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Anglophilic Nostalgia

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

My Dad didn’t think much of the Brits. He was one of the Yanks in England during the run up to D-Day. As you may know, back then, the King had the largest empire in history and his Brits had plenty of ‘tude.

A standard one-liner about Dad and his buddies was: “There are only three things wrong with Americans; they’re over-paid, over-sexed and over here.”

Dad’s corresponding comment many years later was, “I liked the damn Germans better than the Brits, and I killed every German I met.” So, he wasn’t too high on the finer points of British Culture.

On the other hand, I’m an Anglophile—not for today’s self-hating island, but for the lost Empire. Mistakes and all, I agree with Lord Curzon, one of the most effective Viceroys of India (1898-1905), when he said:

There has never been anything so great in the world’s history as the British empire, so great an instrument for the good of humanity.”

The reason I agree is my standard of comparison: practical results. Utopian nonsense seems to be the standard for the anti-British empire crowd. But, we have only to look at the unicorns and rainbows they painted around a supposed ‘Arab Spring’ of democratic enlightenment a few months ago to see how accurate it is to look at the world reflected in a Fun House mirror.

In practical terms though, and without exception, people under British rule had it better than ever before at all levels of society. And, most of them had it better back then, as part of the Empire, than their descendants have had it since—by a long shot.

Recently, I ran across another remark by Curzon from 1908, at the pinnacle of the Empire’s power and prosperity. As part of a longer piece, he tried to lay out what England would be without its empire. Looking at the United Kingdom today, he seems quite prescient:

With a navy reduced and a small arm confined to home service, England, from having been the arbiter, would sink into the inglorious playground of the world. Wondering pilgrims would come to see us just as they climb the Acropolis or inspect the Nile. A congested population would lead a sordid existence with no outlet for its overflow, no markets for its manufactures beyond such as were not wholly or partially barred to it by hostile tariffs; our emigrants would be swallowed up in the whirlpool of American cosmopolitanism; England would become a sort of glorified Belgium.

As for the priceless asset of the national character, without a world to conquer or a duty to perform, it would rot of atrophy and inanition. That is the logical consequence of the policy many preach. Great Empires before now have sunk to small States. It may be in the fullness of time the turn of England, but let it not be done by her own act.”

Ahem… see anything familiar? And, the ‘fullness of time’ was about 40 years. As for national character, far more than Rome, the Brits ended their empire not with a bang but a whimper. Then, they subsided into a norm characterized by obsessive political correctness and incessant whining.

But, their forefathers and mothers did a lot of practical good on the ground for the rest of humanity. To the extent civilized standards exist at all among most countries, it’s the Brits’ fault—whether or not the local culture comes even close to measuring up. Stone Age tribal values do appeal to the beast in all of us after all.

So, I’m an Anglophile for the England that was—the one that civilized the world.

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If you’re interested, there’s a very readable and accurate new book on this subject that shovels away all the propaganda and tells it as it was.

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