After ‘Brexit Betrayal’, some signs of life

Like many others, I’ve been keeping an eye on the developments in the long-drawn-out Brexit saga. It’s dismaying, to say the least, to watch how the people in power, the political classes, have twisted and turned every possible way to prevent the mandate of Brexit being carried out. But now the new Brexit Party is a hopeful sign.  As the linked article tells us, some Welsh assembly members have joined Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

At the Cambrian Dissenters blog, Daniel Thomas gives a summary of the whole situation; you can read his post at the link above.

There is so much criticism of the British people(s) on many American blogs; it seems a lot of Americans have counted Britain out — but I like to think there is still some life left in the people of Britain.

 

 

 

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The older England and the newer

The blog post title doesn’t refer to the current situation in which England (or the UK) is being morphed, unwillingly for the most part, into something else, while we here in the erstwhile U.S.A. are likewise being changed. No, the reference in the title is to a lecture given by English historian Edward A. Freeman, wherein he described his country and ours respectively as the older and newer Englands.

Back in the late 19th century when he was speaking and writing in America, there was a larger percentage of people who acknowledged English blood, or who were in fact mostly or entirely of English descent. He probably reached much wider audiences who identified with his themes than would be the case in 2019. He would have found fewer Anglophobes and more who considered themselves Anglophiles, even those with little or no blood ties to England.

He insisted that English-Americans were not foreigners to him and to the people of England, but kinsmen, and that idea meets with much more skepticism now; our respective countries have, paradoxically become more alike in our language (via transatlantic pop culture) but farther apart, much more so,  in recent decades in political matters, at least, and as England has become more multicultural and polyglot even than the U.S. I think this is by design; the whole Anglosphere is being divided socially and culturally and religiously.

But back in 1882, Edward Freeman wrote some rather inspiring words for Americans of English blood, reminding us of our heritage and our right to consider ourselves part of a great tradition.

“Here on your soil I am not indeed in mine own home but I am none the less among mine own folk. I am among men of my own blood and own tongue, sharers in all that a man of either England deems it his pride and happiness to share in. How can we be strangers and foreigners to one another, how can we be other than kinsfolk and brethren of the same hearth, when we think that your forefathers and mine may have sailed together from the oldest England of all in the keels of Hengest or Cerdic — that they may have lurked together with Aelfred in the marshes of Athelney — that they may have stood side by side in the thick shield-wall on the hill of Senlac — that they may have marched together as brethren to live and die for English freedom alike on the field of overthrow at Evesham and on the field of victory at Naseby?

I surely need not remind you that the whole heritage of the past, the history, the memories, the illustrious names, which belong to the earlier days of the English folk in Britain, are yours as well as ours. They are in the stricter sense your own. The men who piled up the mighty fabric of English law and English freedom were your fathers, your brethren, no less than ours. In the long line of hero-kings who built up the kingdom of England you have as full a share as we have; in building up the kingdom of England they were building up the commonwealth of America. If yours is the king who lurked in Athelney, yours too is the king who won the fight of Brunanburh. Yours are the king who waged the year of battles with the Dane and the king who waged the day of battle with the Norman. And if the kings are yours as well as ours, so are the men who curbed the powers of kings. Yours are the men who wrung the Great Charter from the kingly rebel; yours are the men who dictated the Provisions of Oxford and the men who gathered round the victor of Poitiers on the nobler field of the Good Parliament. Your share is alike with ours in every blow struck on behalf of freedom, from the day of Lewes to the day of Marston. And if we boast that we won to ourselves the men of other lands, if we changed the Dane and the Norman into Englishmen as true as if their forefathers had first seen the shores of Britain from the keels of Hengest, the work was yours as well as ours. The strangers whom we made especially our own, they whose names we read alongside the nobles of our native worthies, the men who came from the beech-clad isles of Denmark, from the deep Alpine valley of Aosta, from the Strong Mount that guarded the land of France against the Norman, to become Englishmen on English soil, Cnut the King, Anselm the Bishop, Simon the Earl — they are yours by the same law of adoption that makes them ours. And when the course of our history parts asunder, when the English people become two nations instead of one, if the history which you have wrought in Britain is no longer yours, in the same sense as is the common history which we wrought together in earlier times, still, we have a common interest, a common fellow-feeling, the feeling which follows the deeds of friends and kinsfolk with a different eye from that which it follows the deeds of strangers, in all that men of English blood have done on American soil since the older and the newer England parted asunder. And you too, I trust, have not ceased to look with the like feeling on all that men of English blood have done on British soil since the day when the newer England bade farewell to its political connexion with the elder, but did not, I trust, bid farewell to the far higher tie of a common blood, a common speech, the long glories of a common history.”

