Please support The British Resistance and help keep this site running.
Use the Donate Button below to send your donation using either Paypal or Cards shown.
Or Subscribe to make regular payments via PayPal ONLY.
This article entitled ‘The Anatomy of Patriotism’ originally appeared in John Tyndall’s magazine, Spearhead around the early to mid 1980’s. Its message is just as relevant today as it was then.
PATRIOTISM has across the ages provided a popular theme for analysis by writers, both major and minor. It has also been the subject of much distortion and caricature. Very much in fashion in Queen Victoria's day, it became a popular feature of the music hall of that time, and as such inevitably was reduced on occasions to the level of the burlesque. At this level, it has been eagerly seized upon by its enemies in modern times, who are many, and reincarnated by means of the TV screen with the deliberate intention of portraying it in the most ludicrous light.
When Dr. Samuel Johnson made his famous assertion that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel, he meant nothing more than that, in an age such as his own when patriotism was almost universally approved, many a rascally act was liable to be defended on the grounds that it was committed from patriotic motives. Predictably, the modern denigrators of patriotism have twisted the Doctor's words so as to equate that sentiment with scoundrelism per se.
When a newspaper such as The Sunday Telegraph announces, as it did recently, that it is going to devote considerable space to a two-part enquiry as to how the British of today view the question of patriotism and how patriotic in fact they are, one needed little powers of prediction to sense that the purpose of the feature would be to portray patriotism in a false perspective, and that among the subjects chosen to be interviewed on the matter none would present a properly articulated explanation of what patriotism was or why one should be patriotic.
So it turned out. The enquiry, conducted by Graham Turner, devoted the first part of its study to the publishing of a series of quotes on patriotism from a selection of well established persons in the worlds of business, journalism, academy, the stage, the military and the church.
Asking the well established in Britain today about patriotism is rather like asking the well established in Soviet Russia what they think of free enterprise or democracy. The answer that you receive will be one either of outright condem*nation or total parody. Parody, whether intentional or not, was the underlying impression given in most of the answers featured in the article. While most of those interviewed conceded some virtue in patriotism, they took care to avoid giving anything but the most fatuous reasons for being a patriot.
One such interviewee was Mr. Tony Quinton, president of Trinity College, Oxford, and 'a philosopher'. One of the things that Mr. Quinton liked about Britain, he said, was "carefully thought out inaction". Explaining what he meant by this, he contrasted it with "over-excited action" which was the product of the excessive optimism of certain foreigners.
Military victories, said Mr. Quinton, were not all that interesting to us; what we rather liked was a thumping defeat from which we retired in reasonably good order, such as Dunkirk. No doubt Mr. Quinton was being deliberately facetious when he said this, but in his words was betrayed the reality that he did not really think patriotism was a thing to be taken seriously.
What did Britain's former Empire mean to Mr. Quinton? Again, more facetiousness. All it had done, he said, was provide jobs in hot climates for a small group of people and a lot of unpleasantly dangerous activities for the general populace, unemployed farm labourers and the like, who had trundled off to Aboukir Bay or wherever.
Those who have bothered to read their history will know that the two battles of Aboukir Bay in which French forces were defeated by Lord Nelson in 1798 and Sir Ralph Aber-crombie in 1801 were crucial in diminishing French military and naval strength which might subsequently have been used in an invasion of Britain, as well as denting the legend of invincibility that had hitherto surrounded Napoleon's campaigns. All Mr. Quinton seems to see in this, however, is that it was "unpleasantly dangerous" for certain British servicemen who might otherwise have been in some country poorhouse.
As for jobs for "a small group of people", surely this is taking the art of understatement a little too far. Imperialism provided the means whereby people of British stock became the dominant race throughout North America, Australasia and Africa, exploiting the immense resources of those continents for the benefit of hundreds of millions. Today about 100 million people of British race live in lands that at one time belonged to the British Empire and almost certainly would never have been developed to the same extent had they not belonged to the British Empire. Rather more jobs here than for "a small group of people".
Next to be invited to comment on Britain and patriotism was a General, Sir John Hackett. Exactly why Sir John Hackett is a matter of speculation. Any one of a dozen or twenty other military, naval or air force figures would have done. Why not Douglas Bader, for instance? Or Generals Kitson or Walker? Hackett happens to be a committed internationalist and liberal, and one therefore whose view of patriotism is likely to be somewhat coloured. But of course that may well have been the purpose of his selection for comment.
