Monday, January 24, 2011

Dependence Day: Mark Steyn Proposes a National Holiday for Broken Britain

Mark Steyn is one of the most talented writers living today. His essays are witty, articulate and interesting enough to read for the pure entertainment value whether you agree with him or not. His recent essay, "Dependence Day," in The New Criterion, is hilarious, sad, informative, and thought-provoking all at the same time. Here is his theme:
If I am pessimistic about the future of liberty, it is because I am pessimistic about the strength of the English-speaking nations, which have, in profound ways, surrendered to forces at odds with their inheritance. “Declinism” is in the air, but some of us apocalyptic types are way beyond that. The United States is facing nothing so amiable and genteel as Continental-style “decline,” but something more like sliding off a cliff.
His concern is to warn Americans of the consequences of pursuing the Obama-led agenda of turning the US into a European-style social democracy. The fact that the US is facing a temptation to turn the welfare state model that FDR started and LBJ expanded into a full-fledged European-style social democracy is indicative of the cultural decline of the Angl0-Saxon people and the resulting decline of Anglo-Saxon influence in the world. This influence is vast and hugely positive on balance.
Insofar as the world functions at all, it’s due to the Britannic inheritance. Three-sevenths of the G7 economies are nations of British descent. Two-fifths of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are—and, by the way, it should be three-fifths: The rap against the Security Council is that it’s the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, but, if it were, Canada would have a greater claim to be there than either France or China. The reason Canada isn’t is because a third Anglosphere nation and a second realm of King George VI would have made too obvious a truth usually left unstated—that the Anglosphere was the all but lone defender of civilization and of liberty. In broader geopolitical terms, the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?

And of course the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from eighteenth-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go. In his sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Andrew Roberts writes:

Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.

If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the “English-speaking peoples” and the rest of “the West,” and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.

The British Empire was, of course, conservative. It stood for old-fashioned virtues and for tradition. It also stood for the rule of law and objective morality. So, naturally, it is attacked by today's Left with the old, tired, worn-out accusation of "fascism." Steyn isn't buying that for a moment.
It’s interesting to learn that “anti-fascism” now means attacking the British Empire, which stood alone against fascism in that critical year between the fall of France and Germany’s invasion of Russia. And it’s even sadder to have to point out the most obvious fatuity in those “anti-fascist groups” litany of evil—“the British Empire’s association with slavery.” The British Empire’s principal association with slavery is that it abolished it. Before William Wilberforce, the British Parliament, and the brave men of the Royal Navy took up the issue, slavery was an institution regarded by all cultures around the planet as as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky. Britain expunged it from most of the globe.
Ever since the early 20th century socialists and communists have been calling the conservatives, the Right and actual liberals "fascists." The association of "right-wing" and "fascist" in the public mind is a masterpiece of propaganda with absolutely no basis in history whatsoever.

Fascism is a form of Statism, as is Communism. To accuse those on the Right of "Fascism" while building a statist society is the tactic of today's Left. And the statist society under construction is destructive of human dignity:
What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.
This kind of Statism is deadly to human dignity, individual liberty and a vital civil society. And like Fascism, it is a kind of political religion:
For its worshippers, Big Government becomes a kind of religion: the state as church. After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.
I laughed so hard when I read this that I thought I was going to cry. In this case it is not laugh or cry; both are in order.

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