“Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”: Thoughts on Patriotism Today

The “name” above was given by Tommy Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox MP.

This piece of news came to me as I was brooding about the current state of State: we may be in one of the richest and developed countries in the world but the foundations of our civil society – formal and informal – are under threat. Insurgent working class populism of a far-right bent has coalesced with
reactionary Establishment elements. This joining is not to be sniffed at, it is shaping a new (old) political paradigm that doesn’t look to be expiring any time soon. Buh-bye liberalism.

This was finally allowed to happen through the bullish activism of the Leave campaign – a joining of unremarkable capitalists, politicians from the 19th century and the nation’s dark, dank underbelly. A synthesis of vulgarity and snobbery that the Brits always seem to do so well.

It would be unfair to say Mair is somehow representative of British patriotism, but he does kind of look like misplaced nostalgia personified.

Mair

Orwell was rather harsh toward the rejection of the patriotism instinct, chiding leftist commentators (or, as he derisively called them “intellectuals”) for finding nothing good to say about Blighty.

I grew up in an atmosphere tinged with militarism, and afterwards I spent five boring years within the sound of bugles. To this day it gives me a faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during ‘God save the King’. That is childish, of course, but I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions. It is exactly the people whose hearts have never leapt at the sight of a Union Jack who will flinch from revolution when the moment comes. Let anyone compare the poem John Cornford wrote not long before he was killed (‘Before the Storming of Huesca’) with Sir Henry Newbolt’s ‘There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight’. Put aside the technical differences, which are merely a matter of period, and it will be seen that the emotional content of the two poems is almost exactly the same. The young Communist who died heroically in the International Brigade was public school to the core. He had changed his allegiance but not his emotions. What does that prove? Merely the possibility of building a Socialist on the bones of a Blimp, the power of one kind of loyalty to transmute itself into another, the spiritual need for patriotism and the military virtues, for which, however little the boiled rabbits of the Left may like them, no substitute has yet been found.

Orwell, My Country Left or Right

I, alas, am a boiled rabbit.

Perhaps if I were around when the Luftwaffe posed a real danger to red post boxes, black cabs, picnics and Pimms, I might’ve seen things the way of the “Tory anarchist”. But now? Sorry George, the Muslamic hoards don’t quite blacken the skies yet, nor would a world absent of those tourist flick-baits bother me greatly.

(And, conversely, I really do gag at the sight of that red cross upon a white field. During football “season”, when you can’t lose sight of the blighted thing, I have to brush my teeth upwards of three times a day.)

Urghhh…

 

There’s values, principles, I hold dear – much the same as Orwell’s: equality, internationalism, democracy, freedom of expression. But it’ll be an act of double-think to associate them strongly with “Britain” – or more accurately Queen and Country – historically or presently. For one, the (mostly European-imposed) institutions meant to give force to these lofty ambitions are flailing. Only a common will can keep them truly alive. Because, after-all, what is a country without its people?

And like it or not, the lead up to this EU referendum has shown us just how most of them think. We’ll soon find that the “silent majority” we were relying on to give the New Old Left some steam is in fact a loud herd, clambering to derail the whole fucking lot.

 

Paddy

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