Sir John liked Britain because — well, um, er — because it was "far more compassionate than it had ever been" and because people were "still eccentric and lively". Patriotism wasn't a word he'd use, the article went on, but the General was devoted to certain views: fairness, good humour, a degree of idleness, respect for privacy — these were more exemplified in Britain than any country he knew. Expanding on the privacy theme, he went on to contrast the American tendency for sharing and mowing common lawns to the British one of "not giving a damn" for one's neighbours.
Now obviously, like the college president, in the realm of the totally facetious, he continued: "Our eccentricity, idleness and refusal to be dominated by the work ethic will, I think, see us through." In what way see us through was not specified, but presumably the General was thinking - if he was serious at all - that such idleness would leave us more time to cultivate the arts of civilisation.
It seems not to have occurred to him that wherever and whenever in the past the civilised arts were maintained by a leisured class it was only - and could only have been - on the basis of other classes in society maintaining a high level of industry and producing great national wealth.
Of course philosophers over the centuries have argued at what point 'civilisation' becomes decadence. Perhaps it is the point at which what we normally understand as 'civilisation' becomes an end in itself, instead of merely an agreeable backcloth to man's quest for expansion and achievement. In that case, what Sir John might more truthfully have said was that eccentricity and idleness would "see us through" the difficult phase of adjustment to a state of permanent national decadence.
However, it is time to leave this superannuated brass hat blabbering his inanities, for quite clearly he has nothing sensible to contribute on the subject of patriotism.
Actress Joanna Lumley was the next to contribute to the debate. Sometimes, she said, she did not like being British but most of the time she did. The first case of the latter that occurred to her was when she had been a judge at an inter*national film festival and found nearly all her fellow judges to be over-partial in favour of their own nations' films, whereas she felt herself to be completely dispassionate.
Well, perhaps that's a good mark for Britain if you think that unbiased judgement at international film festivals is the most important thing in the world. Nationalist bias, on the other hand, while it might be something of an irritant on such occasions, can have many advantages in other areas of life which some may deem more important, such as trade, international politics and survival in wartime. Perhaps the lady had not thought of these, or perhaps like the other two 'experts' she was just being facetious.
CONGENIAL TO LEFTISTS
The Sunday Telegraph's next subject was a committed leftist, a Cambridge history professor by name Stedman Jones. After going through the familiar tirade of condemnation of just about all the institutions and concepts identified with patriotism by the British people, he ended up saying that he wouldn't have wanted to have been born, or to live, anywhere else than in this country. Probably the Telegraph's Mr. Turner thought that a profound point had been made here, but of course the only fact that had been established was the not altogether remarkable one that contemporary Britain provided a most congenial environment for someone with a left-wing picture of the world. Should that be a cause for us to hang the flags out with pride? I would think probably not.
Mr. Stedman Jones said that he had spent a year in Germany and found that, despite their economic efficiency, the West Germans seemed both unhappy and unsure of their identity, whereas we in Britain had "a very secure sense of our identity". Mr. Stedman Jones was in no doubt about what was the cause of the Germans' problem. They had to live with the fact that their parents had accepted Hitler and been happy with him. That made them - the contemporary Germans, that is — profoundly unhappy.
Just think - Herr and Frau Schumacher, just as they are about to celebrate Herr Schumacher's productivity bonus, suddenly remember the concentration camps of the Third Reich and lapse into gloom! But perhaps Mr. Stedman Jones is wrong. Perhaps the precise reason why the Germans today are so unhappy is that they do not now have a Hitler leading them and giving them a sense of their identity, as undoubtedly Der Fuhrer did.
And supposing that Mr. Stedman Jones' picture of the unhappiness of the Germans and the relative happiness of the British is a true one, does that necessarily reflect credit upon the latter? It may simply mean that the Germans are more seriously preoccupied by the fortunes of their country than we are and therefore by that definition more patriotic. It may be that, while we distract ourselves from the loss of our national greatness by a lot of silliness, frivolity and self-deception, they are profoundly concerned at the fact that their country is cut into two, with half of it occupied by the Soviets, and that while quite pros*perous economically they are neither the great world power that they were prior to 1945 nor the world's cultural leader, as they were in so many fields in former times.
