|On the Meaning of Britishness||It is time, says John Tyndall, that we knew precisely who we are|
Many readers will have seen the three-part series The White Tribe, shown on Channel Four in January, which was the subject of comment in these pages last month. One of the noticeable features of this programme, narrated by West Indian immigrant Darcus Howe, was the focus on native Britons who did not seem to be certain about their own identity. "Define what being British (or English) means to you," said Howe in so many words on more than one occasion. Not unpredictably, those questioned were stumped for a clear and concise answer.
This, of course, was one of the main objects of the programme. Howe and his TV paymasters know full well that a very large number of British people - probably the majority - are unhappy about the vast ethnic and cultural changes befalling their country over the past half-century. But they know equally well that most of those same British people would be reluctant to give full vent to these feelings on television before an audience of millions. Quite apart from giving a thought to what some of the neighbours might think (that nice Pakistani gentleman, for instance, who runs the convenience store on the corner and whom one would hate to offend), these people are basically polite. When a guest is in your house, you don't want to be rude to him and hurt his feelings. You try and think of the most charitable things to say about him and dismiss from your mind the least charitable. That is very British; in normal times it is a national virtue, but it can in certain abnormal times put us at an acute disadvantage. No-one, it seemed, wanted to define their nationality and its concomitant customs and traditions in such language as might seem arrogant, patronising or overbearing towards Mr. Howe. So there was a certain groping for words by those to whom the question was put, and no very convincing explanation was forthcoming.
But there was another factor at work here beside politeness and the desire not to offend. These British natives probably could not answer convincingly the question of what being British meant to them because the reign of political correctness across our land has so stifled discussion of the subject that the only answers to hand would most probably be silly ones, replete with inhibitions and blighted by ignorance.
Yet this is a subject very simple in its parameters and capable of perfectly clear exposition. There is no reason whatever why we should be tongue-tied when it is raised. It occurred to me while I was watching this programme that the time is long overdue for a bit of simplicity in definition which would spare British people - and particularly spokesmen and women for the nationalist viewpoint - the embarrassment they frequently suffer when put on the spot over the matter and are unable to translate basic feelings into articulate speech.
Our IdentitySo for a moment I will put myself in the position of an interviewee on a TV programme asked to define what being British was - something I might indeed have been on the White Tribe programme had an original request to me to appear on it not subsequently been cancelled. This is something like what I would have said:-
Such words, of course, would not suffice to give anything like a full explanation of 'Britishness', as it is sometimes called. They would merely serve as an introduction. From that point on, definitions of how we see ourselves, and of why we believe in the importance of our self-preservation as a group, would proceed in the course of dialogue - in other words as answers to questions which would challenge our perception of ourselves in many details.
The sea, and of course the development of our unique English language, combined with hundreds of years of national tradition and distinct cultural evolution, have forged us British as a people separate and apart even from the other Northern Europeans from which most of us spring, so that we can today say also that we are not Germans, Danes, Norwegians or Flemings. However, the ethnic and cultural closeness to us of these peoples means that their settlement in this country would pose no great problems to us in the way of integration and assimilation. Within a generation, no trace of difference would exist except for family surnames. On the other hand, Afro-Caribbeans bearing such names as 'Smith', 'Jones', 'Brown' or 'Robinson' would forever constitute factors of differentiation through the survival of their wholly foreign and unassailable genes.
This is said entirely without 'hate'. There can be quite amicable relations between us native British and the other races of the world - providing that the latter do not occupy our living space and come to form part of our population by intermarriage and ethnic mixing. We want, in other words, to remain the people we are - the people we have been for countless centuries. Is that a crime? Everywhere in the world, environmentalists and conservationists are calling on us to ensure that we preserve elephants, tigers, rhinos, red squirrels, white whales and eagles as distinct species. If it is right that we should do this - and I, for one, believe that it is - what on earth can be wrong with us, the indigenous peoples of the British Isles, wishing also to be preserved?
