On Saturday it was Bonfire Night in Blighty. Yes, that spectacularly English version of the traditional festival at the onset of winter. While the rest of the world has Samhain, Hallowe’en, the Day of the Dead and others, the English celebrate a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, otherwise known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’.
Thirteen men, led by one Robert Catesby, smuggled 36 barrels of gunpowder into the vaults under the building. On the 5th of November 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested attempting to light the fuse.
Fawkes was not burned at the stake. He was sentenced to being hanged, drawn and quartered; in fact he jumped off the gallows, killing himself instantly and denying the crowd their fun. Yet he has been burned in effigy across England on the 5th of November ever since, and the tradition has even spread to Scotland, although it was not our Parliament at the time.
Defence of Parliament
Bonfire Night celebrates the successful defence of Parliament from popular insurrectionists, in this case, Catholics.
How quaint then, that two days before Bonfire Night this year, the third of November, 2016, 411 years later, Parliament would once again be defended from popular insurgency, this time by the High Court. And how fascinating has been the reaction.
There are nice English people. People are people. It would be unfair to characterise all English people by the baying, foaming at the mouth Brexit hooligans.
Yet it is legitimate to ask, when considering the damage done by these those of violence, ‘Where are all the nice peaceful ones?’ Where do they run to hide, when the bad ones start acting up? Why are they always invisible?
In the months since the European Referendum vote in June — which was, let’s not forget, simply an opinion poll — we have seen an efflorescence of all that is vile, rank and repulsive about the English character. ‘Foreigners’ — actually fellow EU citizens — have been insulted, sacked from their jobs and beaten up. Death threats abound and one person at least has been murdered. Why? For daring to oppose a jingoistic mob that constitutes a minority of the English.
That’s right: under 40% of those living in England voted to leave the EU. A MINORITY. Yet that minority insists that its will be done and intends to use violence to achieve this.
Under the crust of the Anglo-Saxon psyche is one of the most repellent natures in the world. It is convinced that it is better than all others and has the right to impose its will, by force, on them. That is why it founded the British Project, to make the world England. That led to the Empire upon which the sun never set — established through violence, warfare and genocide, and operated through slavery and extortion.
HMS Hood: the face of Empire and its fate
In August 1918, in the closing months of the First World War, a huge ship was launched at John Brown Shipbuilders on the Clyde. This was to become the battlecruiser HMS Hood.
Hood was beautiful. Not only that, she was fearsomely powerful. Fast, lithe and heavily armed, she had fifteen-inch main guns and main armour a foot thick. Hood, in the years between the wars, became the symbol not only of British victory but also of its Imperial power. She could rush anywhere in the world; gunboat diplomacy at its most spectacular. Like no other single mascot, she was the public image of British Imperial power. She was the face of the Empire.
Yet on 24 May 1941, a shell from the German battleship Bismarck entered one of Hood’s magazines and she exploded. Within minutes she sank. There were three survivors.
Her loss was less of a military disaster than might be thought; she was an old ship by then and many more competent vessels were already in commission. In a fire fight with the most modern and sophisticated battleship in the world, the odds were always against her, even though the Admiralty overlooked that.
Just as Hood was lost, so was Empire. Afloat, she had symbolised Empire; at the bottom of the sea, she symbolises its end.
Empire wasn’t lost by a lucky shell plunging through its decks but by Realpolitik. The torch of Anglo-Saxon imperial world domination had to be passed from London to Washington; that was the price Roosevelt extracted from Churchill, who was himself half-American. But it was lost.
Hood and Empire, sunk
And so the great British Project sank beneath the waves. Over the next two decades, the British Empire fell apart.
The trouble is, nobody told the English. Oh, the polite middle-lass ones with their fondness for white French wine drunk too cold and their affection of strained gentility, they knew. But they’re not the ones who built the Empire, though they profited from it. Nobody told the cannon fodder or the spitting Blimps, well, not so they’d listen.
Ever since they have gone on, the English football hooligans, the yobs cluttering up the beaches of Spain; anywhere there is cheap beer and a chance of violence, there they are. They’ve always been there, brilliantly parodied by the wonderful Warren Mitchell in the character of Alf Garnett, chillingly portrayed by Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange. All with the same imperialist code: ‘We are better than you scum and if you don’t like it we’ll beat the fuck out of you.’
The middle classes are more refined in their jingoism. I remember considering a house, in a village in the Massif Centrale in France, as a holiday home. No sooner had I let the local property agent know I was interested, than I got a letter from the ‘chairperson’ of the ‘British (sic) Ex-Pats Association’ of this village, introducing herself, offering her help and informing me that part of her role was to ensure that said ex-pats behaved as they should.
Conform, or else. It’s the English way.
Needless to say, I didn’t go there, but it shows how close to the surface is the imperialism: this time it was ‘We are better than the frogs we find ourselves amongst, and you’d better conform, or else.’