Perhaps the trashiness of modern Western Civilisation that is one of the products of the almost universal onmarch of' liberalism' much more deeply upsets the Germans than it does ourselves. And perhaps while the British and the Germans are today equally lacking in a true national identity, the latter realise it and care about it while the former do not.
It is perhaps not too much to be wondered at, given the climate of the times, that the most idiotic testimony in the whole survey came from a representative of the cloth. The Bishop of Lewes was selected for this role and he performed well up to expectations. He was, so The Sunday Telegraph said, "thrilled to be British" because it was the meeting place of every heritage and culture, thrilled to know that, being so, God had given us the enormous privilege of doing things for the underdeveloped world. Keeping up the same standard, the Bishop said that among our most precious gifts was "a marvellous sense of the ridiculous" and our ability to say: "All will be well, even when we are making fools of ourselves."
The Bishop confessed to being worried about the triumphal moments in British history, such as the deeds of Drake and the victories of Marlborough and Wellington, for the pride that came of such exploits might go the wrong way. Yes, reader, you've guessed what's coming next - It might. His Grace said, turn into racialism! If, on the other hand, the confidence born of this pride could make us open up to the new people in our country and give them hospitality and a welcome, then it would be wonderful!
Now in full flow, the Bishop concluded that in Britain's powerless position in the world there is "the whole aspect of the gospel"; our strength is going to be made perfect in weak*ness. Because of the gifts God has given us, we're no longer going to be distributors of these things "because of our power but because of our integrity, because of our vision, because of our compassion and because of our laughter."
This was just too much even for interviewer Turner, who concluded his report of the sermon with the words "Amen, Bishop, amen."
A good deal nearer the heart of the matter was an 86-year-old widow, Mrs. Freda Holroyd. Mrs. Holroyd became proud to be British when nursing wounded servicemen in 1914-18 and observing their magnificent stoicism and cheer*fulness, sometimes in dreadful adversity. Then, pointing across to the Wantage Downs, she said: "Look at that! That's what I fought my wars for."
After the claptrap that had gone before, this was refreshing to read. Not for this old lady the ideological abstractions of marxist dons or dotty clerics, or the gibberings of philosophers and retired generals trying to be poor man's comedians, just a simple affirmation of love for land and people. What a merciful release that Mrs. Holroyd did not claim that the wars were fought for "freedom", "democracy", "humanity", "the rights of man", but stated that, so far as she was concerned, they were fought for the soil on which she stood, the territory of her race. Well said, Mrs. Holroyd! You put these self-styled sophisticates to shame.
Quoting the war wounded of 1914-18, Mrs. Holroyd said: "We British will come through in the end." Yes, we must of course believe that we will, otherwise all is lost. But perhaps here the dear lady might have added just a little more. She might have said that we will come through in the end — if we have the courage to change certain of our ways and to fight the forces within us which contrive to prevent us "coming through".
This faith that fortune will smile upon the British at the eleventh hour and deliver our nation from extinction just in answer to our prayers and in reward for our righteousness — which seems to be what is implied in the beliefs of Mrs. Holroyd - is characteristic of very nice and decent Britons of the type to which she obviously belongs. One fears that these nice and decent people will still be there with their faith and their prayers when Britain has been totally obliterated, still trusting that we will "come through" but of course still desisting from any type of action which might have averted catastrophe.
Doubtless a lady of 86 who has served her country well has "done her bit" and cannot be expected to do more. The trouble is that the "We'll come through" philosophy is infectious and can spread to others still young enough and active enough to do something if they could be imbued with the necessary sense of urgency.
Could it be the case that the cause of patriotism could suffer by some people being too patriotic - by which I mean inclined to view their country through such rose tinted spectacles that they fail to see what is wrong with it and when it is in drastic need of reform? Perhaps along with patriotism we need a little national cynicism, that is to say a refusal to be lulled into comfortable sleep by some of the more outdated patriotic myths.
