As some of you might be aware my wife is an American citizen and therefore regarded as suspicious and ‘foreign’ by the U.K’s bureaucratic establishment. As penance for this we have had to undergo many hardships, including queuing up with the asylum seekers at UK Customs and immigration in Croydon and having to shell out vast sums of money to get permission from the state to marry, live in the same country and, most ignominiously of all, to take the UK Citizenship test. This vile assessment contains such questions as ‘How much does a colour TV licence cost?’ and ‘What percentage of the UK’s population are Catholics?’. I find it hard to see why knowing the extent of the UK’s Catholic community is in any way a useful requirement for being a fine upstanding citizen. The only scenario I can envisage is if I happened to be reincarnated as Oliver Cromwell and charged myself with exterminating the ‘ungodly papist religion’. One wouldn’t mention this in the citizenship test of course because it would almost certainly fall foul of the new laws governing incitement to religious hatred; especially ironic given that our constitution and national identity were mainly founded by inciting religious hatred. All one had to do in the 16th century to be a good citizen was to own a well-thumbed copy of ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’. In the 21st century the only things you really need to be able to call yourself British are an unquenchable sense of self-loathing and a hatred of ones entire history and culture.
The most infuriating part of the test is having to shell out for ‘Life in the United Kingdom, a Journey to Citizenship’, the official government booklet which has all the questions and answers. On the first page The Home Secretary, John Reid’s ugly bald head stares back at you with a short forward written underneath. I regard the first paragraph as a personal insult. It reads
‘The first edition of this handbook became a best seller when it came out towards the end of 2004. Some people will have bought it out of interest, or a wish to know more about the United Kingdom’s history or institutions. And many more will have obtained it as a study guide for the new tests for knowledge about life in the United Kingdom, which we brought in during 2005 for people who want to become British citizens’.
Well yes, it is a best seller, in the same way that Chairman Mao’s little red book sold between 5.5 and 6 billion copies, partly because if you failed to produce it you were liable to be belaboured around the head and genitalia by Red Guards and sentenced to years of hard-labour. It’s certainly no cause for self congratulation.
To me the citizenship test is oddly reminiscent of some of the first IQ tests, which the United States brought in at the height of the worldwide Eugenics movement during the 1920s. These were drawn up in order to allay fears that the "American" gene pool was being polluted by a rising tide of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, who were thought to be ‘imbeciles’, ‘feeble minded cretins’ and ‘moral defectives’. Upon the ‘discovery’ by H. H. Goddard that all immigrants, except those from Northern Europe, were of ‘surprisingly low intelligence;’ tight immigration laws and IQ testing were enacted in the 1920s. These tests were also influential in some states for legitimising forced sterilization of ‘defective’ individuals who had scored badly. The tests themselves that were introduced were very crude and culturally specific; immigrants tended to do very badly indeed. Sample questions included ‘who won the baseball batting title in 1925?’ and ‘Which one of these is a stop sign?’. As a result 87% of Russian immigrants and similar numbers from other nations were found to be feeble-minded, a result so ludicrous even H. H Goddard couldn't believe it. Eventually the same test was introduced to estimate the intelligence of the armed forces and so many of the people serving were found to be imbeciles and idiots worthy of sterilisation – a lot of them war veterans - that the test was immediately ditched.
I move that the present day UK citizenship test be similarly scrapped, and in this particular incidence the only person that should be sterilised is the Home secretary.