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Master Yoda our icon is

The Telegraph reports that the government has spent £1 million on a website inviting public nominations for English national icons. At time of writing, this vital cultural event, masterminded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is down, though you would think you could get quite a decent service-level contract for one… million… pounds. If by the time you read this it is up again, then look here for it.

Now you may say this is utterly fatuous. Why should we have a dcms at all? (Yes, that’s right: lower case initials in the logo. It is modern, you know.)

I beg to differ. This is an opportunity for the English people to express themselves and send a signal to the world about how seriously we take our national identity and native religions, and how much we value this Government’s intention to foster them. The last Census recorded nearly 400,000 Jedi in the UK. It is time for them to speak again.

53 comments to Master Yoda our icon is

  • Verity

    Nope. It’s still down.

    Isn’t this rather Third World? Nation building?

    God, I hate Tony Blair. I would say I hope the Tories will abolish the department of culture, media and sport, but … given the Chocolate Orange Inspector will be in charge …

  • One million quid of our money handed to public sector cretins to run a low interest blog. I’ve created a shell blog for the cretins, in case they want to hand the one million back to us:

    http://iconscultureonline.blogspot.com/

  • Tuscan Tony

    This nonfunctional at present icons( web site is clearly, surely, most certainly a troll put up by tomahawk. Please, someone tell me it is. As an expat and seeing more and more of this sort of stuff from 20,000 feet or whatever – (w.t.f. has the Empire Windrush, listed 3rd, no less, got to do with anything in this context?) I’m rendered almost speechless by some of the increasingly bizarre goings on in T Blair’s Albion/GB/Britain. Depressing.

  • Naah. vote for St George. As I said at my blog this morning (and yesterday for that matter), voting for St George really would get the back up the morons. In my opinion more than taking the piss by voting Jedi would

  • permanent expat

    Depressing, Tuscan Tony?
    First prize for the understatement of the year…..so far.

  • Tuscan Tony

    Proud to say I’m one of the 0.36% who voted on the BBC news mag site for the SS Empire Windrush just now.

  • Verity

    Moron alert: From the Beeb’s site:

    “Englishness has always been problematic because we are a ragbag of influences from all over the world,” says Mike Greenwood, commissioning executive of Culture Online, which came up with the idea.

    Err, no we’re not, Mike. The rest of the world has been influenced by us. Other than Indian food and an ongoing exchange of slang with the United States and Oz, what else do you think is in the “ragbag” that goes to make up what I am absolutely certain you would refer to as “our mongrel race”.

    Do us a favour, Mike. Don’t come up with any more “ideas”.

  • Oh dear, painful isnt the word. Vote for Zippy http://www.icons.org.uk/nom/nominations/zippy?sortcriterion=yesPercent&order=reverse
    as an alternative to Yoda.

    Oh just noticed its running on plone – a free open source CMS system.

  • Chris Harper

    As I posted at Tim Worstalls site -

    Dear God,

    This is the sort of tripe they spend taxpayers money on?

    A million squiddley-dids? For this?

    When I joined Carphone Warehouse to set up their Mobile Internet infrastructure they had already employed a ‘consultancy’ to put together the site, who had them spending a quarter of a million on hardware and another million on developing the web site.

    As head of operations I ran the site using half the hardware purchased, the rest just sat there looking stupid.

    The managing director was pissed off when I told him I could have done the whole hardware thing for less than twenty thousand quid, and he was further pissed off when a couple of the webby techie type guys produced version 2 of the site, from scratch and a much better product, in two months working only weekends.

    Guys, as taxpayers, you have been diddled.

  • I’ve just found the million quid figure at http://www.icons.org.uk/faqs.

    To anyone who isn’t in the know, a million quid on this is like handing over the price of an Aston Martin for a 5 year old Nissan Micra.

  • As to a choice, how about Guy Fawkes?

    Or maybe Hiram Stevens Maxim?

  • How the hell do you spend one million quid on a website? I am ‘in the business’ and damned if I can think what you could have to do to burn 1 million pictures of her Majesty putting together a frigging website!

    Oh… and for me it would have to be the Spitfire…

  • Verity

    I was torn between the Spitfire and the King James Bible, and I voted for the Bible to piss them off.

  • 1327

    >Oh… and for me it would have to be the Spitfire…

    Come on Perry what about the Mosquito :)

    No if you want an aircraft as a symbol of Blair’s Britian it has to be the Bristol
    Brabazon
    . It was designed by a government committee and was a total disaster !

