It is sad to have to have to acknowledge that the country of one’s birth is in decline, but there are signs that Great Britain has fallen on the slippery slope of moral deterioration. The recent surge in nationalistic jingoism and xenophobia in Britain is lamentable and obnoxious.
In October the British Home Office reported that the number of racist hate crimes in the country had increased by 41 per cent in the month after the June referendum about UK’s membership of the European Union, the so-called ‘Brexit’ vote. The Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that “the figures make it very clear that some people used the referendum result to justify their deplorable views and promote intolerance and hatred” and there were other expressions of regret and revulsion — but not from many of the mainstream media outlets, because several newspapers rejoiced in the rush of intolerance that they had done so much to encourage.
The reasons for lack of regret, alas, are that many Britons are inherently racist and most of the print media play on that appalling aspect of the British character in order to attract readers and make money. In the facile and attractive guise of patriotism the papers seize on instances of supposed non-Britishness to encourage their readers to engage in hatred and contempt of foreigners. It is unlikely that any writers of such fascist hokum are familiar with the works of one of the greatest English essayists, poets and moralists, Dr Samuel Johnson, who wrote so perceptively that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Britain has had a race problem for many years but of late it has become severe because of a spiteful nationalistic campaign to leave the European Union, an organization that is bureaucratically absurd but seeks to benefit Europe’s citizens by promoting free trade and freedom of movement, protecting human rights, encouraging harmonization of legal processes, increasing effectiveness of counter-terrorism cooperation, and promoting economic and social progress.
These objectives are considered abhorrent by a surprising number of Britons who believe that alliance with the other 27 nations of the European Union helps movement of undesirable people to their country and that European legal covenants, agreed by their own governments during the past forty years, are inimical to the British way of life. They claim that leaving the European Union will save vast sums of money, especially in health care, while preventing abuse of ‘British Law’ by continuing to abide by European human rights standards.
It is the contention of those who wish to leave the European Union that future trading arrangements to be negotiated at an unknown date with potential but unnamed countries will be of more financial benefit than continuance of existing European Union agreements with current trading partners. (The hastily-arranged November trade-promotion visit to India by Prime Minister Theresa May — a civilised person — was sadly barren. As reported by India’s Financial Express, she returned ‘Empty-Handed.’)
The seeming rise in anti-European fervour was taken into political account by former Prime Minister David Cameron who announced in February 2016 that a referendum would be held in June to ask the simple question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” It was made clear that the referendum result would not in any way oblige the country to leave the European Union, because the Parliament did not specify legal consequences of a vote either way. It was an “advisory referendum”, and the British Parliament was and is in no way bound by any law or precedent to accept the result as mandatory for the country to ‘Brexit.’
It was intended that the referendum result would be an expression of the non-binding feelings of the British people and that the elected members of Parliament would take due notice of this when debating the complex matter in due course.
There are 46,501,241 people of voting age in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Of these, 17,410,742 voted to leave the European Union. Another 16,141,241 voted to remain within the European Union. Let me repeat that in a plebiscite of 46 million people, 17 million — 37 per cent — voted to leave the EU and that their choice was in no manner or by any interpretation of law an instruction to the government to do so.
The laws of Great Britain are determined by its members of Parliament. Many of both may be stupid, but no matter : Parliament is sovereign and its decisions are binding. Some of those who objected to the stance that the country should immediately leave the Union without Parliament discussing the matter took the matter to the High Court where three distinguished judges ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the country can begin the process.
Then Britain’s media sprang into action. The Daily Mail, whose editor, a foul-mouthed vulgarian called Paul Dacre, received “£88,000 in subsidies from the European Union for his country houses in Sussex and the Scottish Highlands in 2014” ordered his minions to produce one of the most disgusting front pages in the long history of British journalism. It depicted the three judges with the banner caption ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.
Even more despicably, the newspaper emphasised that one of the people who brought the High Court action was a coloured citizen of Britain (who was sent threats of rape and murder for her actions), and one of the judges was “openly gay.” It declared that two of the judges had sat on the European court of human rights, one being ‘fluent in several languages’ and the other ‘steeped in EU laws and tradition.’ One of them — shock, horror! — had ‘worked for a Hamburg law firm shortly after leaving Oxford.’
These spiteful, malevolent and thus most effective tirades were straight out of 1930s Germany, and there was not a shred of criticism of the newspapers by the government.
Other garbage newspapers, such as the formerly admirable Daily Telegraph, carried headlines such as ‘The Judges Versus The People.’ The Mail removed one abusive headline from its vulgar website, but the damage had been done and the bigots of Britain had been given yet more backing to express their hatred of foreigners, which extends to the media’s relentless anti-Russia campaign, intended to portray President Putin and the Russian people in the worst possible light.
One declaration of President Barack Obama that will be remembered is his wise warning that in the United States “we are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism, or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an US and a THEM.”
In Trump America it is possible that this crude nationalism might become dominant. But in Britain it seems it already rules, as those judged (no irony intended) to be ‘different’ in any way to native Anglo-Saxons are considered to be undesirable. This has been so for very many years, unfortunately, and, as recollected by one young person so affected in the 1960s, it was insulting, when looking for lodgings, to “find notices galore that said ‘No Irish, no coloureds’.”
Although repulsive racist prejudice and casual bigotry are far from new in the United Kingdom, it had been thought that in the New Millennium there might have been some advance towards tolerance and acceptance of minorities. The Race Relations Act was supposed to eradicate racism, and had some mild success, but its aims have been set back or even destroyed by the bigots of Brexit who won their dubious victory largely because they appealed to all that is most base in mankind : the idea that superiority depends on race and especially color.
The country is declining. At this rate, the fall won’t be long in coming.
A version of this piece appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on November 28.