Britain can show the way

The blitz years of World War II proved how magnificently the British could get together in the face of an ordeal by fire imposed from outside. Our guess is that they will show the world they can join to surmount the lesser ordeal flaring from their own city streets. Along with all the discussion of tangible immediate and long-range measures, attentions must be paid to the underlying spirit that holds the key to making them work.

Prime Minister Thatcher has begun to address that spirit. Her words of healing may sound hollow to critics who blame her policies for today's social unrest, but that does not make the message any less important. When she talks of justice, she both draws on an enduring national heritage and speaks to the poor and the growing racial minorities who sometimes feel deprived of it. She calls to everybody in a classic vein of British resilience when she says:

"We must never despair. We must try to look at the good things and build on them to get the people back together again."

Beyond the superficial good things of life in a still notably civilized country, Britain possesses a remarkable legacy of political freedom, religious conviction, and social compassion. They are a firm foundation on which to build.

But Britain has changed, people say, often implying it is not so easy to be united when all those "immigrants" are competing for jobs and many native-born are protesting the class system. Yet, even at its most homogeneous, was Britain ever surpassed as a nation accommodating diversity -- nay, eccentricity -- and, indeed, positively appreciating it? There is no reason for Britain to lose this strength with the presence of more colors in the crowd or fewer citizens bound by class distinction.

Just as Britain has so often been ahead of the times in the past, it is challenged to take a lead in resolving a postcolonial situation that other industrial nations face. It is the existence within these developed nations of what might be called internal developing nations. They are counterparts in a sense of the third- world developing nations that are crying out for help to help themselves toward equitable sharing in the earth's abundance. The United States, for example, has long had groups of citizens of various races actually referring to themselves as part of the third world.

These internal developing nations, with their educational, economic, and social needs, cannot be ignored in practical terms any more than the far-flung developing nations elsewhere. At the same time, as among the countries of the world, the nations within nations must increasingly become indivisible parts of the whole, with the best interests of one seen to be the best interests of all. Britons possess the qualities to show the way. They need the support of t he prayers to which they have so often turned.

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