It has never gone away. It will always be there. The loss of the British Project — to make the world England — just made a section of English society more and more bitter, as if it lacked any purpose at all…and what purpose could it serve, today? To beat up ‘foreigners’ at football matches?
‘Britain’ is dead. It staggers on, still plundering its remaining imperial asset — Scotland — without which it would have gone under 35 years ago. With its global might ceded to the US, ‘Britain’ is an anachronism.
And it appears now that it will have the chance to sink beneath the waves of memory, as Hood once sank below the cold grey waters of the Atlantic.
A Carbuncle on the Arse of Europe
Nobody cares any more. England is but a carbuncle on the arse of Europe. It has no wealth, it makes nothing, it has no future. All that it had it will now sacrifice in the name of its own xenophobia.
But this is not the 18th century. ‘British’ soldiers cannot simply go out and annexe the planet. Europe doesn’t need it; the US certainly doesn’t, except as a place to park a few nuclear missiles where a retaliatory strike will not kill any of their registered voters.
About the only thing that Britain actually has going for it is a model of Parliamentary democracy that is the envy of the world. Westminster is not called the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ for nothing.
So how ironic that the thing about modern Britain that England’s thugs hate the most is that Parliament. How bizarre that they should have mounted a campaign proclaiming its sovereignty — and then condemn its attempt to assert it. How peculiar that they should so detest the very qualities of that parliamentary democracy whose rights they claimed to stand for; that they wished should be ‘re-imported’ from Europe. It’s almost as if they didn’t understand how Parliamentary democracy works at all.
And then, when Parliament asserts its sovereign role, they turn nasty. People have already been killed and the country is awash with death threats. I cannot remember, since the grim days of The Troubles, justices of the High Court being threatened as they have been, or so vilified by a gutter press– for what? FOR DEFENDING PARLIAMENT.
Yes, that very institution they campaigned so hard to have powers ‘repatriated’ to, when it seeks to exercise them, becomes Judas to democracy. The justices who — rightly — told the Gummint to go and raffle itself for an attempt to use, ultra vires, arcane powers of the Crown, become the ‘enemy of the people’. How can this be? Isn’t a sovereign Parliament solidly supported by an independent judiciary what Rupert Murdoch wants?
Of course not. He wants his cock-sucking puppets in charge, supported by a flag-waving rabble of Little Englanders. Just as all these cretins do.
It is the duty of the English to stamp out the hate-filled scourge of Englishism and its lost dream, the British Project. The trouble is, it appears that they don’t want to. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May and the Justice Secretary, Liz Truss– herself a barrister — had to be shamed into saying anything at all to defend the judiciary against the jingoistic rantings of the UK’s gutter press. And their comments, when they came, were weak and dissembling; those of a spoilt child yet again caught stealing from the sweetie jar.
A Prime Minister and a leading member of Cabinet running scared before the tabloids; how edifying. Please, ladies, do not expect any further respect.
Adhering to any particular religion is, except for the weak of mind, an accident of birth. The religion itself, however, is a set of ideas; some are worse than others and some should be jettisoned completely.
Likewise, being English is a regrettable accident of birth for which one must have sympathy; but Englishism is a set of nasty, xenophobic, racist, supremacist ideas that have no place in the world today — save in the gutters of that sad nation they were born in. Englishism was the force behind the British Project, created to make the world — by force of arms — England. It FAILED. It sank decades ago, just like the Hood. Kaput. Gone. Belly up. Ex-parrot.
And it too needs to be left behind.
So England can do what it should and re-establish Parliamentary control over the mob. It should say, rightly, that the referendum was an opinion poll binding on no-one. That Parliament will decide what is right, not semi-literate football thugs, doddering Alf Garnetts or sliming ministers in the pocket of amoral Australian peeping Toms. It might remind everyone that a bloody Civil War — that cost the lives of a tenth of the Englishmen then alive — was fought to establish the sovereignty of Parliament; and nothing that lying demagogues or corrupt media barons can do, will ever change that. For once be the rock that you so often pretend to be, O Albion.
If the English can’t fix this, let’s be done
If it can’t do that, and the reaction to Thursday’s High Court ruling was an indication of how unlikely it is that it might, then we must presume that England has finally succumbed to the rot of Englishism. We must accept that our hopes for it were unfounded. We must realise that it lives, still, in a rose-tinted memoir of an empire on which the sun never set; but which, in reality, slipped beneath the waters of its icy grave before most of us were born.
And if so, we should jettison it. The European nations should crucify it economically and give it no concessions whatsoever. The Scots should act now, and mobilise to separate — for what do you think the English will do once they realise they have no income? Plunder Scotland like they always do.
If England cannot sort this mess out properly, then let it sink. Let it be the forgotten apology for a country that it would so richly deserve to become, should it give in to the baying pack of Brexit hooligans.
Your call, England. Put your house in order or accept reality — there is no place for what you are becoming, in the modern world.
Also published on Medium.