Wednesday, 20 March 2019
You used to know where you stood, often quite literally. Entering a busy fish and chip shop, where people waited for various nowadays incomprehensible orders, there was a certain Englishness in the calm order in which matters were dealt with; first come, first served, elders to the front of the queue. Ah the queue, for which we were once famous throughout the world, the very epitome of fairness and egalitarianism.
We didn’t need an identity in the modern sense, for we all had one already and one with far stronger bonds than the myriad fractured hierarchies of grievance to be found today in the relative pain rankings of gender, sexuality, race, learning needs and disability. It was once considered impolite to talk about politics or religion but nowadays we have little else – and some religions are legally off-limits. So all we have left is politics... and the weather, although even the weather is now fraught with difficulty depending on how far down the climate change rabbit hole you have ventured.
But the biggest division today is, of course, Brexit. And it is a division which shows so much about how far we have travelled since the chip shop days. If you are older and still have a sense of the common bond of Englishness (and I do mean English as opposed to British; British is no longer an easy and reassuring identifier) you will likely have voted to try and regain that enviable status. If you are young and have been brought up to believe that the source of all that is good is somewhere else, you are probably a remainer.
If you are an older Brexiteer you are probably a little confused and certainly dismayed at the disdain the young show for a thousand years of modern history. If you are young you are probably furious at the nasty, crusty old leavers who have, in the current parlance, ‘stolen your future’. If you are young, of course, you also know nothing that others haven’t told you... you don’t even realise this fully because, as young people, you still need to be protected from your illogical and self-destructive urges.
We used to do that, we ‘old people’. Nobody voted to make your lives poorer, we voted to make all our lives more meaningful. You may not see a problem in globalism, blasphemy laws, unlimited, unchecked migration, Ponzi welfare systems and the culture of self above all else, but we do. You will still be able to spread your wings, travel the world, see wonders and better yourselves. Having, maybe, to put the tiniest bit more effort into it might be the making of you. But in or out, what you become has always been in your hands; nobody has taken that from you.
And when you’ve made something worthy of yourself, when you are yourself sitting back and taking stock of your life, we hope that one day you will appreciate: “This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,--This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”
No need to thank us.