We should be proud of Britain's great melting pot

A friend of mine visiting from Miami was stunned by way different cultures mix

Related Topics

"Britain is now most powerful nation on earth". So read a headline in The Independent on Sunday, calculated to provoke something of a double-take at breakfast tables yesterday. Do we have the power to stop the bloodshed in Gaza? Do we have the financial muscle to bail out the eurozone? Are we feared and respected by all other countries?

No, the report focused not on wealth or military might, but on "soft power", a concept invented in 1990 by a Harvard academic, Joseph Nye, who subsequently wrote a book which eloquently laid out the principles of this idea: "A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries – admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness – want to follow it."

The notion of getting others to co-opt ideas rather than forcing them to is, of course, a very attractive one, and soft power is now talked about by governments of all stamps as a means of achieving an end. So we should take notice of an annual survey, conducted by Monocle magazine, which ranks the countries of the world in terms of their soft power. There is a degree of subjectivity, but 50 areas of influence – largely cultural – are measured, and the result is that Britain has usurped the United States as a world leader.

The Olympics was clearly an important factor, but Britain's success in the entertainment world, from Downton Abbey to Skyfall, from Adele to Damian Lewis, has projected a positive image. More importantly, the openness and inclusivity of our society presents us in a beneficial light. Our nature being what it is – modest to the point of self-deprecation – it is sometimes difficult for us to recognise, and take satisfaction from, the aspects of modern Britain that others envy. At the weekend, a friend visiting from Miami was telling me that he was lost in admiration for the way Britain had changed since he first came 20 years ago. He was referring specifically to London, but more than the vibrancy of the restaurants, the energy of the streetlife and the general air of confidence generated by the Olympics, he was deeply impressed by the ways different cultures and ethnicities mix.

"You really get the sense of a great big melting pot," he said. And he comes from Miami, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. "Yes, but here the pot has melted." (He is right about the culture of separation in Miami. Last time I was there, I was on a bus going through Cuba town, then Haiti town, then Guatemala town when the person next to me said, "You know what I like about Miami? It's so close to the United States.")

It is an interesting idea to play with on a Monday morning: that Britain, in these financially difficult times, has the riches in its culture and in its civic society to exert real influence overseas. Colin Welland may have jumped the gun, but perhaps his words at the Oscar ceremony 30 years ago can now be considered to have a prophetic ring: "The British are coming!"

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

People Change Manager

£260 - £325 per day: Progressive Recruitment: IT Trainer: E-Commerce Experienc...

Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Day In a Page

Read Next

We need to talk about homophobia in the police

George Gillett

i Editor's letter: Summer holidays are here... so what to do with the children?

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn