This study guide will help you analyze the poem “The British (serves 60 million) by Benjamin Zephaniah. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Excerpt from the study guide:
The theme of justice and unity is explored in the poem, especially towards the end. The first part of the poem focuses on the cultural diversity of Britain, both in the past as well as in the present. The poem presents the many nations and cultures that now make up British society, giving the reader the impression that the text is a celebration of cultural diversity.
The text also highlights the importance of unity. Although the nationalities and cultures the speaker mentions are many, together they form a single society. They “mix” (l. 7) and “blend” (l. 20) and this is how they “flourish” (l. 20). This shows that, by allowing each group to keep elements of their culture, they will enrich British society with their own identity. This is also seen in the note, where we are told that “All ingredients are equally important.” (l. 26)
The importance of justice and unity are explicitly mentioned towards the end of the poem:
Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future, Serve with justice And enjoy. (ll. 23-25)
This suggests that a multicultural society cannot reach its full potential unless everyone is treated with understanding and justice. The idea is repeated in the warning: “An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain.” (l. 27).