despite our differences, we all have a stake in shaping a more inclusive and united future.
"I hope readers enjoy the book. It explains my journey and tries to think about how we all have a stake in the state of the nation debate. I would like it to challenge readers to think about how we can all play a part in the culture of public discourse and how every institution can contribute to meaningful social contact. I hope international readers may gain some insight into the nuances of British identity and politics today," Katwala said.
Published by Harper Collins, ‘How to Be a Patriot: Why love of country can end our very British culture war’ is a timely and clear-eyed analysis through which Sunder Katwala seeks a more inclusive and better future for the UK.
"Writing 65,000 words is a marathon rather than a sprint, but it is also not a lot of space to deal with as many as ten different major identity issues in Britain today: patriotism, history, Brexit, the monarchy, immigration and integration, faith and secularism, racism and hatred, mixed race identity, the future of the UK across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, free speech and culture wars.
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"The challenge of fitting all of that was to remember that I was trying to write a book, not a library," Katwala concluded.
*Info: ‘How to Be a Patriot’