  • Edward Augustus Freeman, Lectures to American Audiences I: The English People in its Three Homes, 1882

Is Brexit effectively dead now?

Bruce Charlton’s take on the latest dismaying Brexit developments is a rather pessimistic one, and yet it’s hard to disagree with what he says. I don’t pretend to be as knowledgeable as he is on this issue; after all, I’m an American, viewing the ongoing story from a vantage point far away, culturally as well as geographically. But it seems he is right in his general assessment of the situation.

He laments the inaction and seeming apathy of the British population, and I think, sad to say, that he’s right in saying that no Western country is in any better shape spiritually, and that the problem is essentially a spiritual one, that must be addressed by spiritual means.

“All of the West are the same godless materialistic hedonists; all ruled by the exact same Global Establishment with the same anti-Christian agenda.

And such spiritless people as mass modern atheistic Leftist Western Men will never (they physically cannot) motivate-themselves to do anything better than consume and be consumed-by the plans of the mass media and state propaganda.

We can only be saved by a Christian awakening – that has not changed.”

Obviously this will not be a popular idea in the secular, materialistic West but as time goes on and the situation in our respective countries deteriorates, a solution by political methods seems less and less possible every day. I would qualify that to say that we can’t look to human means to save the day.

In any case, the piece by Bruce Charlton, and the linked piece by William Wildblood are both worth reading.

Will Theresa May step down?

First, my apologies to anyone who is still checking in on this blog; I had hoped to be posting more regularly by now, but circumstances haven’t allowed it.

It’s been nearly impossible to keep up with the twists and turns in the Brexit saga; according to some sources, Theresa May is being asked to step down. Will this mean that Brexit will finally happen, after all this time? Or will it require the “jaws of life” to extract May from office? Can she just refuse to comply with her cabinet’s requests?

I’ve come to believe that all the Western leaders are answerable to someone else beside their electorate(s) and that they merely do someone else’s bidding; the real power-holders are behind the scenes. Or is that a ”conspiracy theory” and am I guilty of wrongthink?

As the majority of the British electorate chose to vote for Brexit, by rights it should be a ‘done deal’; it should have taken place long ago. If this whole scenario drags on for an indeterminate period of time, it would seem to prove that the will of the people of the UK is being flouted and defied. If there is to be any semblance of honesty or respect for the laws of the land, it would seem that those who have been impeding the process of exiting the EU will reveal themselves for what they are, and I would hope that the majority who voted for Brexit will not be quite so patient with the obstructionists who refuse to accept the results of the Brexit vote.

 

 

“And we then, what are we? What is England?”

Matthew Arnold wrote the above words in his work Celtic Literature. His question was repeated by Leslie Stephen in a lecture given in 1915. Now, more than a century after the questions were posed, they seem very pertinent as now Britain is attempting to exit the European Union, with the country divided over which course to take.

In Leslie Stephen’s lecture, in which he discussed English national character, we see that the traditional English attitude, perhaps more true to the innate character of England, was to remain aloof and independent, not part of the European system.

“The governing characteristics of the Englishman are not greatly in dispute. His sturdy nationalism, for example, has all along and everywhere been acknowledged. The earliest proof of it lies in the ‘withdrawal,’ to use Bishop Creighton’s word, the ‘withdrawal’ of England from that marvellous fraternity of the Middle Ages, feudal and Catholic Europe. By the fourteenth century she had become a separate nation, committed to the voyage of her own destiny. At a price the Englishman purchased his freedom. Deliberately he stood aloof from the centre, from the main stream of ideas, from the light and warmth of European civility. He remained, as it were, the country cousin of the family, preferring, one might say, the rough, free out-of-doors life to the elegance and refinements with the accompanying restraints of the town. “

I’ve often asked, can the national character of a people change, or be changed, completely? We can ask that in the American context: where did the old American character go, the ‘don’t tread on me’ side of America? Are we our father’s children, or does the propaganda and conditioning override or overwrite our innate character? We can ask Arnold’s questions, ‘And we then, what are we? What is England?” or ”what is America?” in 2019?

