Englandexit June 20, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Not a bad analysis here from Fintan O’Toole (albeit with echoes of Benedict Anderson) on how English nationalism is the motor driving Brexit. And he’s particularly good at pointing up the contradictions.
The sense of grievance is undeniably powerful. It’s also highly contrary: it is rooted in the shrinking of British social democracy, but the outcome of Brexit will be an even firmer embrace of the unfettered neoliberalism that is causing that shrinkage. There is a weird mismatch between the grievance and the solution.
I think he’s particularly onto something in relation to how a ‘British’ narrative has managed to subsume, albeit incompletely and again with contradiction an English narrative (and I’m half English myself by family so I get some of the resonances here).
….take immigrants out of English culture and what do you have left? From The Smiths to Zadie Smith, from the Brontës to Simon Schama, it is very hard to imagine an “English” culture that is not also Afro-Caribbean, Irish, Jewish and so on.
Is there a shared narrative of the English past that functions even as a useful collective invention? Good luck with trying to integrate the past of John Ball and the Levellers, of Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine, with that of monarchs, generals and imperial governors.
Oddly, I suppose there’s an argument that if the EU, or more accurately, the EEC was a project to in large part contain German nationalism (and perhaps French to a lesser degree) in some ways the UK has been one that has sought – perhaps unconsciously or even merely as a byproduct, to contain English nationalism (though no consolation that is to those who are locked into the containment process). That may be no bad thing, (and I tend to like contained or contingent or diluted nationalisms, they work better in Republics) – for while there are many things that are admirable about England, well there are other aspects that are less attractive. A lot less attractive.
Funny to see the following, though the sentiment is correct:
There is no attempt to articulate any set of social principles by which the new England might govern itself. As the English social critic Johnny Rotten put it once, “There is no future in England’s dreaming.”
Of course said social critic Rotten was Lydon and famously Irish by family.
If they do go it alone, what is it going to be like? O’Toole writes;
The English are as entitled to their nationalism as anyone else. But nationalism, when it comes down to it, is about them and us. The Brexiters seem pretty clear about them: Brussels bureaucrats and immigrants. It’s just the us bit that they haven’t quite worked out yet. To be ready for self-government they might need to have given that a little more thought.