The English Delusion – Brexit and Empire
All empires are illusions, built on the delusions of the tyrants who build them. That’s why they fail. The British Empire was an illusion, built on white supremacism. It collapsed. The British Commonwealth is an illusion, similarly built on coercion, corruption, and racism. It, too, will collapse, in the fullness of time.
Many English have a peculiar and corrosive attitude to anything which is not English – they hate it. They may hide this hatred beneath layers of politeness, self-deprecation, shyness, that famous stiff upper lip even, but that’s all a show. Underneath the carefully constructed or learned facade is simply racism. Where it comes from, deep back in the past, I don’t know, don’t know if it’s been conditioned into the national psyche by the events of 1066 as they happened (though, to be clear, even then there did not exist this English master race so many seem to think used to rule over and live in England; we have always been a nation of bastards), don’t know if it’s simply a result of living on an island in the northern hemisphere, in the middle of effectively nowhere, with no way to influence the world around unless through uninhibited expansionism and violence. Because that’s what empires are – violent expansionism, exploitation, suppression, and oppression.
Attempting to put the world on an equal footing (what some call globalisation with an overhwelmingly negative slant) isn’t empire-building, has nothing to do with the deadly wars of expansionism; it’s about being internationalist, about breaking down the boundaries between people and peoples, about making the world a better place for all who live in it. It’s all about collaboration (in the true altruistic meaning of the word), and consensus, and consensus-building, and above all peace. That’s what the European project was always aiming for, is still aiming for, a union of peoples to share cultures, to share trade, to share peace, and to stop Europe being the theatre of all wars, for Europe will always be in the fall-out zone between Russia and the US if it is a landmass fragmented into competing nations.
But the idea of empire is populist and contagious. What successive English governments have done (and this goes back to even before Henry The Eighth) is to ration education and understanding, because that’s the best way to keep your populace from recognising tyranny. And the mainly Conservative governments of the 20th and 21st centuries have kept this going, to starve education of funding, so that from primary school up there’s never been the money to deliver education which teaches critical analysis, and where university students are made to live in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty because the government could at any time call in their student loans, especially if they say the wrong things. Instead, the curriculum (and not just the history curriculum) has focused on the “glorious” past, the greatness of the Empire which was built by brave wars and ruled the world benevolently (and that’s just one of many lies), the proof that English exceptionalism is justified, that the English are superior to any other people, that there’s no need to learn another language, no need to understand other cultures. And so those who through no fault of their own are uneducated cherish the thought that the past can be recreated because it’s the only way they can feel better, the only way they can see of dragging themselves out of the pits of despair they believe circumstances rather than rich politicians have dug for them.
So, here we are, in an age where the false icons of empire and the “alternative facts” of rulers are accepted without question by those who have been brought up to hate all things foreign, to see all things foreign (and you can include alternative lifestyles and non-hetero orientations in these foreign entities) as a threat, as subversive, as things which need to be eradicated and destroyed. This really is the stage we’re at, in England and in the USA (started as a colony of the Empire, and is now the tyrant of the world), and that’s the reason for the jingoistic self-destruction our exit from the European Union is. Because Brexit is an expression of the desire to go back to the glorious Empire, to once again become an expansionist nation, tyrannical on land and sea, vicious and brutal to anyone who dares to think differently, anyone who dares step out of line, anyone and any country which does not bow to the superiority of the English.
In reality, what Brexit will achieve is that England will no longer be trusted by the peoples and people of Europe, that it will become (insofar as it has not already) a third-rate country which will have to live from the scraps off the table of the USA, an England which will truly be an island in the northern hemisphere in the middle of nowhere, ignored and reviled, with boundaries internally and externally more divisive than any borders ever would be, an England that will no longer have Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland in a union of Great Britain, an England reduced to flying the tattered flag of St George, which in truth has always been the emblem of the racist heart of this country.
In short, Brexit takes this country from having been the cradle of democracy to being the grave of that self-same democracy, the tomb of truth and tolerance.
There are better and less visceral commentators on the disaster that Brexit is. The two I most admire are Ian Dunt and Chris Grey whose constant erudite and considered postings have given me hope that there is the chance of us rejoining the peace project that is the EU.