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What European Identity?

Remainer paints EU flag on her face - European Union - Brexit

No, watching an arthouse movie twice a year doesn’t count

Pete North puts into rather forceful words a sentiment which inchoately bubbles up within me every time I see a tearful Remainer painting the EU flag on their face and weeping into an eagerly waiting television camera about how the cruel, racist vote for Brexit has somehow ripped their “European identity” away from them.

North scoffs:

For all that cretinous bilge from remainers about us Brexiteers “stealing my European identity”, I say bollocks. You have no European identity. It is a figment of your imagination. You weren’t watching [a] French cop show on Netflix last night were you? You didn’t go and see a Spanish superhero film at the cinema last week. You know more about US politics than you do about the EU. Culturally, militarily and politically we are Anglospheric. That is a fact.

For all that we have seen remainers amphibious with grief, I say go and look at the traffic jams and the behaviour of drivers in Rome or go and watch the Spanish torture a bull to death and tell me that your culture is in any way reflected in Europeans. That’s when I tell you to fuck right off.

If I have to pick an empire to be allied with, I choose the USA every single time. The land of The Wire, South Park, Rick and Morty, the First Amendment. The country that never needed any persuading that Communism is the manifestation of evil on earth.

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is not America. Trump is for four years or so. Moreover, Trump is a good sign. Yes, he’s a brash, oafish wrecker but he was elected on the back of a total rejection of American leftism. That which has aggressively moved to bury all moral norms and free speech along with it.

This is why Trump is weakening relations with the EU. Ultimately the diseased politically correct establishment in the USA is the consequence of a detached and corrupt liberal elite. In that respect the USA is in a more advanced state of decay than the EU – but we should view it as a warning. The soft left political consensus of the EU, with its deeply ingrained NGOcracy is that same disease. Brexit is not Trump. Brexit means we avert having one of our own.

I concur wholeheartedly.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite television show is, and they are far more likely to cite an American show than a European one.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite movie is, and they are far more likely to cite something from Hollywood than a worthy-but-subtitled movie from France, Spain or Italy.

Ask a Remainer who their favourite pop music artist is, and they are far more likely to cite an American artist than a European one.

Ask a Remainer to name a political hero or inspiration and I would wager that they are far more likely to reach for Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F Kennedy or Barack Obama than Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, Silvio Berlusconi or Angela Merkel.

Ask a Remainer to cite a famous legal case or decision from a jurisdiction other than their own, and they are far more likely to name a famous case from the US Supreme Court – Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade – than a case from the European courts, or those of any member state.

For that matter, look at our legal system of Common Law, which influenced the formation of the American legal system (in the original colonies through to the federal system) and which is markedly different to the civil law traditions prevalent on the continent.

There are exceptions, of course. There are some areas where Europe does exert a stronger gravitational pull over us than North America or the wider Anglosphere. But besides geographic proximity, they are few and far between. Those who claim that we are somehow predominantly “European” in culture tend to either do so from a position of wishful thinking, wanting to position us closer to European social democratic tradition because they wish that our politics would move further in that direction, or from the blinkered perspective of their own narrow social circles.

None of this is to claim that British people lack an affinity for Europe, have nothing in common with other European countries or are in any way hostile to European culture. Many Brits do have deep and abiding links with the continent, myself included – I have a deep and abiding affinity with France and the French culture and people dating back to my teenage years, but I am clear in my mind that this is a relationship nurtured with a culture distinct from and different to my own, not a mere extension of my own culture.

And anybody who seriously surveys the full sweep of cultural connections – legal, governmental, artistic, musical, touristic, commercial – and tries to tell you that the British people have more in common with mainland Europe than with our friends in the Anglosphere (particularly the United States and Canada) is deliberately trying to deceive you, and deluding themselves in the process.

 

People hold banners during a demonstration against Britain's decision to leave the European Union, in central London

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Scottish Brexit Hysteria: Nicola Sturgeon’s Flawed IndyRef2 Argument

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I begged once, back in 2014. I will not beg again.

Thus far I have refrained from commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s tunnel-visioned decision to agitate for a re-run of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum following last year’s vote for Brexit.

Back then, I poured my heart into the pro-Union campaign because I strongly believe in our United Kingdom, and do not want to see what I believe to be one of the two greatest and most consequential countries on Earth torn apart unnecessarily to the diminution of all. My beliefs have not changed since then.

However, I do not intend to make another argument or write even one more article seeking to convince the Scottish people to realise the self-evident, inherent wisdom of remaining in our United Kingdom. As the 2014 campaign drew to a close, I quoted the peroration of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous first inaugural address, which sums up my feelings far better than I can put into my own words:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Substitute “separation” for “civil war” and you have my distilled viewpoint on the matter of Scottish independence. But Scottish nationalism is a blind and unreasoning beast, appeals to logic and sentiment will get us nowhere, and we should recognise this fact. If one seriously believes that the Scottish people are being oppressed and having their democratic rights trampled by the Evil English, or that they somehow lack their due influence in our nation’s government despite enjoying political devolution and autonomy far greater than that enjoyed by the UK’s most populous home nation, then a sensible discussion cannot be had.

