On what the London Olympics have meant for Britain

Philip M. writes from England:

I have appreciated reading your take on the meaning of the Olympics in the modern world, and agree with what you have written. But from a British perspective, if these games have been about anything, it is the extent to which the traditionalist right in Britain have so comprehensively lost the battle to define reality. Ever since the coverage of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations a few months ago I have had this uneasy sense that a new country was in the process of being rolled out to the public; that the contours of a new Britain were now taking on a recognisable and permanent form. It is a Britain which has no use for me, and it wants me to know it.

Previously, royal occasions had been covered by the leftist BBC in such a way that you knew they were gritting their teeth and merely fulfilling a tedious but thankfully soon to be obsolete obligation to the decrepit royalists eking out their lonely final years in front of televisions in unvisited “care” homes. I took some comfort from their attitude. If the left resented the monarchy, it must mean that in some way they regarded it as still possessing some latent bond with the people that they, the left, did not possess themselves. The extent to which the left regarded the monarchy as being part of an alien Britain was the extent to which I was able to see the monarchy as something that still has value to me.

But this really changed with the Jubilee coverage. The BBC seemed to discover a newly enthusiastic, reverential and patriotic tone towards the monarchy that they would once have found absurdly Imperial and anachronistic. I read this as a worrying sign that the left felt that they had successfully co-opted the monarchy and re-cast its message in their own image, and now felt comfortable enough to celebrate monarchy safe in the knowledge that they alone have the power to define its meaning. After decades of feeling that all trappings of English identity were being slowly abolished, there seemed to me a genuine sense of gratitude that we were now being permitted to celebrate our institutions, albeit in a toothless, meaningless form—the limit of the power of the left being that they may render a thing meaningless, but having done this they are incapable of breathing new life into it.

This sense of living in a Britain in which all the trappings of nationhood have been hollowed out and turned into their antithesis has carried through into the absurd hype in Britain surrounding the Olympics. Whereas in the past the left had deplored such events as lending themselves to base jingoism and an unearned sense of achievement, it is now the left that has become the primary cheerleader for what we are invited to call “Team GB.” As with the monarchy, the absolute victory of the left in defining nationhood on their terms can be divined from the way in which they are now happy to wrap themselves in the flag and stoke pseudo-nationalist sentiments as propaganda for the tolerant, multicultural Britain they have created at our expense—in fact of the new status quo. These various strands came together during the opening ceremony, when our Queen was happy to turn herself into a clown, and the monarchy into a joke, for the sake of the momentary amusement of the masses. It was a popular move, as British people today see the willingness to turn oneself into a joke as being the single most admirable attribute in a leader, perhaps because we cannot see any serious use to which power could be put in a nation so trivial in its outlook, so divorced from reality. Part of me wanted to deplore this spectacle publicly, to point out the millions of crosses that lie in Northern France and Flanders which mark the graves of English boys who sacrificed their lives for King and Country in the belief that these things were not a joke, but were things worth dying for. But I find that I no longer have the heart to air such feelings, no desire to accept what was once the natural role of the left in British life—the bitter, irrelevant misanthrope carping on the sidelines in a country they hold in contempt.

Oh yes, did I forget to mention that this time last year we were busy cleaning up the debris after a week of unhindered mass lootings and arson in cities across England? Never mind. It seems to have slipped everybody else’s mind too, amidst the general mood of optimism and gaiety.

It seems that the correct attitude to adopt today towards events is that of a child in the back seat of the car, gazing passively out of the window as the scenery speeds by, perhaps the wreckage of the occasional accident may hove briefly and worryingly into view before being swallowed up by new scenery, the luxury of childhood quickly asserting itself in the feeling that you are neither in control of the journey nor obliged to discover the meaning of anything that evokes the troubling spectre of death. More scenery rolls past the window. We have moved on. Let adult minds ponder the meaning of such things if they wish.

Philip M. continues:
Peter Hitchens touches on some of these themes in his Mail On Sunday column today when he talks about the ” strong smell of New Labour totalitarianism” that has accompanied these games. The far-left BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman rather lets the cat out of the bag in an article in today’s Telegraph when he says—

“It would be very silly to overstate the effect of these Games, and asking an awful lot of a cadre of young people who only wanted to become the best in their sport that they be, in addition, the architects or expression of a new sense of national identity.”

Silly perhaps, but of course that is exactly what is being asked of them. Other examples abound: Pier’s Morgan, the former editor of the left-wing Daily Mirror castigates athletes on Twitter for not singing the national anthem when receiving gold medals. As I said to my friend last night, such is the role-reversal that has taken place over the last few months that it is now the leftists that demand we sing “God Save The Queen” whilst for the likes of us it would be impossible to think of the words without it seeming like mockery.

There is a tendency on blogs like yours to vacillate between staring defeat in the face and the ever-present hope that people are “finally starting to wake up.” [LA replies: I guess you didn’t notice my several statements in late 2011 and early 2012 that I no longer believe that people will stop believing in liberalism, short of the large scale collapse of the society.] My advice is that you should stop bothering adding caveats to your description of Britain as the “Dead Isle” and simply state it as an unalterable and permanent fact. For myself I shall no longer bother trying to maintain a Canute-like defence of an ethnic idea of Britishness when the vast majority have clearly decided to reject the notion. Stick a Somalian runner in a Union Jack vest and he is indeed a British athlete. We may all be different colours on the outside, but the passports in our inside jacket pockets are all the same unifying shade of purple and all are stamped and micro-chipped with the imprimatur of the same benevolent State. And isn’t that what really matters? Blood may be thicker than water, but the European Human rights Act is thicker than everything, and getting thicker by the day …

So … it is now me who is not British. But the centre cannot hold, and I notice that recent opinion polls show that more ethnic minorities think of themselves as being British than do white Britons. Britain as I knew it has gone, all anyone can reasonably hope now is that this turns out to be an act of creative destruction from which smashed fragments may be reformed into something new.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 12, 2012 06:17 PM | Send

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