  • Petro

    Wow. That is stunningly stupid.

    1 million pounds, huh?

    I think that might be even more overpriced than the canonical 500 dollar hammer.

  • Jim

    “Other than Indian food and an ongoing exchange of slang with the United States and Oz, what else do you think is in the “ragbag” that goes to make up what I am absolutely certain you would refer to as “our mongrel race”

    Well, apart from the rather obvious points about ancestry and religion, there’s the fact that over half the English vocabulary comes from Latin or French. Words like, er, Verity.

    I don’t see why you’re so defensive about it, since it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Every culture is a ragbag of influences, and every race is a mongrel one.

  • £1million?

    Impeach the Minister: that would be as spectator sport!

    Best regards

  • If you read the faq regarding the cost, it states:

    “This will cover all of the costs involved in developing the site, marketing it and providing service. ”

    So “we” could have paid 20 grand for the site and another 980k for the marketing. You could quite easily spend 980k on marketing if you wanted to…Not to say that’s right, but…

  • I think they should use a white rectangle with a red cross in it. C’mon where my million quid?

  • Verity

    Jim – Ashamed? How did you read “ashamed” into my comment? Are you projecting?

    I object to the BBC’s taking a sly opportunity to push the multiculti project into our history and want to make note of it. The BBC never lets up following its agenda and vigilance is required. Fortunately, they are lumpen and obvious

    Certainly, we have absorbed small numbers of immigrants over the years but mainly we didn’t pick up their habits. Yes, our religion(s) (Christianity and Judaism) came from overseas. And certainly vast amounts of foreign vocabulary that have made our language the largest in the world.

    But I would argue that we haven’t absorbed much from other people. Even when the Normans came, it took another 1100 years for us to get the hang of French cooking. In fact, it took another 1100 years for us to develop a taste for it. French cooking was known for over a thousand years as “that filthy foreign muck”. Other than from India, we didn’t really absorb anything significant from our Empire. Or Europe, really, except Christmas trees and spaghetti.

    Whatever we got from the Romans, we jettisoned when we saw them off at the airport. Goodbye togas, goodbye central heating, goodbye vineyards.

    Our laws are our own. Our customs are our own. We drive on our own side of the street. We have our own money (for now; actually, I think for good. The euro’s dead.)

    In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that the biggest cultural influence we have taken onboard in Britain has been American.

    BTW, your statement that “every culture is a ragbag of influences” is ill-informed. What “cultural influences” from outside have taken root in Japan? China? PNG?

  • Crosbie

    Just for cost-comparison purposes, £1,000,000 would have kept the Wikipedia free encylopedia going for a year!

    It would be absurd for me to be shocked by this, comparatively tiny, waste of cash, but things like Wikipedia are an astonishing example of how far money can be made to go – if the government doesn’t get its hands on it first.

    The cost of encylopedia – spent on a poll.

    As an aside, I often suspect the quality of a web-site is in inverse proportion to the cash that’s spent to build it. Hire a few highly-paid developers, and you’ll soon have something utterly unusable!

  • Harry Payne

    Oh well, seeing as they’ve spent the money (probably mostly on consultants to tell them how many more consultants they need to run it) I’ve requested St. George’s Cross (not to be confused with the Cross of St. George) to be added to the list. It was tempting to go for Flanders and Swan’s “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice”, though.

  • Do interfering busybodies in pointless non-jobs, wasting taxpayers money count as an English icon?

    You might be right, Verity, in saying the biggest cultural influence has come from America. I would suggest that many of those values were once British values as well but were pushed out in the last century. I like to think of it more as value repatriation than an import per se…

    I do think that the ability to absorb foreign ideas into our society without losing our cultural identity was a British trait in itself. In fact, that more dynamic culture gave us the advantage over more rigid cultures like France. Today it is what gives America an edge… we should repatriate that cultural trait as soon as possible.

  • A_t

    What “cultural influences” from outside have taken root in Japan? China? PNG?

    I don’t know about the others, but off the top of my head, Japan has had quite a big jazz scene for a while… also there’s been a fair amount of Brazilian-influenced bossa stuff, & recently a lot of Japanese pop music has been heavily influenced (to the point of slavish & somewhat crappy imitation) by American hiphop & R&B.

    Also, weren’t most Japanese martial arts based on Chinese forms originally?