Yet this very basic instinct of self-preservation - the right of every people, nation, tribe, beast, fish and bird to survive with its unique identity maintained intact - has today been branded with a word able to strike fear and horror into its targeted audience: the word 'racism'. "Oh no, I'm not a racist..." protests the nervous little housewife who has witnessed with alarm the alien takeover of her neighbourhood, and even spoken apprehensively about it to her (white) neighbour, but now finds the TV interviewer's mike thrust aggressively into her face while cameras point like lethal weapons in her direction, "but..." and so the takeover goes on. The lady is of course a racist - like the vast majority of Whites, Blacks and Asians in this country - but she is both frightened to say so and confused as to what the word means anyway.
Let us take a little further the question of what it means to be British. We have defined who we are and where we are coming from - what gives us our identity. Is it then a matter of supreme importance whether this identity should be changed - not just changed marginally by the infusion of a bit of fresh North European blood, as has happened in the past, but changed absolutely fundamentally by the settlement here, and the eventual integration into our society by inter-marriage, of large numbers of people of wholly different cultures and - let us not mince words - racial genes? Is it a question of importance that many among future generations of British citizens will not only look vastly different from us but also have fundamentally different thought processes, emotions, characters and mores - that they will, if the process of integration proceeds as intended by our governing classes, turn us into a nation not recognisable as that which our ancestors knew and were loyal to? In short, does it matter?
Well, yes it does actually. And if to state this is 'racist', so be it. We should not duck hither and thither in order to escape the label. This is not to say that we should go out of our way to use it ourselves; it is never sound politics to define what you are in terms of your enemy's language. But neither should we be so frightened of the word 'racist' that we suffer paralysis when it comes to stating why we want to preserve ourselves according to the model of the ancestral type.
Just as belittling others is bad manners, particularly in their presence, so also is boasting. We British pride ourselves on not being a boastful people. But it is one thing not constantly to proclaim our virtues and achievements to the world; it is another thing entirely not to believe in them. And if really pushed on the matter - if forced into a corner where our existence is threatened and we must explain, not just to outsiders but even to our own folk, why we must defend it - we should not be afraid to state frankly and clearly that we British are a race of truly remarkable accomplishments, accomplishments equal to any others and immeasurably greater than most.
From a group of islands off the North West coast of Europe comprising quite a tiny part of the earth's surface, we expanded and spread over five continents eventually to control something like a quarter of that same surface - quite aside from the United States of America, which was founded essentially by our own forefathers, whatever separate path it subsequently took.
It is not the place here to argue whether this control, this domination, was right or wrong, good or bad, mostly beneficent or mostly maleficent - though a strong case could be made for the former. We should simply concern ourselves with the achievement itself. It was possibly the most stupendous achievement in the history of mankind.
No less stupendous were the constructive works carried out over these vast areas once the initial control had been acquired: the founding of great states, the establishment of advanced civilisations, the taming of wildernesses, the prudent administration of regions larger than Europe itself, the building of railways, bridges, dams, cities and a host of other amenities which enormously enhanced the lives of those living in or by them.
And we should not forget the military and naval actions fought, where necessary, to acquire and later defend this enormous estate. Again, we are not here in the realm of ethics, of justice or injustice; it is not our remit in this study to debate the morality of this process. We are simply looking at it as a token of achievement - the achievement, for instance, of barely more than a hundred British troops in seeing off an attack by thousands of Zulus at Rorke's Drift, of just a few regiments in sustaining British rule over hundreds of millions in former India.
Is it unreasonable to believe that these achievements establish our claim to be a people endowed with special qualities - qualities which we may not choose to shout about but over which we quietly allow our deeds to speak for us, while ensuring that the blood lines that made for them in the past are conserved for the future?