Neither am I willing to involve myself in another referendum campaign which will consist of those on the side of Scottish independence prancing around pretending that they are the sole custodians of compassion and progressivism (not that I claim the latter label for myself), and that the only thing preventing Scotland from becoming a modern-day socialist Utopia is the cold, dead hand of English conservatism. I will not buy into the pernicious myth that people’s hearts get a little bigger and their spirits more generous the moment they move north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Scottish nationalists: try building that compassionate welfare state with a 15% annual government budget deficit and the economy-suffocating tax rises which would be required to close it, and then talk to me about compassion.

Nor am I willing to debate on the skewed terms of the Scottish National Party, which is an authoritarian, centralising machine (one fire and police service for an entire country, really?!) which would happily turn Scotland into an undemocratic one-party state under the cult of personality of Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond given the opportunity. I will not debate further concessions or autonomy for Scotland when the SNP government refuses to avail itself of the fiscal autonomy which has already been granted, and when similarly populous English regions (like, say, Yorkshire) are equal in population but have a fraction of the voice, and yet bear this injustice with more stoicism than that of every last Scottish nationalist combined. The SNP does not debate or negotiate in good faith, as should be evident by the mere fact that we are even discussing a re-run of the independence referendum after the matter was supposedly settled for a generation.

All of that being said, and despite the known disingenuousness and bloody-mindedness of the SNP, I was rather surprised by Nicola Sturgeon’s widely reported public statements and recent series of tweets, which amount to nothing more than another hysterical hissy fit about Brexit coupled with an Olympian denial of reality – Trumpian “alternative facts”, if you will:

Sturgeon wants to hold another referendum when “the terms of Brexit [are] clear and before it is too late to choose an alternative path”. But it is clear to everyone with a functioning brain that there will be no alternative path. No matter how much the UK government screws up the negotiation and process of Brexit, there is no alternative for Scotland to remain an EU member. It has been stated and restated by one EU leader after another that there is no mechanism either for a region to remain part of the European Union when its parent member state secedes, or for a seceding region to claim automatic, continuous or even expedited EU membership on the basis of the former parent country’s membership.

One can argue about whether this is right or wrong – the political motivations behind it are quite clear, with certain other EU member states none too keen to give succour to restive independence movements in their own regions – but one thing a government should and cannot do is base its policy and public pronouncements on a denial of basic reality which can best be described as howl-at-the-moon stupid. If Scotland wants to be an “independent country” and an EU member (to the limited extent that the two overlap) then it must apply to rejoin the EU as a new entity from the outside, whereby its application will almost certainly be vetoed by Spain. Those are facts.

So what does Sturgeon mean when she says that the Scottish people must be free to pull the eject lever on the United Kingdom “before it is too late to choose an alternative path”? She is basically lying to her own citizens, pretending that the ejector-seat she is selling them is connected to a functioning parachute when in fact it is weighed down by the iron anvil of reality. And what is that awkward reality? The fact that voting to secede from the United Kingdom necessarily and automatically means that Scotland would find itself out of the UK and the EU, certainly for a long time and almost certainly forever.

Of course, many Scottish nationalists and their finger-wagging apologists in the rest of the UK love to argue that it is somehow ironic for pro-Brexit Unionists to warn Scotland of the dangers of finding itself locked outside of a larger political entity. These people think that they have hit on a clever, winning argument when in fact all they have done is reveal the paucity of their own understanding of patriotism and national identity, let alone why people voted for Brexit.

There never was (and likely never will be) a culture and common feeling of “European-ness” that outweighs British identity, and so it never made sense for such a powerful and dominant level of supranational government – one with determinedly expansionist, federal aspirations, no less – to sit over us in Brussels. There is, however, a strong sense of Britishness and shared British history, no matter what contemporary pundits say about the decline of Britishness and the rise of English nationalism.

If you doubt it, answer this one question: what was the name of the decisive Second World War air battle fought between July and October 1940? (Hint: even a post-patriotic millennial can tell you that it wasn’t the Battle of England, just as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were attacks on the United States of America and not on Hawaii and New York respectively). Our sense of identity is overwhelmingly forged as a unified British entity (albeit one with proud constituent home nations), no matter what narratives of fracture that the pro-EU media class try to feed us. And so there is all the difference in the world between wanting to preserve the United Kingdom, to which most of us have at least some sentimental attachment, and wanting to free the United Kingdom from antidemocratic supranational European government which didn’t exist half a century ago and which most people barely comprehend.

Brexit, at its core, sought to return the highest and most consequential level of government to a polis with a commensurate sense of shared identity. If Scottish nationalists try to suggest that it is somehow hypocritical for Brexiteers to support the United Kingdom and warn of the cultural costs of separation then they either think that you are stupid or else are being catastrophically stupid themselves. Both options are equally plausible.

So by all means let Scotland hold another referendum, at the appropriate time. If they choose to defy the current polls and vote for true isolation on the world stage as a tiny country in poor fiscal health, determined to antagonise its larger neighbour, then that is their right. But they must do so only when the temper tantrum of their attempted divorce from the United Kingdom does not further imperil what is already a fraught and difficult Brexit negotiation for the rest of us.

