Wednesday 20 March 2019

No more warrior saints

Jonathan Foreman in Quadrant yesterday:
In his book The British Dream, David Goodhart recalls a debate with two establishment figures, one a bishop, the other the then-head of the BBC; the first said he would always put global welfare before national welfare, the second said he personally felt a greater obligation to people from Burundi than people from Birmingham. Both men presumably believed that these opinions showed them to be enlightened cosmopolitans, modern citizens of the world. It could in fact suggest a kind of laziness rather than open-mindedness. (A cynic would say such loyalty to everyone really means loyalty just to oneself.) Loyalty to country is admirable partly because it is difficult. It can be much easier to feel an instant connection with fellow academics, bureaucrats, activists, journalists or doctors in other countries than with one’s own countrymen from a different social class and educational background. Disdain for the latter is one of the reasons why middle class Britons so often, like Dickens’ Mrs Jellaby, feel more compassion for picturesque poor people in foreign countries than for disadvantaged folk at home. It is one of the reasons why the UK spends ever greater amounts on foreign aid.
Where do I stand? 

I love my country and the English people with all my heart and soul and feel the same about Romania my adopted country, but I also love every country I ever visited, and I have visited seventy-odd, with all my heart and soul. 

And I feel the same about all the countries I never visited but only heard of. I want them all to thrive and to be themselves, true to their traditions,  rather than globalised and all the same. This is the main reason for disliking excessive migration.

Though to be honest I love all countries in the world passionately with three exceptions: the UAE, Lichtenstein and the USA. I except them probably because they seem to me not real countries but synthetic artifices. 

However I was only in the USA for five hours in Buffalo, the armpit of America, in 1980. I imagine the ghost-haunted American South might enchant me and all those wonderfully conservative beauties. 

I only could stand Liechtenstein for a few hours, with its toy train bearing Japanese tourists around the streets, despite having a friend there, and I was in the UAE for  three days. I did hate Dubai though, as I said in this blog.

And, if I am completely honest modern, superficially Westernised China left me a bit cold. 

But countries sometimes do until you get to know them. Greece took me some time to love, because it is Americanised, up to date and tourist infested. Bulgaria's charms were too subtle for quite a long time.

I also think the poor in Africa or in Eastern Europe are having it much harder than the poor in Birmingham and therefore they have more of my sympathy and I consider helping them in some ways a greater priority than helping my countrymen. It's not that we are more aware of global poverty than in the nineteenth century but we no longer think it divinely ordained or so inevitable.

But, nevertheless, I do not at all like the head of the BBC saying he puts global welfare above the national interest. What alarms me is that he speaks for great swathes of opinion formers and of the absurdly swollen British graduate class.  Here is the crux of the modern developed world's problems.

The bishop's attitude is also telling - post 1960 Christianity is hugely responsible for people thinking patriotism is questionable.   How different were all the warrior saints who died protecting their countries - from my patron St Edmund of East Anglia to Joan of Arc and on and on.


  1. What are the charms of Bulgaria then?

    1. Quiet hidden villages. A Balkan feeling that you do not get in Romania except in a Southern town like Craiova.