The country I live in as portrayed by others through the media is often a foreign land to me.
Whether that is the spend, spend, spend philosophy of those jumping headfirst into debt, the multi-cultural dreamland of an integrated society, or as we’ve seen in recent days claims that the UK is a fascist, police state.
None of it rings true to me.
I’m not saddling myself with a mountain of debt and I’m not gripped by the rampant consumerism so often talked about as a characteristic of modern life.
I don’t believe I live in an integrated society. I’m not integrated with my next door neighbours – who are also married, white, professional 30-somethings with two cars and a cat – so how can I possibly be sharing my life with those from different cultural and religious backgrounds?
Don’t get me wrong, it would be good to live in a society where other beliefs, attitudes and cultures are freely expressed and welcomed with enthusiasm and tolerance. But let’s face it, these days we barely speak two words to the people who live next door to us and display very little genuine and sincere interest in the lives of other people.
But I also do not recognise the UK as portrayed in some of the statements made following the anti-terrorist raids in Birmingham of last week.
First we had a senior Muslim leader in the city likening this country to Nazi Germany (http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/birminghampost/).
Now we have one of the men arrested in the raids and subsequently released without charge claiming that certain sections of our society are living in a police state (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6340935.stm).
Admittedly, from my fairly conventional standpoint – a white, middle-class, professional, comfortable upbringing leading to a similar standing in my adult life – I have very little understanding of the pressures, the experiences and the day-to-day lives of those within these communities. There may be more than a grain of truth in what both men have said.
However, it is still not a society I recognise or would tolerate living in if I felt it existed. The society we live in at present is far from perfect and there are many characteristics which I find difficult to understand and believe have the potential to be damaging.
I find it difficult to accept such inflammatory language – whoever is speaking it, whatever their motivation and no matter what the provocation they feel they are under.
The current situation in Birmingham as regards the raids and the ongoing police inquiry is highly sensitive for so many reasons. Such statements do little to ease that situation.
What the statements do prove, however, is the fact that we live in a starkly separated society. Far more worrying is that our attitudes towards those different sections are often fuelled by misinformation, preconceived notions with little basis in fact and an unwillingness or an inability to find out the truth for ourselves.
We are one nation living very different lives.
The UK is not a mirror image of Nazi Germany and is far from being a police state.
But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?