Since Scotland is coming out of the European Union anyway (as even Nicola Sturgeon realises in her more lucid moments), it makes absolutely no sense for Scotland to pull the eject lever and jettison from the United Kingdom before the Brexit negotiations and process are complete. Sturgeon pretends that the referendum must be held virtually overnight, before it is “too late to choose an alternative”, but she is deliberately deceiving the people she represents. There will be no alternative other than the binary of life inside Brexit Britain or life as an independent country, whether the vote is held tomorrow or in 2025. All that holding IndyRef2 before Brexit is complete will accomplish is prioritising the vainglorious fantasy of Scottish nationalists over the UK government’s solemn responsibility (shoddily discharged thus far, admittedly) to secure the best deal and optimal future relations for our entire United Kingdom.

So go ahead, Scotland. Have your second referendum – at the appropriate time, once the United Kingdom you so despise has successfully finished negotiating its way through our present great national trial. I will not say a single further word to convince you to stay – the decision is yours, and if Project Fear worked back in 2014 then I can only hope that Project ‘Mystic Chords of Memory’ will ultimately do the job next time around.

So do what you will. But in 2014 you voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and as a full and equal part of the UK you don’t now get to sabotage the Brexit process in pursuit of the SNP’s unachievable fantasy of leaping smoothly from our Union to that of Brussels.

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 3 – The Cultural Elite’s Ongoing Anti-Brexit Tantrum Is Pointless And Childish

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Hell hath no fury like a self-involved, virtue-signalling, pig ignorant artist forcibly separated from his beloved European identity

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be in close proximity to a young child having a screaming meltdown in a supermarket, church or (worst of all) on a long aeroplane journey will immediately recognise the tenor and tone of the Guardian’s latest offering in their ongoing “But The Evil Tor-ees Took My European Identity From Me” series.

And this week’s whinnying public tantrum comes courtesy of writer Tom McCarthy, who can’t wait to tell us how he spurned the opportunity to attend a festival of British arts because daring to celebrate British artistic creativity post-Brexit is clearly akin to having attended the Nuremberg Rallies in 1930s Germany.

McCarthy pompously declares:

In our society, the artist may have no executive power whatsoever, but their ace-card lies in the fact that they command a means – perhaps the primal one – of putting value in the world: a means of making meaning. They can use this status to subvert, or to shore up, power – sometimes both at the same time – and they can do this well, badly or indifferently; but one thing they can never do is be politically neutral.

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to a special reception to be held at the Royal Academy for “British artists” to celebrate “British creativity”. In normal times such a gesture might have seemed a little jingoistic, but essentially innocuous. But these are not normal times. Given the extraordinary far-right takeover the country seems to be undergoing, current talk of “British” X or Y or Z (“values” or “decency” or “culture”) usually marks one end of a chain, at the other end of which someone is being shunned in a playground, spat at in a supermarket, or worse. The invitation mentioned designers and businesses who “shape our culture”, and outlined the security procedures that would surround the event. It wasn’t hard to read between the lines: while Martin Roth at the V&A had made it clear his institution would have no truck with such nonsense, the RA was helping to assemble a roll-call of figures from the arts to pose arm-in-arm with ministers, royalty and innovators of the James Dyson variety, for a soft-power, post-Brexit rebrand of “British” culture.

How terribly brave of McCarthy to make such a principled stand, which will have cost him absolutely nothing and cemented his status as a hero among other pig-ignorant europhiles in the cultural scene. No, really. How terribly subversive, taking a public action which panders to the existing groupthink and prejudices of the political and cultural elite, nearly all of whom remain horrified by Brexit. The idea that Tom McCarthy is in any way being countercultural or subversive is as hilarious as it is pitiful.

McCarthy continues:

The fact is, I’m not an example of “British creativity”. Like all English-language writers, I’m thoroughly European. To read Shakespeare is to read a rich remix of Ovid, Petrarch and Lucretius; to read Joyce (a British passport-holder) is to read Mallarmé, Laforgue, Goethe. The wellspring of our shared archive is Greek – and since the Hellenic world was in fact spread all around the Mediterranean basin, this means that to be European is already to be African and Asian.

Millennia of trade and empire, of diaspora and endlessly crisscrossing migration, have produced a culture that is and always will be cross-pollinated. If London and other British cities have become cultural hubs, this is because they stand at intersections within larger, international flows and networks. To credit an intersection with creating (“innovating”) the currents from which it merely feeds, though, is like calling a lightbulb a generator.

The number of idiotic sentences about Brexit and democracy uttered by self-proclaimed artists probably now registers in the tens of millions, but still McCarthy’s claim that all English-speaking writers are “thoroughly European” is particularly fatuous.

If “all English-language writers” are European, why do we not hail F. Scott Fitzgerald as a great European author? And even if we did consider Fitzgerald to be European, using McCarthy’s tortured logic, isn’t this yet more damning evidence that one does not need to be part of a supranational political union to derive a sense of regional or continental identity? Fitzgerald’s European-ness is innate and inalienable, according to McCarthy, and utterly uncontingent on belonging to a power-hungry, relentlessly integrating Cold War-era club like the EU. So what exactly in the problem with Brexit?

Is Switzerland, outside the European Union, not “European”? Is Norway somehow severed from the continent, its artists unable to “cross-pollinate” ideas with their French or Spanish peers? And if the likes of John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald are great European writers despite both of whom having perished before the sainted European Union came into being, isn’t this proof that sharing an undemocratic set of supranational institutions is entirely unnecessary in forging a common heritage and identity?

