Last Thursday found me entertaining visitors from the USA in Rhuthun, a pleasant town I’m rather fond of, where I was amazed to see a few people still wearing poppies. Even stranger, there were large poppies fixed to lamp-posts! (This, remember, was November 20th.) This reminded me that the of wearing of poppies may originally have honoured The Glorious Dead, but nowadays the poppy is used to relentlessly promote British unity and patriotism. Understandable, I suppose, for social cohesion is always desirable, but the growing economic disparities defeat that object, leaving the poppy exposed as a fig leaf behind which a corrupt and increasingly reviled elite seeks to hide.
A political elite supported by a media that is looked upon by the rest of the world’s journalists with a mixture of awe and revulsion. Led of course by the BBC, the State mouthpiece that played such a prominent role in seeing off the threat of Scottish independence in September. Following behind is the print media, those newspapers that have hacked phones, paid bent coppers, etc., then denied doing anything wrong before – after being exposed – arguing that everything they did was in the public interest.
As I say, events in Scotland have played a big part in influencing the recent behaviour of the UK media and the output of the ‘entertainment industry’. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 separate programmes that had ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516! Yet we are supposed to believe that the threatening political situation in Scotland had nothing whatever to do with this upsurge in patriotic productions south of the border. Read more about it here.
This discredited elite and loathsome media also promote ‘Remembrance’ with a considerable degree of coercion, one only has to watch television in the weeks leading up to November 11th to realise that no one is allowed to appear on UK television without a poppy. The poppy must appear everywhere, from footballers’ shirts to newspaper front pages. (There’s something rather odd about seeing German and Argentine Premier League footballers with a poppy on their shirts.) The only Premiership player I’ve seen with the courage to refuse was James McClean, when with Sunderland (now with Championship side Wigan). Something else I’ve noticed is that the commemoration of ‘Armistice Day’ now seems to start around mid-September.
I make that observation because when I was a boy people would wear poppies on November 11th (or the Sunday nearest to that date), these were then either placed on graves or left on the mantlepiece, perhaps for next year; but now, like Christmas, the whole thing starts earlier every year. And just as sybarites of your acquaintance insist they wouldn’t really bother with all the over-eating and getting steaming drunk “if it was’t for the kids’, so the sinister and discredited elements I’m referring to want us to believe that the poppy cult is motivated solely by respect for The Fallen. I say cult because that’s what it has become. If anyone doubts what I’m saying, then just recall the Tower of London display this year and the crowds turning up to worship at the ‘shrine’.
Stepping back from that exercise in overkill we can see the bigger picture and the poppy cult as just one tactic in a wider strategy. For with the unity of Britain beset by threats as diverse as the SNP and jihadism, yet with nothing in modern Britain able to serve as the focus for a unifying loyalty, a discredited establishment is forced to employ the past, and to exploit those beyond all criticism. (The wisdom of which is questionable, given that those who died on the Western Front can be seen as victims of the same discredited establishment.)
Of course, this promotion of an unquestioning patriotism that tolerates no criticism has its risks. Such as encouraging those on the uglier fringes of English / British nationalism into believing that this State-sponsored nationalism shows approval of their stance on various issues – not least immigration – which then results in the kind of behaviour we saw in George Square, Glasgow the day after the independence referendum. By waving Union flags on every conceivable occasion, by making endless programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title, the British elite and its media encourage the extreme Right to think its beliefs are being endorsed or gaining acceptance. Which leads on to another problem.
For many of these SuperBrits are Nazis, and admire the army that killed so many British soldiers. I have never quite understood the reasoning at work here, does the English extreme Right think Britain should have made common cause with the Nazis in World War Two, maybe fought alongside them against the Russians? It’s obvious there are many who see no contradiction in being a Nazi and a British patriot, as we saw in George Square, with people bawling out Land of Hope and Glory before yelling Sieg Heil! This confusion probably explains the nutter who gave a Nazi salute at the Remembrance Day service in Wrecsam. He may genuinely have believed that a Nazi salute is an acceptable way to show respect for Britain’s war dead. Think about that.
This ‘confusion’ presents a dilemma for our masters. Because I believe there are sinister forces within the establishment who think that in a shit-hitting-the-fan scenario, with Muslim neighbourhoods becoming no-go areas, Scotland declaring independence, social unrest among the English underclass, the thugs of the BNP and Britain First, Rangers fans and assorted other misfits would make ideal foot-soldiers, so we mustn’t be too hard on them. But it’s playing with fire.
