Sunday 20 June 2021

In 2016 it become obvious that many on the British left really do dislike their country and democracy. They actually said so. After such knowledge what forgiveness?

I would love to be a published professional writer but Ed West says so many of the things I would want to say (as do Douglas Murray, Rod Dreher and Aris Roussinos). In his recent article in Unherd he makes the same point a friend of mine, who read history at Cambridge, made to me recently - it was nice being liberal minded when most people were not, but not so enjoyable now that most people are.
...the British intelligentsia has hated the country for at least two centuries, to the extent of supporting opponents far more sinister than the EU.

Yet while such disdain was once confined to small literary circles, today its association with education and high status has allowed it to mimetically spread through the institutions. Today even august bodies like the National Trust are dominated by people who find patriotism just a bit distasteful, and would be horrified to promote it. 

...Explaining why he found Radio 4 so irritating, the novelist Tim Lott once explained that the liberal middle class “is the voice of the upper echelons of the BBC” and they are in conflict with Middle Englanders, “essentially people with nice homes and decent incomes and a commitment to abiding by the law and even a sense of patriotism. The LMC see them as retrograde and primitive – those damn Daily Mail readers.” 
Auto-Anglophobia is defined by a disgust of a certain idea of England. When Thompson made her comments it was leapt upon immediately by the Daily Mail, which asked “Why DO so many leftie and luvvies loathe this country”, which is a legitimate question, although it might also be said that it’s not exactly the country they hate but YOU, the Middle Englanders.

..If we all knew what the people around us really thought about us, things would fall apart very soon. And in Britain it became obvious that large numbers of the cultural elite really do hate the country.

It is that disdain for Englishness that partly explains Brexit. People will often put up with being ruled by people who cheat them, or lie to them, or who mismanage the country — as recent polls illustrate. But they won’t put up with being ruled by those who openly despise them.
It is not just the Daily Mail readers whom the left despises - much more so it dislikes the working classes, whom it is supposed to champion, except for the minority converted to internationalism and left-wing ideology.

Being internationalist and, for want to a better word, globalist used to be something only a fairly small minority went in for and it was a marker of education, intelligence and social class. Now half the British young form an intellectual proletariat of graduates and all or most have the same class marker.

Added to the dislike British intellectuals feel for the British it will be a big problem if this attitude becomes anywhere near mainstream. 

This is what has happened in the USA over the last ten years.

I always thought it unfair to accuse the left of disliking their country but after the Brexit referendum it did become painfully obvious that so many on the left really do. 

As that dreary poet T.S. Eliot asked
After such knowledge what forgiveness?
When I came to live in Romania in the 1990s it was wonderful to find people spoke proudly of the victories of their mediaeval kings. If someone in England who went to university praised Agincourt it would sound odd. To praise Clive of India or Cecil Rhodes even in those days would have sounded slightly fascistic.

The problem of an intellectual elite disliking their country is one that Romania will have to face when the generations educated under national communism retreat from the stage and the people formed in multinational companies and, much more dangerous, by arts courses in Western universities take over. 

This is the conflict in Hungary, Poland and Russia too, mutatis mutandis. And in Western Europe, the USA and even Turkey.


  1. "... the British intelligentsia has hated the country for at least two centuries"

    The British intelligentsia certainly hates the country and had done so for a long while, but at least two centuries?

    1. Fox Byron etc backed Napoleon.

      Sure. And Wordsworth supported the French Revolution (at first). Shelley was a proto-socialist. Mary Wollstonecraft was a feminist. Dickens was a social reformer.

      But did they hate Britain? I don't think they did, in the sense that the modern British intelligentsia does. I don't think they hated the British people.

      And if you look at the British intelligentsia of the 19th century it included people like Matthew Arnold, Tennyson, Ruskin. There were British intellectuals who propounded ideas that were disturbing (Darwin, Thomas Huxley) but I don't think they hated Britain.

      Even in the early to mid 20th century British intellectuals included people like Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh. A.J.P. Taylor was no Tory but I didn't get any anti-British vibe from his books (which I read voraciously in my youth). Was Lord Keynes anti-British.

      My impression is that the reflexive anti-British stance was a post-WW2 thing. It's odd and intriguing that it happened at the same time as the loss of the empire and at the time when Britain became a US satellite. I wonder if the anti-Britishness had something to do with American cultural influence?

      There's also no question that during the Cold War the US was pushing liberal agendas very very hard, supposedly as a kind of antidote to communism. Anti-colonialism, antiracism, etc. Even feminism. I think it's entirely possible that the anti-Britishness of the postwar intelligentsia had American origins.

    2. Fox and many Whigs backed Napoleon but they did not dislike their country, I agree. But Byron did coin the phrase perfidious Albion, which the French, who admire him more than we do, like to quote. The Liberal Pro-Boers during the Second Boer War were not anti-British, though some of them were anti-Jewish. The Boers were in those days a progressive cause, because they were fighting an unjust attack by Britain, though this later changed diametrically because of their treatment of South African black people.
      When did the dislike of Great Britain, or England as most people called the country, begin? It was certainly around between the wars. Orwell wrote these famous words in 1941. “In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. 
They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the 
general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident 
thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals 
are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always 
felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman 
and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse 
racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably 
true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of 
standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a 
poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping 
away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes 
squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always 

      The Bloomsbury Set had a lot to do with it, as with so much else that was baleful. Your question is a very interesting one.

      Evelyn Waugh, as Lord Annan said, was completely opposed to the ideas of his generation. Taylor's somewhat dull book The Dissenters (it was his favourite) chronicles British people who dissented from British foreign policy from the left from the 18th century onwards - they, like he, were not anti-British.

    3. It's interesting to compare what was happening in Britain to what was happening in Australia. In the 60s and 70s and even well into the 80s the Australian Left was anti-American but pro-Australian and very nationalistic. Since then the Australian Left has become more and more pro-American.

      There's no nationalism at all remaining in Australia. Even Australians who want the country to become a republic are not nationalistic. They want a republic because America has one.