Weepy British artists still in floods of tears at the thought of Britain leaving the EU should in fact take heart from Tom McCarthy’s rant. Since “all English-language writers” are “thoroughly European”, even those who lived their entire lives on a different continent decades before the institutions of the European Union even came into existence, why get so upset simply because Britain will shortly cease to send MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg?

The culmination of McCarthy’s virtue-signalling extravaganza:

About the same time, I received another invitation, this time to read from my work at an anti-Brexit art festival in Hackney’s gallery-filled Vyner Street. Beneath bunting designed by Fiona Banner, Bob and Roberta Smith and Jessica Voorsanger played a gig, Katrin Plavcak and Ulrika Segerberg did an electronic sewing machine-enhanced performance, Lucy Reynolds conducted a “choir” who chanted in 20 languages at once, and a large crowd who could trace their heritage to every corner of the Earth ate, drank and generally had fun celebrating internationalism and renouncing tribalist bigotry, while children darted round their legs.

It’s quite possible that several of the Vyner Street participants, being high-profile culture-shaping innovators, were invited to the RA too. I doubt they’ll go, though, any more than I will.

And there it is. That’s what this is really all about. Tom McCarthy hasn’t had his European identity ripped away from him, as by his own admission his sense of European-ness transcends any one political institution and seemingly includes African and Asian culture, too (perhaps someone needs to have a quiet word with him about his imperialist, oppressive cultural appropriation).

No, this is members of the British artistic and cultural scene, left-wing almost to the last man, doing what they do best: spurning patriotism at every turn (embracing “all centuries but this and every country but their own”, as W.S. Gilbert might have put it), revealing their exquisite discomfort with anything British and promoting a rootless form of virtue-signalling internationalism instead. It is self-evident that Tom McCarthy would have no qualms about attending a celebration of French or Italian culture, were he invited to one. No, it is only his own culture which he detests and sees fit to associate with the “far right”.

“Look at me, look at me! I’m a citizen of the world! I’m not beholden to your base, quasi-fascistic preoccupations with national identity and community”, screams Tom McCarthy’s insufferable hissy fit in the Guardian. Well, good for him. Thankfully, a majority of Britons (even those cowed by Project Fear into voting Remain) disagree with this toxic notion.

Castigating the inventor James Dyson for having “[thrown] his lot in with Nigel Farage” in supporting Brexit, McCarthy declares “I don’t even dry my hands in public toilets” any more following the EU referendum, a riveting declaration that this brave, Super Virtuous Man will have absolutely nothing to do with those who dared to defy the pro-EU orthodoxy.

If Tom McCarthy chooses to forego washing his hands after using the lavatory as part of some pinch-faced middle class anti-Brexit rebellion, that is his own business. This blog would be quite content if he simply took pity on the rest of us and ceased to sculpt prissy, virtue-signalling little articles in the Guardian out of his own faeces.

 

Thousands Of People Take Part In The March For Europe

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A Crisis Of Identity: When Global Elites Forget How To Be Patriotic

global-elite

The global, liberal elite are increasingly transcending any lingering commitment to patriotism and national identity, setting them on a collision course with the small-c conservative majority

Michael Lind has an unmissable essay in the National Review this week, entitled “The Open-Borders ‘Liberaltarianism’ of the New Urban Elite“, which manages to explain so much about the rise of Donald Trump and the growing inability of political elites in America and Britain to speak to whole swathes of the country they supposedly control.

The crux of Lind’s argument seems to be that the educated, liberal (to use American parlance) inhabitants of the large cities have increasingly taken on what were always fringe libertarian ideas about open borders and the irrelevance or undesirability of the nation state, leading them to pursue policies and espouse values which alienate the more suburban and rural population.

Key quote:

To date, the public conversation on both sides of the Atlantic has been dominated almost entirely by the elite inhabitants of Densitaria, interrupted only by occasional populist revolts such as the Trump phenomenon or the Brexit vote. In a relatively short period of time, a new elite ideology has emerged that contrasts the dynamic, multicultural, libertarian city-state with the allegedly anachronistic and immoral nation-state. This ascendant worldview unites the open-borders economics and cosmopolitan, utilitarian morality of old-fashioned libertarianism with an idealization of the largest cities and their denizens.

In the 1970s and 1980s, libertarians made all of the major arguments heard from globalists since the 1990s: Favoring citizens over foreign nationals is the equivalent of racism; national borders impeding the free flow of labor and goods are both immoral and inefficient; the goal of trade and immigration policy should not be the relative security or relative wealth of particular countries, but the absolute economic well-being of all human beings.

Until the 1990s, this was an eccentric minority perspective in the U.S. and other democracies, encountered only in small-circulation libertarian journals or in the work of the occasional unworldly academic theorist of cosmopolitan ethics. But in the 2000s, as affluent whites from the professional class and their Latino, immigrant, and black allies displaced working-class whites as the base of the Democratic party, the traditional labor-liberal opposition to low-wage immigration and offshoring of industry was replaced by a new open-borders progressivism distinguishable from traditional libertarianism only by its unworkable combination of support for unrestricted immigration with a generous national welfare state.

This certainly accounts for one of the main reasons behind the Labour Party’s civil war in Britain – from the Blair era onward, Labour has been entirely captured by the open-borders progressives and increasingly turned its back on its former working class voter base. Even under the current Labour leadership election, both candidates hold open borders convictions to their core, even if only Owen Smith is stupid enough to rant about overturning the EU referendum result in public.