There are two particularly dangerous myths of this kind. One is that Britain's past success and greatness were due in some way to the imagined superiority of her national institutions and political ethics, and that she will survive all her tribulations as long as these institutions and ethics remain intact. The true fact is that Britain prospered because, up till comparatively recently in history, she was favoured with an exceptionally good racial inheritance, and that, allied to this inheritance, she was fortunate in her possession of certain geo*political advantages which gave her a head start in industrialis*ation and colonisation of the New World.
For centuries Britain enriched her genetic pool by absorbing the best racial stocks from North Western Europe, be these Teutonic, Scandinavian or Celt, and achieving through them a blend of intelligence, physique, ingenuity, energy and venturesomeness the equal of any nation in the world. Then, by access to empire, these stocks were able to spread and to multiply in a way that would have been impossible in the confined spaces of the British Isles, also to control immense natural resources that were able to compliment the manufac*turing capacity of the United Kingdom in providing further nourishment for the expansion of the British race.
As long as such favoured conditions existed, the British were for a long time able to thrive despite having political institutions that at best were inefficient and at worst thoroughly corrupt. In time, however, the worthlessness of these institutions and the muddle-headedness of our political ethics caught up on us and led to the disastrous atrophy of empire and race that we have seen in the last three or four decades of the present century.
This is where we come to the other dangerous patriotic myth: the myth that the British people today are universally of the same high calibre in character, intelligence and spirit that they were at around the time of World War I, and that, by virtue of these inbred national qualities - the qualities that so struck Mrs. Holroyd when she observed the wounded British servicemen of that time - we shall always pull through in the end.
LOWERING OF POPULATION QUALITY
Any realistic appraisal of the position of Britain today, and of what is necessary to bring about Britain's national recovery, must proceed from the recognition, first that our population quality is not what it was at the turn of the century - having been considerably lowered by large-scale immigration of alien stocks and by the prolific breeding of the least fit amongst us, and having furthermore been morally poisoned over a long period by the corruptive influences of modern media and 'education': second, that there can be no possibility of any reversal of this population decline except by political methods of a revolutionary nature which would be in jarring conflict with much of the popular mythology which helps to form the basis of traditional 'patriotism' in this country.
Perhaps one of the most interesting, though not necessarily most admirable, replies given in The Sunday Telegraph survey came from a businessman, Chris Hogg, the chairman of Courtaulds. To the question: did he feel particularly patriotic? the answer was: No. "I am not," he said, "strongly pro-monarchy, pro-public school, pro- the way England does things at all ... In fact I don't go for anything distinctively English except the countryside. That's where I feel patriotic, but it's a solitary feeling of patriotism."
What Mr. Hogg liked, he made clear, was being part of a winning team, and to underline his point he recalled his differing emotions when he had played in successful and un*successful rugby XVs at school. He might be able to be patriotic today, he indicated, if he were Japanese. He couldonly be a British patriot, on the other hand, if he were able to see that there were a sufficient number of people in this country "hell bent on changing things."
One can understand Mr. Hogg's feelings but one cannot admire them, for they are essentially those of the fair-weather patriot. Don't we all like to be on the winning side — at least those of us who do not suffer from the kind of national masochism of the kinky Bishop of Lewes? Would we all not find it so much easier to be patriotic in an age when the star of our nation was on the ascendant? What Mr. Hogg is in effect saying is: "Let other people provide me with a flag worth waving and then I will wave it. Let there be, through the efforts of folk from among which for the moment 1 wish to be excluded, a national renaissance that brings prosperity, prestige and success to Britain, and 1 will then be only too happy to rejoice in it."
For this attitude I can only have a contempt that is little less than I have for those who declare themselves the avowed enemies of patriotism - a contempt heightened by the fact that the holder of such an attitude belongs to a favoured and influential section of society, to which the nation is entitled to look for leadership in troubled times. But Mr. Hogg and those like him are just not prepared to lead. That vocation they prefer to leave to others, with the hint that if those others get rolling a bandwaggon that looks as if it is going somewhere Mr. Hogg and his friends might condescend to jump on it.
So where does Mr. Turner leave us in his survey of patriotism in Britain in the 1980s? He leaves us in a position that 1 might best liken to the middle of Hampton Court Maze in a dense fog. In only one of the people he has interviewed is there the glimmer of an understanding as to what patriotism is really about. From the rest there comes a variety of opinions which would be truly depressing if one believed that they were representative of the country. But how representative are they? They are simply the choice subjects of a newspaper that is thoroughly committed to the internationalist cause and therefore hardly to be expected to portray patriotism in an accurate or attractive light.
