Sunday, 26 August 2018

Britain's split personality

Britain lives a double life. There's the country it pretends to be; the image it projects to the world, and then there's the country that it actually is. It expends an enormous amount of energy pretending to be something that it isn't. It's exhausting.

If you go on Twitter and run a search you will find thousands of variations of the same tweet. "I want my country back as well. I want the open, tolerant, diverse, understanding and intelligent country that put on the 2012 Olympics back. Not this race to the bottom of the pack insular idiocracy we've become".

The fact that remainers say this stuff is actually indicative of the mindset. Twitterers post pictures of the 2012 Olympics opening - nostalgic for Britain's image as a progressive modern country - now dragged into the dirt by unthinking plebs manipulated by a big red bus. But that is remainer narcissism all over.

The 2012 Olympics were crass. A Blairist veneer of "cool Britannia" - choreographed by Danny Boyle - a fawning self-congratulatory display of leftist emotional incontinence. If you ever wanted a totem of British vanity and self-absorption, that was it. Not surprising that those who believed that bogus self-image would be shocked and surprised by Brexit.

Moreover, so much as you can fill a stadium for a fireworks display, the actual sports events struggled for attendance. We all knew that would happen long before the event and there's a very very simple reason why. It's not actually sport, nobody cares, it's boring and is little more than a fascist exercise in eugenics as the inimitable Doug Stanhope explains. The whole jamboree cost a king's ransom for little more than an iconic overhead shot of the NHS logo in a stadium. Albert Speer would be proud.

Then as much as there is a political disconnect in the UK, there is also a cultural one. The government and the BBC projects a metro-leftist value system - one it imposes on the rest of us. Their values are not our values - and the EU is an extension of that. The self-image of the EU as a progressive and benevolent entity is one that very much suits the narcissism of our own rulers.

This is not without harm. In the rush to broadcast their right-on credentials they will leap on any bandwagon going. More often than not this results in a number of financial obligations we can ill afford. We sign up for targets on renewable energy, we sign up to ludicrous spending commitments, we commit our forces to misadventures like Libya.

And what has that delivered? Landscapes plastered with solar panels and useless wind turbines, colossal and destructive waste on humanitarian aid, and an accelerated migration crisis which is still murdering thousands of people every year in the Mediterranean. So progressive.

The ultimate conceit of the remain brigade is to say that Brexit has unleashed political turmoil. You could only say that if you weren't attuned to what was going for the last decade. You would have to be a Londoner to say anything even approaching that stupid. 

One thing I don't do on this blog, unlike, is pepper my posts with data and links to EU law. This is more an opinion blog and I make certain assumptions about my readers. Very occasionally though I am reminded that not everyone has read the back story and any single post out of context can look, well, a little unhinged. 

Last October one of my posts went viral, attracting nearly three hundred thousand views. It was especially irritating because it was a post written during a bout of writer's block where I had to produce something, anything, just to keep the blog running. Far from my best work. 

The post, detailing why I think Britain needs a cultural reboot, was picked up by The Independent, the Guardian, Vice and the FT and held aloft as though I were some sort of psychopath. Perhaps I am, but it doesn't mean I'm not right. I just wish it had been one of my better attempts. 

It's not a new theme for this blog - that the UK is suffering from a self-absorbed soul sickness that is changing the character of the nation. I've always instinctively known that something isn't quite right. The clue comes from this report in the Independent, noting that "half of millennials take out car finance to match their social media dreams".

The money-quote is this; "Dr Dean Burnett, author and neuroscientist, said: “In the current economic climate where traditional milestones like owning a home or securing permanent employment are increasingly out of reach for the younger generation of millennials, it seems that other factors are influencing decisions like car buying. Social status in an increasingly interconnected world is becoming far more important as a result".

The research comes after separate data found most Britons nationwide are "trend spenders", those who are ruled by their heart when it comes to money and don’t feel worried about loosening the purse strings as long as they can maintain their lifestyle.

This rather supports my view that the generation following mine is largely cash rich but asset poor, but essentially squandering wealth and never acquiring the maturity that comes with owning assets. I think that is reflected in our politics where we spend vast sums on projection of an image. It suits our narcissism and the more we squander on "progressive" causes the more we feel entitled to lecture the rest of the world. 