It also accounts for the increasing public rage (among non-progressives) about immigration in America, where the Democrats are proud and unrepentant in their support for illegal immigration while the Republicans have talked a tough talk for decades yet done nothing, precisely because the Republican political elites benefit from the current immigration status quo as much as anyone. Enter Donald Trump to an arena where nobody else is even seriously talking about the impact of mass immigration on wages and cultural cohesion, and one cannot be surprised when his crude, simplistic solutions gain political traction.

More:

The combination of open-borders “liberaltarianism” and trendy urbanist hype might lead one to wonder whether leagues of dynamic city-states should replace moribund modern nation-states. Benjamin Barber has published a book titled If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Barber is one of the founders of the Global Parliament of Mayors, which, according to his website, can help “fill the void left by nation states who [sic] are increasingly dysfunctional.” The economist Paul Romer has proposed boosting Third World development by means of semi-autonomous “charter cities,” which to his critics look remarkably like Western colonial enclaves.

Not even Barber and Romer propose actual urban independence. While cities may teach one another best practices, there is not the slightest chance that leading American cities will secede from the United States, link up with other city-states around the world, and form a new, global version of the Hanseatic League or the Delian League.

We saw the same loose talk after the EU referendum vote, with many Londoners (most of whom have no conception of what the EU really is or how it works) furious at having part of their cosmopolitan identity ripped away from them (as they see it) suggesting that London should somehow secede from the rest of the “backward” United Kingdom and become its own independent city state.

Of course this would never actually happen, but it shows just how disconnected the metropolitan elites are becoming from the country as a whole, and the sheer contempt with which they regard other regions which dared to express their patriotism and belief in self-determination by voting for Brexit. It is also misplaced arrogance of the worst sort – the lights would go out and people would begin to starve in London within days were it not for the arterial links of people and goods from the supposedly terrible and backward rural and suburban regions.

And it is this continual feeling of disrespect, I think, which does so much to drive populist insurgencies like the rise of Donald Trump, and (if I am honest) even those populist causes that I actually agree with, like Brexit. People in the industrial and commuter heartlands, as well as rural folk, are getting increasingly sick of being told that they are too backward, too intolerant, too racist, that their own priorities and concerns do not matter and that they should be led in all regards by an urban elite who don’t even seem terribly attached to the country that gives them life and liberty, and who find the slightest display of national pride or patriotism almost painfully embarrassing.

I’m fortunate. I got into a good university and managed to embark on a career which has seen me work in numerous countries across three continents. But if this had not been the case – if, like many of my peers, an international business career was either never on the cards or simply not what I wanted to do – then I would probably be quite put out by people whose interest and commitment to any one country seems transitory at best telling me what I should think about immigration, global governance and democracy.

Now living in remain-voting West Hampstead, I am surrounded by the kind of people who are aghast at the Brexit vote and who consider it a calamity brought down upon the heads by the kind of ignorant, unwashed oiks whom they would never normally speak to unless they were fixing their car or serving them a burger. I can see how it must grate with Middle England, because it grates with me.

Lind goes on to touch on this point:

What appears to be a debate among globalists and nationalists, then, is really a debate about the structure of the 21st-century nation-state. There are real dangers associated with the coalescing elite ideology of post-national globalism or, to be precise, national-elite pseudo-globalism.

One danger is groupthink resulting from the attempt by the new globalists to equate even enlightened and civic nationalism with racism. When the economist Larry Summers, nobody’s idea of a pitchfork-waving populist, tentatively called for “responsible nationalism,” he was criticized by The Economist, whose open-borders libertarianism, once eccentric, has become near-orthodoxy among the trans-Atlantic elite.

And closes with this stark warning:

The most significant threat is the possibility that the abandonment of national patriotism by many elite citizens of the nation-state for make-believe cosmopolitanism will weaken national unity, to the benefit of sub-national racism, ethnocentrism, and regionalism. The loyalties that succeed national solidarity are likely to be narrower, not broader. If history is any guide, the victims of tribalism and illiberal populism are likely to include would-be citizens of the world who despise the nation-states that make possible not only their wealth but also their security.

Absolutely. This blog has been banging on for years about the continued importance of the nation state as the final guarantor of most of our most precious rights and freedoms. But the nation state is also, in the democratic age, a relatively harmless way of allowing people to feel and express a sense of belonging and community pride without tipping over into other, much darker expressions of identity.

Those weepy europhiles mourning Britain’s imminent departure from the EU because they consider themselves “European citizens” might want to pause and think through the consequences of further undermining the nation state, which is the primary aim of their beloved project. Because enlightened, one-world government is a few centuries away yet, and whatever crops up to replace the nation state that they so eagerly undermine will likely be unpleasant, even violent.

And while it may not be purely libertarian, this blog would much rather live in a world of moderate, familiar nationalist rivalry than descend into the known horrors of ethnic or religious sectarianism. We already see the early fruits of this blinkered commitment to “multiculturalism” in self-segregated and un-policed communities here in Britain among certain immigrant populations. We don’t need to extend those delights to the entire population.

What is the solution? Michael Lind does not offer one, and this blog does not see an easy fix either. But when global elites (Davos Man and the like) and the next tier down (those with international lives and careers) have more in common with each other than with those of other socio-economic groups and communities in their own countries, it is a recipe for political alienation and the eventual fracturing of our civic life.

