Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wake up, England!

There is an aversion in England to organised or even personal resistance, a frightening bend towards compromise. There have always been good causes worth fighting for, but seldom, in the modern era, has there been the common volition to fight for them. Perhaps that is why we love the memory of the world wars so much: they are a national heritage exhibition of our least likely selves, a testament to our nature as it might have been. The old wars show us what it was like to be a people willing to resist a vast encroaching power. It is not a posture that comes naturally to the English. Usually, the ordinary people of England only have one word to say to authority, and that word is "yes". Orwell would not be surprised to see such forces at work over the English, but he might be shocked to see the extent to which the English themselves lacked, as time went on, all political resolve to change it. The populist mode in England is silent paralysis. No to change.
-- Andrew O'Hagan on The age of indifference. He's writing, it should be stressed, about a disinherited white working class/underclass, not the whole country. And he finishes with an anecdote that flirts with hope.

Image: Chris Steele-Perkins (1976)

P.S. 17 Jan Tim Lott responds:
The English working class are disenfranchised, depressed and apathetic - for the same reasons the working class everywhere are, including in Scotland. The end of manufacturing industry, the decline of the unions, the break-up of working-class communities through increased mobility and reckless town planning, the concentration of the elites on ethnicity, gender and sexuality issues, rather than class, being the primary reasons. The difference between the English and the Scottish working class is that the Scots can take pride in their nationality without being accused of being Powellite or racist.

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