  • xj

    Outside cultural influences in Japan? Buddhism (from India). Baseball (from the US). Democracy (also from the US, specifically General McArthur). Kanji (from China).

    China, also, has a long-established tradition of Buddhism, and of course Communism is a cultural import (from the home of bad governance ideas, Europe). How about chilli, a crop from Central America that’s now a staple of Chinese cooking?

    I’ll admit that PNG has shown little signs of benefitting from cultural advances developed in other parts of the world, but I don’t think PNG can be considered as a particular good role model for other nations.

    A strong culture can assimilate all sorts of new practices without compromising its integrity. The problem with the multi-culti set is not that they love other cultures (they don’t, really); it’s that they hate their own.

  • Verity

    A_t – nice to see you back!

    I think importation of trends which are, after all, ephemeral, doesn’t count. We’re talking about foreign importations that have been woven into the local culture, and I maintain that Britain has comparatively few, and so do Japan and China. “Quite a big jazz scene” is a minority interest and, of course, it’s very nice but “quite a big jazz scene” hasn’t been grafted on to the culture of most Japanese.

    And the bossa nova? Hello? Time machine issues here …

    I don’t know about the martial arts, A_t, so can’t comment. I have a feeling that Japan’s warrior class doesn’t owe anything to Chinese martial arts, but I certainly could be wrong.

    The paucity of your offerings regarding two ancient cultures actually proves my point.

  • Verity

    xj – interesting and amusing. I hadn’t realised chili had been imported from S America. I suppose I had thought it was indigenous to China, as well. Err… are you sure it’s not?

    Buddhism, I’ll give you. The Japs and Chinese imported it and developed their own streams, which is what tells me it is completely integrated into their societies. (For example, there is sumo wrestling in Britain, but it’s a minority interest and isn’t integrated into British culture. Britain isn’t multiculti because there is sumo wrestling.)

    Minority interests have always been catered for in large societies. So what? That doesn’t mean they have been woven into the society at large. It just means that open societies are friendly to minority interests.

    I just think we have to be alert to BBC multiculti creep.

  • “I just think we have to be alert to BBC multiculti creep”

    Perhaps because the beeb is just a creepy cult…

    Going back to Verity’s original quote from the BBC:

    “Englishness has always been problematic…”

    Whether we argue that the effect of foreign cultures on Englishness has been limited, or that Englishness has benefited from an infusion of foreign cultures over the years, neither argument gives credence to the claim that Englishness is problematic.

    The only problem I can see is the attempt by government to centrally plan our culture with the pointless dcms.

  • Verity

    Mark – I see the dcm as part of culture creep. What is its role except to impose the cultural Weltanschuuang of the government on the people? The idea that a deadhead like Tessa Jowell would be empowered to impose her tastes on Britain is Sovietesque is grotesque. And she has a corrupt husband, to boot.

    This woman was going to rubber stamp a notion that Britain should become a new Las Vegas (but without the desert, the heat or the space) so every gangster from not just Britain, but the US and eastern Europe (which is already big in the prostitution business) could have a free hand could sidle right in.

    Yes, Mark. The Soviets in No 10 do not want an organic culture. They want a planned culture which will advance their one-worlder aims.

  • Hmm… cultural influences imported into the UK? How about rock and roll? (You know, that thing that the Beatles borrowed from America.)

  • James

    You want the Government to foster your “national identity and native religions” Are you truly serious? When they didn’t invent these things in the first place?

    Do you truly want “religion by committee?”

    Jeez.

  • Verity

    Steven den Beste – Quite. You agree with the comment I wrote way up the thread that the biggest cultural influence ever on Great Britain is America. I think that covered it.

  • guy herbert

    “This will cover all of the costs involved in developing the site, marketing it and providing service. “

    Marketing it? Where do I send my invoice?

  • guy herbert

    James,

    It’s called sarcasm. Also a British speciality.

  • Chris Harper

    Verity,

    Chili isa member of the same group as tomatoes and capsicums. Cut one open and have a look.

    All of them were introduced from the Americas from the 16th Century onwards. The stuff was unknown in Europe, the ME, China, India and Japan before then.

    I thought chili was from North America, Mexico to be precise, but I am happy to be wrong on that.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    My national icon is the chocolate orange. Seems rather appropriate.