To avoid disaster and a true crisis of democracy, our ruling elites in the political and commercial sphere must somehow learn to be patriotic again – for if the nation state has no champions it will go on being relentlessly undermined on all fronts. But right now there is little evidence that they are remotely interested in bridging the growing chasm between their own interests and those of the people they supposedly “serve”.

This leaves the field wide open for the likes of Donald Trump and UKIP 3.0 to make inroads with voters left cold by the other options available to them. And the time may soon come when the political elites sorely regret ceding this territory.

 

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Bottom Image: Stefan Molyneux, Globalism versus Culture

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A Strong, Christian Case For The Nation State (And Against The European Union)

Justin Welby - John Sentamu - Archbishops - Church of England - EU Referendum - European Union - Brexit - Remain

Here is an intellectually robust, theologically rooted argument in support of the nation state and against the European Union. Why are Christian EU apologists unable to produce a similarly heavyweight case of their own, instead of relying on woolly platitudes about ‘togetherness’ and ‘co-operation’?

The Reimagining Europe blog has just published a serious intellectual (and even theological) but highly readable case for the continuance of the nation state, and criticism of those who suggest that the age of supranational government is either logical, inevitable or a goal to which Christians should aspire.

While I do not agree with every single nuance of the argument put forward by Nigel Biggar (Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christ Church college, Oxford) the overall thrust of his argument is quite unimpeachable. It certainly is rooted in a far deeper reading of scripture and theological analysis than the glib statements of support for the European Union and Remain campaign from Archbishops John Sentamu and Justin Welby.

Biggar begins:

Thirty years ago I was told by a senior Anglican clergyman that the nation-state was passé. I can’t remember why he thought as he did, but I do remember that his conviction was a fashionable one. Quite why it was fashionable isn’t clear to me now. The mid-1980s were too early for globalisation’s transfer of power from national governments to free global markets and transnational corporations to have become evident. Perhaps it was the recent entry of an economically ailing and politically strife-torn Britain into the arms of the European Economic Community that made the nation-state’s days look so numbered. And, of course, the Cold War, which would not thaw until 1989, made international blocs look like a monolithic fact of global political life.

Finally, someone raises the historical context of Britain’s entry into the EEC in their Christian argument about the EU referendum. Good. Nothing can be understood without understanding the history and purpose of the European Union, but also the circumstances which led Britain to join in the first place. For if those circumstances (global obsolescence and lack of a “role”, economic decline, industrial strife, the very real risk of being ejected from what Michael Moore might call the “Premier League” of nations) are no longer present, why on earth would we now wish to stay, given all of the EU’s manifold flaws and failings?

Biggar goes on to discuss differing national attitudes toward being a quasi-autonomous member of a larger supranational grouping:

But there’s another, historically deeper reason. This was graphically impressed upon me during a visit to last year’s exhibition at the British Museum, “Germany: Memories of a Nation”. (I’d strongly recommend the book, by the way.) One of the exhibits was a map of north-western Europe in the mid-18th century, on which were superimposed the coinages current in Germany and Britain at the time. In Britain, there was one coin; in Germany, about sixty. Britain was a unitary state; Germany a territory with a common language, but comprising dozens of different kingdoms and principalities.

And here’s where being both German and Roman Catholic comes into play. For the dozens of mini-states in mid-18th century Germany were the vestiges of the multinational, Catholic, Holy Roman Empire, which the Protestant Reformation had helped to destroy. For Roman Catholics, especially on the European continent, and especially in Germany, the notion of a federation of states, sharing a broadly common culture and subject to a transcendent, quasi-imperial authority seems a perfectly natural condition.

Not so for the English, who have inhabited a nation-state whose basic structures span a thousand years, and whose history has taught them to fear the concentration of continental power. It’s no accident, therefore, that one can find in Anglican thought a marked tendency, from F. D Maurice in the mid-19th century to Oliver O’Donovan now, to affirm the existence of a plurality of independent nations, whose external relations are governed by international law rather than a supranational state.

Quite so. The lived experience of Britons, and our national history, is simply too different to reconcile with that of continental Europe under the umbrella of an overarching set of political institutions. In some areas of Europe, particularly the disputed regions which have changed back forth between countries over centuries (think Alsace-Lorraine), people have a history of maintaining a cohesive identity almost separate to whichever nation happened to claim their territory at the time. There is no similar history in Britain (though one could argue that the experience of the non-England home nations within the UK comes closest).

The upshot is that there is precious little in our folklore, literature, art or indeed politics which well equips us to carry on functioning happily no matter which foreign king makes the key decisions, or from which city they may do so. We are not built for supranational rule – despite ourselves having presided over an empire which did exactly that, we have not been on the receiving end in a thousand years.

Biggar then gets biblical, something which too few of the most prominent Christian apologists for the European Union have been willing to do:

Christians tend to view the nation-state and so the prospect of a European federation differently, according to whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant, and according to their historical experience. All Christians, however, are accountable to the Bible. What does it have to say about these matters?

On the one hand, the New Testament makes quite clear that a Christian’s affection and loyalty have to go beyond the nation. They have to transcend it. Primarily, they have to attach themselves to God and to His coming Kingdom or rule. This we read in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians, where St Paul, having identified himself strongly with the Jewish nation—“a Hebrew of the Hebrews”—then firmly subordinates his Jewish identity to his loyalty to God in Christ:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…. [O]ur citizenship”, he tells the Christians at Philippi, “is in heaven” (vv. 7-9, 20).

