But there is a darker, more sinister, side to this kind of nostalgia-propaganda – when it employs real people as instruments of this mythology. Again, to some extent, this is something British propaganda has always done, but in the main this instrumentalisation of people has either been in the abstract – as in the token image of a silhouetted soldier at a comrade’s graveside or the Unknown Soldier – or in its use of historical figures – such as Winston Churchill being voted the ‘greatest Briton of all time.’
Jack Monroe writes about how her experience of poverty has affected her mental health and her personality. She is not the person she was, not the woman she could have been, because of the stress and trauma of poverty. This is something I have witnessed first-hand. I grew up around a man shaped by the harsh realities of poverty in the 30s and 40s in Kilmarnock. My grandfather ‘never missed a day of work.’ Rain, hail, or shine, hungover, sick, and – latterly – dying he got up and went to the garage where he worked fixing car engines.
There is no need to start digging bomb shelters at the bottom of the garden. This is not, as some have suggested, going to lead to World War III. Regardless of its bloated opinion of its capabilities, Britain lacks the strength to wage a war against the EU. And – besides – states need friends and allies in order to kick off a global war. Having insulted just about every European member state and having backed the wrong horse in the US presidential election, little Britain is as it has always wanted to be – alone and absolutely friendless.
Pacta sunt servanda. Unless states keep their word, the whole international order begins to break down. Deals cannot be made with states which cannot be trusted, and even the threat of breaking a treaty seriously undermines the confidence other states have in the ‘rogue.’ This is where Britain now stands, on the outside looking in without a single friend who trusts it enough to open a door. Britain has not merely decided to leave the European Union, it has found itself locked out.
There is no escaping the racism in Rule Britannia, a cultural weapon of British racial supremacy that has been deployed against Irish Catholics in the six counties, against black and brown immigrants and asylum seekers in England, and against those now branded ‘traitors’ by the Brexiteers in every part of the United Kingdom. This is a truly ugly song, almost no different from the innocent lyrics of the marching music used by the SS and other ‘patriotic’ tunes and anthems used by racial states around the world to impress on the dominated their subject status.
Responding to Black Lives Matter protesters who pulled down a statue of a slave trader – a slave trader for fuck’s sake, the Prime Minister used the term ‘thuggery,’ a term that has been used to describe and dehumanise young black men in the United States; exposing them to the violence of the police officers of a racist state and the reason these protests are taking place in the first place. But we don’t expect any better from Johnson, do we? – the man who thought it just swell to recite the putrid racism of Kipling in a Myanmar temple and denigrate British Muslim women.
We should be interested to note too that the statue of him which was torn down was not erected until 1846 – some 174 years after his death, during the reign of Victoria – ‘the famine queen.’ Statues are rarely set up to celebrate people. Even though it is a person on the pedestal, if it were the case that great people were memorialised in this way simply because of their greatness or their contribution to their community, city, or nation, we would not be able to move for statues. There just is not enough bronze in the world. Such statues are erected to glorify ideas and ideals...
But let us be absolutely clear on one thing, no matter what he has said in his latest panicked announcement, neither Boris Johnson nor the British government have been on this track from the beginning. In fact, they are extremely late to the party. Our hope – and it is a sincere hope – is that these measures will be enough, but the greatest likelihood is that the gate has been closed long after the horse has bolted. People were always going to die of this virus. There is no way to stop a virus. But Boris Johnson has by his wilful inaction and arrogance set Britain up to fail – and fail bad.