The survey is glaringly incomplete in the fact that it omits to include the views of one single articulate champion of the patriotic viewpoint in journalism or politics. Let me therefore, in concluding this article, correct that omission by offering my own contribution to the subject by explaining what patriotism means to me and, 1 think, to those many who fight for that ideal within the ranks of Britain's various patriotic political groups.
In view of what has gone before, I ought to begin by stating what patriotism is not. It is not to be equated with a love of one's own countryside, whatever may be the view of Mr. Hogg. Britain has some magnificent scenery in certain areas, and no-one is more fond of that scenery that I. But I am equally fond of the scenery in certain parts of Italy, Germany and Switzerland. That does not make me an Italian, German or Swiss patriot. Nor do I feel any the less a British patriot when I am in parts of Britain where the scenery is less than loveable.
Love and admiration for certain institutions or ideas traditionally associated with one's country is not patriotism, whatever other sentiment it may be. One can hate one's country's political and social system and a great many its other institutions and still be a patriot. One can be thoroughly attached to such a system and institutions and be no patriot.
National pride is a vital ingredient of patriotism - in my mind the most vital ingredient. But that does not mean that one ceases to be a patriot when currently there is little in one's country to be proud of — anymore than one loses one's personal pride when personally one falls on hard times. Pride is an attitude of mind, and is not dependent on the clothes one wears, the house one lives in, the car one drives (if any) or one's current occupational status. It is rooted first and foremost in one's determination to make the best of oneself in the world and to aim at all times for the highest standards of which one is capable. So it is with nations.
Patriotism involves above all a sense of total identification with one's native land and, even more so, with one's race. It involves an acceptance that one's personal fate is inseparably bound up with the fate of one's race and that one's personal good is synonymous with the good of one's race.
Love of the land on which one stands is a part of the patriot's sentiment but a secondary part. It has nothing to do with pretty gardens or green meadows; it is a mystical com*munion with the soil which one's ancestors have occupied, for which they have fought and on which they have built the works that are part of one's heritage. For this reason, territorial patriotism divorced from the link of race is meaningless. Every piece of land throughout this vast planet is only what the occupying race has made it, and many lands have changed hands between races over the centuries.
Pride in the great achievements of one's nation's past is very much an element in patriotism, but he who would rest on the laurels of the past, living in a museum of great deeds of bygone ancestors, is no patriot. Patriotism requires that what is best in the past should serve as a spur to work for the achievement of equal deeds in the future.
The phoniest of patriots is the one who makes the most ostentatious display of his patriotism, surrounding himself with national flags and royal portraits and constantly talking about how wonderful his country is, but who refuses to lift a finger to right the manifest wrongs existing in his country or to fight those forces which threaten to destroy his country, whether they be external or internal.
Finally, let me state my belief that one cannot be a patriot without being a nationalist. The one makes absolutely no sense without the other. Attachment to one's own native land and people of a kind which qualifies one to be described as , 'patriotic' must necessitate that one views that land and people first in the order of priorities, and that one would do for them what one would not do for other lands or peoples.
To take this view is to take the view of nationalism. That certain people today will confess to being 'patriots' but will not own up to being nationalists indicates, not any logical system of thinking, but only the fact that the former term is still just about 'respectable' while the latter is not.
But in fact any 'patriotism' that is not synonymous with nationalism is a bogus patriotism.
One last thing. To be a true patriot does not require that one's country and nation are the country and nation that one would have wished to be born into if one had been offered any choice in the matter. It does not require that one sees in one's country and nation the highest virtue among all the countries and nations.
It involves simply the acceptance of one's destiny, of the unalterable decision of fate that has bound one to the people amongst which one was born and which requires one to work for the greatest possible advancement of that people, irrespective of whether one believes they merit it or not, irrespective of whether they are one's favourite people or not.
To be able to despise all that is rotten, decayed and putrid in one's country and to work to destroy it, irrespective of any personal loss or gain in so doing, is more the hallmark of the true patriot than empty slobbering over national symbols which represent only the relics of a former greatness.