  • RPW

    “We’re talking about foreign importations that have been woven into the local culture, and I maintain that Britain has comparatively few, and so do Japan and China. ”

    Well, for Britain/England there’s Christianity, the imperial system of weights and measures (the empire of “imperial” was the Roman, not the British) 50%+ of the vocabulary of the language, a sizeable chunk of our legal and constitutional system (the House of Commons was arguably first set up by a Frenchman), Christmas trees, tea, Fish and Chips (originally a Sephardic Jewish dish, pascado frito), curry, all sorts of Chinese food…

    As for Japan – are you serious? It seems to me that a good book on the Meiji Restoration is in order. China not so much (but even there you’ve got Buddhism, Communism, various foodstuffs as discussed upthread) – one reason why China got kicked around much more than Japan during the 19th century.

    The point, as was mwentioned abouve, is that vigorous culture has no problems with absorbing influences from all over without losing their integrity. It isn’t a mark of pride or success to resist influences, if it was it would be the French who dominate world culture.

  • guy herbert

    RPW,

    [...] the imperial system of weights and measures (the empire of “imperial” was the Roman, not the British)

    Not true: Imperial Measure is the formalised standard of the British Empire dating from the Weights and Measures Act, 1878 (that updated the 1824 Act). It was ‘imperial’ in both the sense it entirely superseded other standards, and that it did so throughout the empire. This modernised the standards and drove out customary weight. The standard wasn’t a Roman one. It had been evolving in Britain since the English kings explicitly dropped purportedly Roman systems such as the 5000-foot mile, and adopted first troy (Troyes, not Ilium) and then avoirdupois weight, the latter pretty much stable for several hundred years.

    Strictly speaking our pound is no longer the Imperial Pound but a very slightly different standard shared with the US agreed in 1959.

  • We should really all vote for that most ubiquitous thing we see on almost every street and which has featured in some of the best ‘fiction’ ever written… no, I am not talking about the red phone booth or the double decker bus, I am talking about the CCTV camera.

  • Julian Taylor

    That site reeks to me of HP:ICM getting involved in another trendy NuLab branding exercise, similar to their last demonstration of colossal ineptitude – the Millenium Dome. For what’s its worth I would describe a true British icon as quite simply:

    The Bulldog

    “Do you know why the English Bulldog has a jutting chin and sloping face? It is so he can breathe without letting go.” – Sir Winston Churchill, to a Nazi envoy, 1940

    Show an icon of one with a muzzle and having had its teeth pulled out and you have a perfect representation of Tony Blair and David Cameron’s Britain.

  • Verity

    Dear god, RPW, I simply do not understand people who are so eager to make what they think is a killer contribution that they do not read previous comments before leaping in. Bar fish and chips, I mentioned all the things you mentioned, including Christmas trees. And Indian food (not just curries).

    Other people covered the few things I hadn’t mentioned. In other words, your exciting contribution was a dull repetition.

    As to Japan – yes, actually, I am serious. Japan imported Buddhism, which it changed considerably, by the way, baseball and democracy. Over 3,000 years or so, this is not much. Same with China. Therefore, neither of those countries could be called “a rag bag”. Neither can Britain. The things we have imported and which have become completely woven into our society over 2,000 years are comparatively few. Thus, neither are we the “ragbag” so beloved of the BBC multicultis.

    I suspect you are wrong about fish and chips, too, RPW. They just may have developed simultaneously with your middle eastern fritter. Potatoes weren’t imported into Britain (from N America) until the 1600s. I somehow doubt that they were exported to the poor, primitive Middle East before developed Europe.

    xj says: The problem with the multi-culti set is not that they love other cultures (they don’t, really); it’s that they hate their own. Absolutely. They are mentally, morally and emotionally rootless.

    Chris Harper, yes chili is grown – and eaten with everything, either chopped up or in fiery habañera sauce – in Mexico and I’m sure also in Central America.

  • Pete

    I’ve been struggling to think of one that annoys people and celebrates much that people would prefer to ignore.

    The Forth road bridge or the deep fried mars bar are both noble achievements, but I reckon the Bouncing Bomb is the best one – engineering brilliance, military courage and a dash of hare-brained eccentricity all in one. What with the World Cup coming up and everything…

  • James

    James,

    It’s called sarcasm. Also a British speciality.

