Welcome to Absurdistan!

“The Times” said:
June 22, 2007
Alas, poor Britain. The best name for it is Absurdistan
Gerard Baker

Back in Britain for the past week I have had a welcome chance to take in once again the simple defining pleasures of this great country. The sun dappling Oxford’s mellow stones on an early summer evening. A drenching downpour on the lumpy hills of Middle England. The sheer, consuming energy of modern London. And, of course, the wisdom of Andrew Marr.

Like millions of my fellow countrymen I found myself watching the final instalment this week on the BBC of A History of Andrew Marr by Modern Britain. I think I got that the right way around but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the script said because the pictures were all about him.

There he was, in almost every frame, like some Zelig figure, replaying a crucial moment from our country’s past. Up there, admiring the soaring architecture of the Scottish parliament; over yonder, traipsing through the fields near where the government scientist David Kelly took his own life; long shots of him poised, Winston Churchill-like, pondering the origins of his people’s genius.

More striking for me, even than the immanent narcissism of the whole thing, was Marr’s final, dewy-eyed observation to end the series. As I said, I can’t now remember the actual words, but I think it was something to the effect that, for all our tribulations, it was still the greatest of privileges to be able to say you were born in Britain.

Well I don’t disagree with that, but of course Marr’s conclusion was a classic BBC man’s paean to his country. It capped a lengthy peroration on the great success of multiculturalism. How we could still be proud of ourselves not because of some fuddy-duddy ideas about tradition or individual freedom, but because we’re now a lovely big melting pot of a country.
I defer to the greater knowledge of modern Britain evidently garnered by standing in empty fields with camera crews, but I wonder if this is really the right conclusion. I love Britain as much as anyone, and I certainly believe it is our openness that makes it such an attractive place. But I can’t share the optimism about our multiculture, and much more importantly, my own impression is not of the triumph of the British spirit but of its steady subversion by an ever-growing dependency culture.

In its funny little way the news this week that the Advertising Standards Authority had banned reruns of the 1950s egg advertisements that featured Tony Hancock was more compelling evidence on the state of modern Britain than even Marr’s obiter dicta.

“Go to Work on an Egg” was unacceptable, we were told, because it encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle. I had no idea that we had a government body that still operated on Stalinist principles but there it is. How long will it be before it is not just the free speech of advertising that is curtailed but the evil practice it promotes, and we ban egg consumption along with smoking? Goodbye England. Welcome to Absurdistan.

At root of this nonsense is, of course, the sheer scale of government. The reason you can’t be allowed to eat an egg is that, because of the lack of real choice in healthcare provision, you’re no longer responsible for the financial consequences of your own actions. If you get heart disease from too much cholesterol, the State, collectively known as the NHS, will have to treat you; and that costs the State more and more money so the State will have to stop you from doing it in the first place.

This is the self-perpetuating logic behind the unstoppable momentum of the expanding State. The bigger it grows, the more it intrudes into our lives, and the more it intrudes into our lives, the more dependent we become on it. Education is the same. Our great universities are struggling to compete in a global market because they are hamstrung by the State. They are dependent on central government for their funding; but that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of global competition. But because they need government money for what they do, they cannot break free.

Leviathan is now so large that, outside London, half the population is dependent – either through public sector jobs or benefits – on taxes. Its power is so large that it has bent us all into submission. It has produced a culture in which no one needs to take responsibility for anything because someone else is always there to back us up.

That in the end, was what was behind another sorry spectacle of Britain’s decline this week – the Fulton inquiry into the capture of the Royal Marines and sailors in March by Iranians. It was of course, to outward appearances, magnificently Gilbertian – the first Sea Lord doing the honorable thing and shuffling off the blame on to anyone but himself. But its message was very modern.
Mistakes were made but no one made them.
It’s also this loss of any sense of personal responsibility and accountability that has created the conditions that have allowed Britain steadily to surrender meekly to the encroaching ambitions of European elites for the past 30 years.

This weekend, at the EU meeting, we will be treated to yet another of those fantastic pieces of kabuki in which we fulminate loudly about preserving our independence even as we humbly accept the loss of another chunk of our sovereignty. It’s always the same: the rest of Europe comes up with some great new plan to give itself bold new power; the British government says it will never allow it to happen, girding itself with all the paraphernalia of red lines and threatened vetoes. Then, every time, clutching some fig leaf “concession”, our prime minister comes back claiming a victory for British self-rule, while in Brussels they celebrate another step towards their rule.

The worst thing is, nobody in Britain really seems to care. We’ll demand a referendum, of course, but will be rudely told it’s none of our business; how dare we seek to shape the decisions of our rulers? And as the dutiful serfs we are, we will, in the end, simply apologise and humbly submit.
I found myself agreeing with the first half until he went on about those dastardly Europeans again. What's with this inability to distinguish between other European nations and the EU? It's not as if they havent't all had dust-ups over sovereignty and limits on its supra-national aspects.

(Stands to aside to avoid being trampled by hordes of throbbing-veined Europhobes as they rush to the thread.)
With reference to Alan Clark and European summits, I recall him musing on the German contingent looking around the table at Europe, thinking, "We used to own all of this once. What the sh1t went wrong!?"

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