Kevin Myers: We are all entitled to our delusions of ethnicity but it doesn't mean they should get legal status
The Federation of Irish Societies in Britain is this week celebrating the proposed changes in British census laws that will allow millions of British people to declare themselves of Irish ethnicity.
What 'Irish ethnicity' actually means, I cannot say. Does it include a Celtic supporter from east Glasgow who, like his parents, has never been to Ireland, has three beer bellies, no job, a life expectancy of 48 (also the number of cigarettes he smokes every day) and a disability allowance to make those few remaining years bearable?
Huge numbers of people in west Scotland regard themselves as 'Irish': this is their right. They can equally regard themselves as Rwandan. We are all entitled to our delusions. It is a quite different matter when those delusions are given legal status in a census.
Once upon a time, the British census largely wanted to know which direction one's toes were pointing when the numerator called. But in recent decades, as immigration and its consequences made census-taking an increasingly ideological affair, the sub-categories of Britishness became defined by the dogmas of multiculturalism. It was not enough to be born in Birmingham. Were you black British? Afro-British? Cari-bbean-British? Asian-British? This endless appetite to subdivide, to celebrate differences and make them the defining features within a society, is the core of multiculturalism.
To multiculturalists, people are never simply people: they are always representatives of this or that ethnic group.
Once you embark on this 'ethnic' idiocy, it goes on forever. What would a British census make of Samantha Mumba? To a civilised mind, she is simply Irish. But to the new Broederbond-rules of multiculturalism, she belongs to the undefined category of Afro-Irish; and unless the Afro-Irish are given their ethnic identity, it is clear proof that they are being racially oppressed.
Absurd? Not at all. The extremely silly English actress Emma Thompson has an adopted Rwandan son (yes, I know) who studied politics at Exeter University. Far from being grateful for this break in life, he said he was appalled to discover that he was the only African studying politics there. He complained that he was twice subjected to racist insults in his time in Exeter.
His mother called a protest meeting about this, and from the outset denounced the whiteness of Exeter. (And all multiculturalists agree. There is something imminently racist about whiteness -- unless it is Irish, that is). The next item at the meeting -- and I am not making this up -- was a serious discussion about how to reduce the whiteness of Devon and Cornwall.
This is infantile stuff, unworthy of the attention of adults; yet it is a symptom of the political correctness which drives the multicultural agenda. Try the same question in the Irish context: how are we to reduce the whiteness of the Burren or Connemara? Or put another way, though one that multiculturalists never would tolerate, how can we make Lagos or Khartoum less black?
It is not just that the sheer imbecility of multiculturalism sooner or later divides, it is the implicit divisiveness of multiculturalism which either imposes racial categories, or encourages people to imagine them. After all, an Irish 'ethnicity' after, say, several generations in Britain, is surely an entirely British confection.
Moreover, relocate these questions to Ireland. What was Eamon de Valera, born in the USA? James Connolly, born in Edinburgh? Patrick Pearse, father English? James Larkin, born in Liverpool? Erskine Childers, born in London?
The Federation of Irish Societies, interestingly enough, questioned the presence of the category of 'Northern Irish' in the British census
It was also opposed to the conjoining of Irish Traveller and gypsy (note, please, the lower case, thanks to the absence of Irish equality laws over that word). But once you break down Traveller/gypsy, what kind of Traveller are you? A Ward, a McDonagh, or New Age? Or what kind of gypsy are you? Romany, Didicoy or Roma? Gay? Bi? Transgender? Vegetarian?
However, there are some questions which are still unacceptable. A census in Britain might enquire whether respondents are ethnically African or Gaelic, but never Anglo-Saxon. For in the weirdly wonderful ethos of multiculturalism, some ethnicities are more inherently wrong than others. Sudanese clearly means diversity; Devonian obviously means racism.
Surveys of perceptions are no more than just that. For 'ethnicities' are imagined things. DNA analyses are different. They tell us of the origins of our populations, and they are ethnographically interesting. We are all descended from immigrants: my blood group, B+, suggests I am partly of Korean origin.
But once our ethnic origins become self-defined categories in must-answer censuses, they take on a status which any racist will welcome.
To create subordinate ethnic groups based on 'racial ancestry' is to exalt half-remembered or imagined bloodlines above the greater community.
The result is the diseased kultur of the volk: also known as Bosnia-Herzegovina.