‘The past is always easier to give meaning too than the present. The past has community, has unity, has purity. The presence is always a myth. ‘Where is Britain?’ you ask. ‘Where is The Nation that was once one?’. My friend, it never was. Simply put, it never was.’
Extract from the letters of an anonymous conscientious objector in exile
We in Britain like to think in terms of what has been lost. We have lost out past, that is the essential truth of all presents, but we like to think that this loss of our past is in fact a reduction in the existence of the nation. In our obsessive historicism we create a past Britain that exists on a level that any present Britain cannot. We create a Britain of consistency and purity that exists holistically. Not happily, but honourably singular. We rub out all the little imperfections on the side of every point in our societies history, and this only makes it easier to suppress and exclude the parts of our present which sit outside the perceived norm. ‘British Values’ are trumpeted. ‘British Society’ is elevated. Something which is under threat now but once was safe. Something is splitting now but once was whole. So the battle goes on, a battle against difference and any minority interest, thought or culture. So we can see threats to ‘the public’ rather than issues within the public. Threats to the nation. And we have the audacity to condemn others as demagogues and oligarchy.
Our country side plays a big role in this, especially in the imagination of the upper classes. The past was out there in the rolling hills, in the green grass of home. The lies we used to send people to their deaths. The encroachment of the city, of the great urban sprawl, the rotting carcass that attracts maggots and flies. This idealised rural past. And then there’s Real Ale. It has a horrible place sometimes, as something Nigel Farage swigs in his tweed jacket to look like a nice little harmless rural landed gentry mega prick. It’s just a drink. A drink that’s enjoyed by all.