    That you picked up from us Irish :)

    Phew, for a second I thought something you’d gotten a knock on the head or alien body snatchers or something….. ;)

  • As it has been said potatoes came from the New World,but these islands are surrounded by fish,we have been frying,boiling,salting,stewing,broiling,roasting and cooking them every which way for thousands of years.

  • RPW

    Guy,

    Many thanks – serves me right for paying too much attention to urban legend type stuff. I think it’s true to say that the names of lots of the units were derived from Latin precursors though.

    Verity, lack of originality is acknowledged, however if something is true it will stand repeating. Putting everything in one place at least helps to show the “What did the Romans ever do for us?” quality of your posts.

    As for fish and chips, pleace note I said *Sephardic* Jews. The word Sephardic comes from Sapharad, which is the Hebrew name for Spain. And potatoes certainly did reach Spain before they reached England. Many Sephardic Jews did indeed settle in the middle-east after being expelled from Spain, but quite a few headed to north Europe, with fish and chips coming to England from those who ended up in Holland. Ron, I think deep frying in batter is the Sephardi innovation (checking Wikipedia, it does appear to be the fish that was the import – combining it with chips appears to be a native English idea, a bit like chicken tikka masala).

    As for Japan – seriously, read a book about the Meiji era. It is almost certainly the most impressive example ever of a nation making a deliberate design to go out, study other cultures, identify what was superior about them and adapt the lessons learnt for use at home.

  • Verity

    Pete – How about the railway train, invented by us? Blair and his slimy minions hate being reminded how inventive Britain has been.

  • Verity

    RW – combining it with chips appears to be a native English idea, a bit like chicken tikka masala). Then why post that fish ‘n’ chips was an imported idea?

    As I posted above, England has been remarkably resistant to importing recipes from overseas. For a long time, the most exciting taste treat on a British menu was Mulligatawny soup.

  • You’re actually proud you’ve resisted culinary influences from abroad? The mind boggles.

    At least your icon of cultural exportation isn’t the golden arches.

    Cheeseburger pepsi!

  • Julian Taylor

    Verity,

    Given that there was a curry house in London in the late 18th century (later relocated to Brighton under Prinnie), how can you say that we are remarkably resistant to importing recipes from overseas?

    And I sure as hell bet that there were a lot more exciting foodstuffs than Mulligatawny soup during Victoria’s reign. This, if anything, was the great era of novel discovery and invention by the British … Chinese and Japanese cuisine in the 1870′s (think W.S.Gilbert’s visit to the Japan exhibition resulting in The Mikado), Siamese and Singapura cuisine from the Far East and traders and the much of same from the great Borneo regulators (James Brooke etc).

    If anything I might suggest that the 20th century has been somewhat of a comedown from the greatness and diversity of the Victorian era. A very great shame.

  • RPW

    Verity,

    I did a bit of research between my two posts which enabled me to refine my knowledge of the subject. I wasn’t aware this was bad form.

    As for “As I posted above, England has been remarkably resistant to importing recipes from overseas. For a long time, the most exciting taste treat on a British menu was Mulligatawny soup”, the first English recipe book dates from 1390 and contains 196 recipes for a wide variety of exotica.

  • Verity

    Ivan – why would you assume I was proud of England’s previous lack of culinary adventure?

    Julian Taylor – Yes, we have already discussed this restaurant that served Indian food in London and was mentioned in Thackeray. But he was eventually forced to close down because trade wasn’t good enough. He certainly was ahead of his time, though.

    RPW – I haven’t read the first English recipe book or any other recipe book, as it happens, English or otherwise.

    However, it looks as though things took a nose dive after the publication of that book in 1390. In the course of my other reading – say a meal described in the course of a novel, or in a history book – I gather that English cooking was pretty unimaginative. It might have been tasty, but it wasn’t adventurous. Bill Bryson had a funny comment on the introduction of the potato into Britain. He said something along the lines of, “in keeping with Britain’s traditional culinary ineptitude , the British were at first throwing away the potatoes and boiling the greens.”

  • Verity- I assumed you were proud of all things English. Actually I have little experience in the area; I’m just repeating the common belief that English cooking is bland. Maybe someday I’ll visit and you can disabuse me of that notion, and convince me to drink warm beer.

  • Verity

    Ivan – English cooking is now among the best in the world. For some reason, Britain took off like a rocket in the Eighties (for maybe it was the Seventies) and started having wonderful restaurants – all over the country. And the supermarkets started selling gourmet ingredients. It’s now the equal of anywhere in the world except Singapore.