Taken at face value, it would seem that Paul is saying that Christian identity must obliterate and completely replace national identity. But Paul, I think, is speaking hyperbolically here; he’s exaggerating. In fact, he never entirely repudiated his Jewish identity, but rather sought to understand how his new-found loyalty to God in Christ could actually fulfil his original national loyalty.

Biggar is right to suggest that St Paul’s injunction to completely erase national identity is a rhetorical exaggeration. And it is certainly the case that if British Christians were indeed called to renounce their Britishness, there is absolutely no reason why they should then take up a European identity – if any passing allegiance to country is wrong, then allegiance to a supranational body which is actively trying to become a country in its own right is just as wrong.

As Jesus Himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). While we are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ, it is made very clear to us that our common citizenship is at an embryonic stage in this temporal world, represented by the global Church, and that the nation to which we shall all one day belong is not one of Earth.

Biggar goes on to concede the transitory nature of nation states:

Against such idolatrous nationalism, Christians must refuse the claim that nations have an eternal destiny, and that their survival is an absolute imperative. Nations are in fact contingent, evolving, and transitory phenomena. They come and they go. The United Kingdom did not exist before 1707 (and could have ceased to exist this year, had the Yes campaign won the Scottish independence referendum.) The United States could have ceased to exist in the early 1860s. Czechoslovakia did cease to exist in 1993.

So a Christian cannot be a Romantic nationalist, idolatrously attributing an absolute value to any nation. That’s one part of the truth.

With this important counterpoint:

But there is another part. This is alluded to by St Paul’s continuing identification with the Jewish people. And it’s made explicit in the Old Testament, where the prophet Jeremiah addresses the Jews, who had been carried off into exile in Babylonia, after the sacking of Jerusalem in the year 586BC. This is what he says:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the welfare of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (vv. 4-7).”

Though they are citizens of another country, though they are currently exiles in Babylon, the people of God should nevertheless “seek the welfare of the city”.

Why is this? The answer lies in our created nature as human beings. We are finite, not infinite; creatures, not gods. We come into being and grow up in a particular time, and if not in one particular place and community, then in a finite number of them. We are normally inducted into particular forms of social life by our family and by other institutions—schools, churches, clubs, workplaces, political parties, public assemblies, laws. These institutions and their customs mediate and embody a certain grasp of the several universal forms of human prosperity or flourishing—that is to say, the several basic human goods—that are given in and with the created nature of human being. It is natural, therefore, that we should feel special affection for, loyalty toward, and gratitude to those communities, customs, and institutions that have benefited us by inducting us into human goods; and, since beneficiaries ought to be grateful to benefactors, it is right that we should.

This is true – we do indeed feel special affection and loyalty toward communities, customs and institutions which give us utility. But we should be wary of where this particular strand of thought may lead us. For as we know, the European Union is particularly adept at “purchasing loyalty” by using funds raised from nation state taxpayers and sent to Brussels as EU membership fees to then bribe national citizens with their own money in the form of development spending or sponsorship of various arts and community projects.

Pete North warns about this very phenomenon with this brilliant observation:

The founding fathers were savvy in their design of le grande project. They always knew it could never be done all at once because the central vision would never secure a mandate. Integration by deception has always been the modus operandi. It salami slices powers little by little, so gradually that few ever notice. And you’d never see it unless you know what the game plan is. They were long term thinkers. They knew it would take a generation or so to advance their agenda and they had a roadmap to do it.

It has always used funding of local projects to manufacture consent. It’s why you’ll find EU logos emblazoned on any nature reserve or community hall or obscure museum out in the shires, to convince the plebs that their benevolent EU guardians cared more for them than the London government. It is why it funds universities too. Every strata of civil society has an injection of EU cash. Education, NGOs, you name it. And it works.

[..] The founding fathers always knew a day would come where the legitimacy of the EU would be questioned. And now you see how well their pernicious scheme worked, with the entirely of the civic establishment coming out in favour of remain. They have made idle supplicants of our institutions, robbing them of their vitality, curiosity and dynamism.

While Biggar is absolutely correct to make his point, defenders of the nation state must be careful that this is not then used as justification by EU apologists for the behaviour and existence of the EU – a kind of retroactive justification for unwanted supranational political union based on the wheedling claim that people like it when Brussels gives them back their own money.

Biggar’s conclusion is a resounding rejection of pessimism about the nation state and the ignorant embrace of the EU by many in leadership positions in the church, based only on the woolliest of Christian thinking (my emphasis in bold):

Of course, institutions at a national level are not the only ones that enable us to flourish as human beings, but they do remain among them; and they are still the most important. This is true, notwithstanding the easy illusion of global identity that today’s social media create. While international institutions such as the United Nations have developed since the Second World War, they haven’t replaced nation-states and don’t seem likely to do so any time soon. Indeed, the UN only has as much power as nation-states choose to give it. So the nation-state is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and it continues to have great power to shape the lives of individual human beings. Insofar as it has shaped our lives for the better, helping us to prosper, we owe it our gratitude and loyalty; insofar as it has mis-shaped our lives (or other people’s) for the worse, we owe it our commitment to reform. Either way, we owe it our attention and our care.