Another problem for the British establishment presented by White Van Dan and his ilk is that while the Unionist elite desperately seeks ways to defeat Scottish nationalism, to combat the alienation of ethnic and religious minorities, and hold the UK together, the English Right is circling the wagons. It wants as little as possible to do with foreigners of any description or complexion, and the ‘scrounging’ Celts can also sod off if they so wish. How far can the British Unionist establishment go in appeasing those who want nothing less than an English England, and are as ready to see Britain dismembered as any Scottish nationalist? It’s a circle that cannot be squared without convincing English nationalists that Scotland and Wales are little more than subject territories, with the predictable consequences . . . in Scotland, anyway.
This dilemma almost certainly explains the swift removal from the shadow cabinet of Emily Thornberry last week. You may recall that during the Rochester and Strood by-election (won by Ukip) Ms Thornberry tweeted a photograph (shown above) with the caption, ‘Image from Rochester’. She was accused, among other things, of being “snobbish”. It would be difficult to prove in any court of law what Ms Thornberry meant by that tweet, it all depends on what you read into it, but Mrs Thornberry’s party leader, and the media, decided she had insulted the patriotic English working class and so she had to go. A curious decision for a political party that no longer understands the working class; but then, with Ukip on the rise Ed Miliband must pretend he’s a soul-mate to car dealer and cage fighter Dan. Incidentally, Dan says he put up the flags for the World Cup and just forgot to take them down. Reminder: England started packing their bags to come home on June 24th.
Something that must be ignored by the establishment is that The Glorious Dead of previous generations were prepared to die for a country they loved and an establishment they believed – despite a few black sheep – was basically honest and doing its best for the country. They even believed what they read in their newspapers, and heard on the ‘wireless’. None of this applies today, which is why so many people are searching for political, religious and other alternatives, and why the poppy has become a fig leaf behind which a discredited elite tries to hide its obvious and multiple failings. And when it’s not poppy time then it’s sport, or royal weddings / pregnancies, or any other Great British Bollocks.
Britain today displays many of the features associated with civilisations in a state of terminal decline. The imperial family is not respected as once it was, too many have brought on it shame and ridicule. Few pay any attention to organised religion, other than ‘subversive’ faiths from the farther reaches of the empire. The political elite is distrusted as never before, perceived by the masses to be liars interested only in lining their own pockets. The money-lenders are crooks and the merchant class avoids paying taxes. With the result that the gulf between rich and poor grows year on year. The capital still prospers while provincial cities decline, and one of the more important provinces threatens to break away altogether. The masses grow restless and look to new leaders, back-slapping populists who can be found in the taverns and the wine shops. These are clearly dangerous times for the established order, so it must pretend to listen to the masses, promise to be strong against the foreigner, provide bread and circuses, while recalling the days of glory and urging the restless masses to be more like their unquestioningly loyal fathers.
That paragraph could have been about the decline and fall of imperial Rome (or France just before its Revolution) but I am of course writing about modern Britain, and I didn’t need to make up anything. As we know, things turned out badly for Rome and they’ll turn out badly for Britain’s discredited elite. The Britain I grew up in is disappearing before my eyes, and as with Rome, the collapse is not due to the barbarians at the gates (or indeed within the walls), it is due entirely to a corrupted, self-serving elite having become divorced from, and contemptuous of, the great majority of the population (though there’s some irony in the Daily Mail reminding us of this). This situation can persist only until enough of the ruled realise the true nature of those ruling them. We have almost reached that point.
The more one looks at modern, shyster-run Britain, with its never-ending scandals that must result in splurges of ever more contrived and unconvincing calls to patriotism, the more we should appreciate Dr. Johnson’s prescience in making the constantly re-forged link between patriotism and scoundrels.
And what of Wales? There will be those who argue that everything is fine, relax! chill out! while others will tell us we can all be rich and happy by replacing the incumbent shysters with a different crew of shysters. Of course we can. Others may pretend that devolution will save us. Well, we’ve had fifteen years of devolution and unless you’re a property developer in Cardiff or a Third Sector grant-grabber then you haven’t seen any benefits. Next year could give us a coalition government with the Tories linking up with the friendly face of fascism. Isn’t that something to look forward to? Wake up, the only hope for Wales is to start disentangling itself from the disaster unfolding before our eyes. That disaster is England.
I would readily honour the memory of those who lost their lives in combat if doing so hadn’t become politicised by those for whom I have no respect. Perhaps Wales should have a different poppy, one to honour the dead without being associated with those seeking to exploit the dead.