One of the remainer tropes I keep hearing is that Brexit diminishes out position in the world, reducing our international status. Again this is a conceit. We've bought our own propaganda. We look at picture of David Cameron parading alongside other global leaders at a G20 summit and see ourselves as part of the big gang but in reality, nobody gives a tinker's toss what Britain says. 

Saudi Arabia doesn't. India doesn't. Japan doesn't. America certainly doesn't and nor does Russia, yet we call urgent crisis press conferences in front of Downing Street to make grandiose and self-important speeches like in a bad James Bond film, harking back to the days when Britain was a power in its own right. That Britain is at all influential, in or out of the EU, is a facet of our residual national self-image.

Brtiain is like that guy in the tracksuit from the roughest street on the estate who drives a fifteen year old BMW and thinks himself superior to to the frugal pensioners next door who own a brand new Nissan hatchback. Utterly conceited with absolutely no self-awareness. 

The real Britain is more akin with the above illustration, which just happens to be the high street where I grew up. It's a poster-child for the decline of the traditional working class, and whenever Channel 4 needs to go on a poverty safari, it's always high on the list - and they have the same handful of grunters on speed-dial if they need to cast someone to have a moan about the local pakis.

Here I could knock out another spiel about the march of globalisation and the impact of online retail and social media and how it has changed the face of our towns, but you know that shtick as well as I do. It explains why these places are shitholes but it doesn't change the fact that they are shitholes and no modernisation of the bus station with EU funding is going to change that essential dynamic, nor does an EU funded statue stop Dewsbury being a festering jihad incubator.

So what's to be done? Well, buggered if I know, but I'm reasonably certain clearing the streets of feral Pakistani rape gangs would be a start. Doing something abut the cost of housing might be an idea. You cannot hope to cultivate a society of conscientious citizens when you've removed all the basic incentives to becoming one.

Britain's conceit that it is a modern, progressive outward looking country is one that has only really taken hold through a barrage of propaganda and being that our politicians and media live in side an impenetrable bubble of smug BBC addled self regard, it is really only they who were surprised to discover that Britain is a deeply divided country and one ill-at-ease with the pace of change. Only by burying the authentic, but politically inconvenient voice of the working class have they been able to convince themselves that Britain actually is what it pretends to be. 

What remainers want more than anything is to make this beastly Brexit go away. Why? Precisely because it has shattered their illusions. It's a cold bucket of water over their presumption. They want to sweep it all back under the rug and go back to dreaming that reassuring comfortable dream.

The problem, though, is that when you live a dual identity, it's increasingly difficult to reconcile the two and eventually you run out of energy and resources to keep up the pretence. That's where Britain is at now. A mid-ranking power with militaristic ambitions far beyond its capability or capacity to sustain, up to its neck in debt, overextended on future commitments and in total denial about it. 

We are, therefore, storing up a perfect storm for the future, unless we come to terms with the fact that we really are a spent rainy little island gorging on the last of its imperial prestige and revelling in its own mythology. Remainers and Brexiters alike are each caught up in their own romantic ideal of Britain, neither of which reflects the reality. 

The Brexit we are going to get is one far removed from the one promised the the Tories. I'm actually counting on it. It will put an end to a number of individual and national bad habits and force a lot of debates we've been avoiding. In the coming few months and years we are going to see British politics at its worst but I also believe we are going to see the British people at their best. If there is one thing our history tells us is that our legends are born of adversity. I don't think a little adversity would go amiss.

The months since the referendum have brought to light many divisions and internal stresses. It has exposed just how much our ruling class holds us in contempt. It has exposed the fragility of our supply chains and brought home how the EU has wormed its way into every facet of governance. It has thrown our stagnant party system into disarray. It has exposed the criminal ineptitude and dishonesty of our media. It has dragged the corruption of the Tory right into the light of day. We've had more street marches in a year than we have seen in the last twenty. 

That right there is democracy happening right in front of us. What we are witnessing, probably for the first time in my adult lifetime, is politics of consequence. Everything that has been done to us in the last two decades is coming back into question. Politicians will have nowhere to hide. They will have no more excuses. There is no retreating to their political safe space. For once in their lives they now have to face a reality they cannot escape from. Get the popcorn in. This is going to be great!

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