I give you a toast, ladies and gentlemen.We know that there's a sort of intellectual that loathes England and the English, even while relishing the pleasures and treasures of the nation. George Orwell wrote about such people over seventy years ago and little has changed. What has happened is that many of these people have become essentially rootless, believing that they belong to some global patria - Harm de Blij's 'Flat Earthers' living in David Goodhart's 'Anywhere'.
I give you a toast, ladies and gentlemen.
May this fair dear land we love so well
In dignity and freedom dwell.
Though worlds may change and go awry
While there is still one voice to cry
There'll always be an England
What I don't understand is why the English members of that Laputan patria are so offended by the idea of England and Englishness. Not even the the football hooliganism bit of Englishness that causes us pain but the unchanging places of England's countryside, the market towns, cricket and the village pub. They've even found a name for it - Deep England:
Forget Little Englanders – Deep Englanders believe that life was better before the evils of industrialisation, foreign competition and, you know, immigrationTo most of us this is just...well...England. But the anonymously authored Guardian piece continues in this vein before concluding with telling us what we should say about this:
Name: Deep England.
Born: In the good old days.
Appearance: A glass of warm ale, a sun-dappled larch on the village green, the thwack of leather on willow, a cheeky wink from the milkman.
“Deep England is regressive and harmful for the population at large.”You see my friends, those traditions of ours - village cricket, beer, church bells, morris dancing - along with the idea that you don't need to change something if it isn't broken, they are harmful. These are - our Guardian writer asserts - places that voted to leave the EU filled with terrible English people. England is a terrible place and we must stay in the EU so as to prevent England.
We have a rise in self-loathing bigotry among a class of mostly London-dwelling folk who aspire to be one of those 'Flat Earthers' living in 'Anywhere'. It hurts these England-deniers when they're reminded their near neighbours rather like where they live and also pretty much like the way it is right now. The 'Flat Earthers' pretend - contrary to the actual evidence from these places - that the folk living there are unfriendly, unwelcoming, suspicious of anyone who looks a little different.
These 'Flat Earthers' have developed an image of their enemy, a bigoted stereotype of the thick, fat, flushed Englishman - the corrupted image of Skegness's Jolly Fisherman adorning the front of these self-loathers house journal, New European sums up their ignorance and prejudice completely.
Look beyond the caricature here with it's UKIP scarf and spot instead at the discarded ice-cream cone, the litter on the beach and the brown sea. This is how the 'Flat Earthers' see the world outside their bubble - loud, lewd, dirty, common. What they don't see it that their world is closing in. The faces of the people outside that world are now pressed up against the bubble of 'Anywhere'. And the 'Flat Earthers' are scared. Scared of those ordinary folk who've suddenly realised they're just as important as the great and good in London.
I remember a boss of mine talking about visiting his soon-to-be wife's parents out in the sticks somewhere (Hampshire if I recall correctly). They'd had a lovely day, a pleasant evening, nice food, company and some wine. After everyone had gone to bed, Tom (my boss) was creeping along to his fiancees bedroom for a cuddle, only to hear his putative mother-in-law call out in a loud voice, "and we're not having any of those London habits here."
None of us provincials and suburbanites think everything is perfect or even that leaving the EU is some sort of panacea to society's ills. Rather, we would like to be seen as people rather than something to be either sneered at or patronised. Above all, as English men and women, we think our country is great, has done great things, and is worth preserving as a place rather than a mere brand in a nebulous, purposeless 'Anywhere'.