So, in sum, as I see it, the Bible teaches on the one hand that no nation-state deserves absolute loyalty. Every state is subject to the universal laws of God, of which it may fall foul and deserve criticism. On the other hand, Scripture implies that nation-states can, and should, and often do furnish the structures necessary for human flourishing. They cause us to prosper. Therefore, they deserve our loyal, if sometimes critical, care.

[..] In the age of global capitalism, they are less powerful than they used to be. And they have always been bound, more or less, to each other by need, by treaty, and by law. Nevertheless, nation-states remain the fundamental units in the international order, and the day when they will be superseded by a global state is nowhere in sight.

Nation-states are not in fact passé, and the Bible doesn’t tell us that they should be. What’s more, my German Catholic friend really shouldn’t argue for Britain’s remaining in the European Union on the ground that the age of the nation-state is over. Because, of course, a federal EU would be nothing other than a larger state, serving the newly self-conscious nation of Europeans, and able to hold its own against the United States on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other.

There may well be good reasons for Britain to remain in the E.U. But if that is so, the unchristian nature, or the obsolescence, of the nation-state is not one of them.

An intellectually rousing piece with a resoundingly clear conclusion – that the nation state, for all its flaws, has been the underwriter of our most fundamental freedoms and liberties for too long to carelessly cast it aside in the blinkered rush toward supranationalism.

Those with senior leadership positions within the church – I’m thinking here particularly of Archbishops John Sentamu and Justin Welby of the Church of England – are too intelligent not to know the history, purpose and inevitable future trajectory of the EU. Unlike the average man on the street, we need not extend to them the charitable assumption that they are simply ignorant on the matter – after all, our state church is about as deeply embedded in the British establishment as it is possible to be.

Therefore, when the likes of Justin Welby or John Sentamu argue that Britain should vote to remain in the EU in the coming referendum, they do so from a clear base of knowledge that this would mean our continued participation in a project whose ultimate direction has never wavered – the creation of a common European state. This means that they either want Britain to be part of this reckless European endeavour (though they are too dishonest to admit as much, perhaps believing it is their duty to mislead their congregations, who they consider too stupid to appreciate the necessity of political union), or they think that Britain can somehow flourish as a kind of “associate member” on the margins of an ever-tightening political union of the eurozone countries, in which our existing influence would be greatly diminished.

If it is the former, and the Archbishops are closet euro federalists who dare not declare their ultimate goal in public, then this is a truly reprehensible way for them to behave, advocating as they do a wishy-washy, hand-wringing argument for Remain based on economic fears rather than making their true political intentions clear. And if it is the latter, and they have convinced themselves that remaining on the margins of a steadily integrating European Union can do anything but marginalise us and diminish our presence on the world stage then their political judgement is bordering on the catastrophic – and only reinforces the case that the Church of England should be fully disestablished and severed from its anachronistic, unjustifiable constitutional role in the United Kingdom.

But here we have it – a muscular Christian case in support of the nation state, and implicitly against the European Union. Will we ever hear the equivalent pro-EU Christian case articulated so eloquently, or at such length? We have certainly seen nothing to date. In fact, the further up the church hierarchy the Christian EU apologists are found, the weaker and more insubstantial their arguments generally become.

I recently had an exchange on Twitter with Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, in which I questioned his description of the Leave campaign as “insular” and asked when we might expect a substantive Christian case in favour of the EU:

Bishop Nick Baines - Sam Hooper - EU Referendum - Brexit - Christian case for EU

Bishop Baines promised just such an article, but none has yet been forthcoming. Indeed, a clear, unambiguous and unapologetic Christian case in favour of the European Union and a Remain vote in the EU referendum can scarcely be heard, despite the weight of establishment Christianity coming down on the side of remaining in the EU.

This is untenable. If the bishops are to retain any kind of temporal authority – at least in my eyes – it is not enough to make wishy-washy statements vaguely supportive of the Remain campaign without any intellectual or theological legwork to back them up. This reeks of confirmation bias – of bishops, comfortably ensconced in the establishment, making up their minds that the EU is a good thing in advance, and then cherry picking facts to support their existing viewpoint.

A common Christian complaint is that our religion is being increasingly forced from the public square in this new secular age. And it is partly true – freedom of speech and religious expression are sometimes outrageously curtailed in this country. But participation in the public square comes with a price: if one wants to be heard and taken seriously, one must say sensible things and be prepared to back them up with a solid argument.

At present, too many bishops of the church are willing to sell out the public square and everything else in this country to Brussels, and do so without offering a sound argument for remaining in the European Union based on our knowledge of the nature, purpose and direction of the EU. The bishops believe that a sprinkling of glib words about “togetherness” and “co-operation”, mixed with some hand-wringing concerns about the short term economic impact of Brexit taken straight from the Remain camp’s playbook, amount to a sufficient case. But they do not.

Ideally, the bishops should come down unanimously on the right side of this issue. But since that is not going to happen, they should at least participate in the debate with a shred of honour. And if they arrogantly proceed with their current approach, preaching the Remain argument on the flimsiest of pretexts, then they should not be surprised if they cause the gates to the public square to be permanently locked to Christians.

And what a dismal legacy that will be.

 

Postscript: More on the Christian case for Brexit hereherehere and here.

 

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Top Image: New Statesman

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