To return to Stephen’s lecture,

“He declined the advantages of the best Latin society. Unattracted by the mediaeval vision of a united Christendom, of races held together by common acceptance of the same laws, the same religious creeds and observances, the same chivalric ideals, he set over against the abstract perfections of this dazzling scheme his own liberty, his own habits, his own interests. He had no eye for the beauty of a universal, an ideal order. His talent has ever been for life rather than logic. Of general principles because they tend to imprison the individual he is suspicious. “My case is always a special case. Why should I be treated as one of a number, I, who am unlike all the rest? “

He preferred, too, the old “laws of St Edward” to any legislative novelties, his own priests and bishops to foreigners, his own language to Norman French. He knew his mind and achieved his ends, not indeed so much by way of argument as by patient indifference to argument, and the gradual development of national consciousness only stiffened his original prejudices. His country satisfied him as the best, his race as manifestly the bravest and the handsomest in the world. To go his own way, think his own thoughts, conduct his own undertakings is all an Englishman asks, or used to ask, and if he interferes in the affairs of others, it is only that he may not be interfered with. By this early withdrawal from the comity of European nations, England led the van in liberty…”

It is noticeable that many of the tendencies of the English character, as described above, seem familiar to Americans, as being part of what motivated our English forefathers to seek independence: the desire to govern our own affairs locally, and to be ‘left alone’, preferring smaller government. It would seem that is part of our ‘old inheritance’, a legacy of our English forebears.

But can national traits re-appear after seeming dormant for so long? Can England be England again? Or are national traits so easily overridden or overwritten? Judging by the reaction of many of the younger people interviewed after the Brexit vote, many were distraught and tearful about being torn away from what they thought of as their European identity. Obviously there are very different ideas of what it means to be English, or British, or is it European? How this can be reconciled is quite a conundrum.

 

The latest on Brexit

The Washington Post may think it’s a ‘disaster’ for both the UK and the U.S., but it looks like good news to me. Fox News, though hardly on ‘our side’, thinks that

A ‘no deal’ Brexit is best for Britain and the United States

From the Express:

Brexit vote result: Nigel Farage argues Theresa May should RESIGN after crushing defeat

From Kipper Central:

Wasted Years: Batten SLAMS “Engineered Betrayal” of Brexit

“The vote tonight follows “2 and a half wasted years” engaged in a process “based on the false premise that you cant leave the EU without a deal,” Mr Batten continued.He appealed to people to join UKIP to save Brexit and our democracy as Parliament is “now putting itself in opposition to the people.”

A commenter on the above says:

“After this – the Tories and Labour are toast, as we enter the age of the populist parties.”

‘Romantic Christianity” and English folk music

Bruce Charlton, in a recent piece, writes on a topic which is dear to me. In it, he examines modern English folk music and how it deals with Christian themes, specifically the Christian interweaving of Christian themes with the supernatural (“uncanny”) elements based on folk tales.

He specifially references Steeleye Span and related bands, such as the Albion Band, the Watersons, et al. I don’t know how many of today’s music audiences are familar with these artists, but I recommend them to anyone who is a fan of traditional music, or English/British culture generally. When I first heard these artists years ago, I was fascinated by the supernatural themes of many of the songs; some morbid or gruesome but some simply eerie and spellbinding.

Nowadays, Christians tend to disassociate the supernatural from Christianity and Christian sensibilities, having been taught for many decades that the supernatural equates to occultism and the demonic, and that it’s out-of-bounds for Christians. Modern, established ‘Churchianity’ looks askance, at best, at the kinds of supernatural themes running throughout many of the old ballads, which bands like Steeleye Span popularized in the 1970s.

In recent years, a few in the Christian fold have been re-examining this rejection of the supernatural amongst Christians, and those who recognize the obvious fact that the supernatural is, in fact, essential to Biblical Christianity are taking a second look at the historical attitudes towards the subject.

Perhaps, as this piece suggests, the obvious Romantic influence in the old English (and Scottish, in some cases) ballads was somehow not developed to the full, and English music and folklore are the poorer for this. If I am understanding him correctly here, I agree with this idea.

Were the members of these bands consciously shying away from exploring ‘Christian romanticism’ with these themes? Were their own non-Christian proclivities responsible for their reluctance to go further in this direction?

It has seemed odd to me, considering that England was for long a very Christian country, though at times the people were irreligious; still, there were times of a great resurgence of Christian beliefs in England. Yet legend — or is it only legend? — has it that England was Christian since at least the second century A.D., with Glastonbury being the heart of early English Christianity. Of course, now Glastonbury is a counterculture  Mecca, and neo-pagans claim it as their own, denying Christianity’s deep roots in the country. Today Christianity is moribund in the U.K.

It’s natural to speculate about how today’s post-Christian Britain regards the cultural remnants which are reminders of the time when that island was a bastion of the Christian faith, and the culture in which it grew.

Regardless of all this, the music can be enjoyed on its own merits.

Professor Charlton’s musical examples include Steeleye’s renditions of the traditional ballads Demon Lover and Alison Gross. Visit the links to hear and see the videos at his blog.