And mention of these things covers only a fraction of the impact made by Britons on this planet. We might add to them the unsurpassed contributions to technology and science, to medicine, to human inventiveness, to the development of modern industry, to culture and the arts - with literature and the theatre in the forefront. There is not the space here to reel off the lists of the legions of our people - together with those overseas of British stock - who have led the world in these endeavours. They are there on record, however, and readers will be able to find them. Here we are in an area of knowledge which not even liberals and multi-racialists try to dispute. The sum total of the contributions to human progress of the folk indigenous to these islands, and of their descendants in the new lands they have created, is so immense as to be beyond serious challenge. It is equalled possibly by the Germans but by no others, and is certainly excelled by no-one. To the extent that Americans - white Americans, that is - have shared in this vast achievement over the short span of their history, that is something which we may quite truthfully attribute to the British and German genes which mainly prevail among them.
Yet the whole case against 'racism' - which case dominates all permitted debate in present national and world councils and shelters behind a virtual closed shop in the press and other media - rests on a repudiation of these basic facts concerning human accomplishment. It rests, in other words, on the supposition that Hottentots, Papuans or Cherokee Indians might just as easily have placed themselves in the forefront of all this creativity and progress but for some mere accident - or perhaps the brutal oppression of their white masters, which prevented them from realising their full potential - an explanation which conveniently ignores the question of how the latter came to be masters in the first place, instead of subjects.
So we come back to the theme of 'Britishness', of what it means to be British. Do not our island story, and our accompanying imperial story, provide ample explanation when such matters are raised? Are we not justified in regarding ourselves as a special people? This, incidentally, is precisely how the Jews and Japanese regard themselves, and it is no purpose of mine here to blame them for that; a sense of 'specialness' is part of the essential survival mechanism of races and nationalities, particularly those perceiving themselves to be under threat. It is valuable even when it is not justified by history; it is all the more so when it is, because being vested with credibility. My only quarrel is with those Jews who insist on their own 'special' status while denying such a thing to others - as is habitual today.
I have excluded from this study any reference to the particular moral virtues on which many Britons pride themselves, and especially I have excluded reference to the British political culture which is so often cited as an example of what our people have given to the world. I exclude such abstractions as 'tolerance', 'fair play', and the like. This is not because these things do not count in an assessment of a people's qualities, but only because what constitutes them is highly debatable and rather depends on the way one looks at history. They also appear different to people with different ethnic perspectives. Today's Iraqis or Serbs, for instance, might challenge the theory of moral virtue, of a sense of 'fair play', invested in the British who have sanctioned the bombing of their towns and the killing of their civilians in defence of no discernible British interest; they would not, on the other hand, question that the British, over history, have made an almost matchless impact upon the world. One is a question of opinion, the other of fact. And in this analysis it is always better to stick to fact.
It is not surprising, then, that New Labour and its battalions of political correctness are determined that Britain's past will be an area virtually out of bounds to young people in schools. If our young really learn about the past, they will realise that we have something special to preserve and be proud of - and, not only that, but they will learn that we are a people who could have a great future. This is providing always that we maintain the native stock from which our genius has come. But as long as our younger folk are encouraged to think that sporting skills and 'rap' music are as important attributes as scientific flair, industrial competence and literary talent - as long as their minds are submerged in the moronic 'pop' culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and they are not taught anything about Rorke's Drift, Waterloo and Trafalgar, about Newton, Faraday, Davy and Cockerill - they will not know what to say when asked the question: "What does being British mean to you?"
Being British, as I hope I have explained, means being an heir to a great and glorious national heritage, a heritage of immense achievement in almost all fields of human activity, a heritage which has virtually no rivals - certainly not among the peoples newly settled here and now claiming this country as their own.
Precisely because one British characteristic is that of reticence, most of us do not make a habit of trumpeting this repetitively and to all and sundry. Also, because another such characteristic (at least traditionally if not always evident today) is good manners, most of us are loath when speaking to other races to talk up our own virtues by comparison with theirs.
But there sometimes come moments in a nation's life when to downplay its achievements, most of all to forget them, is positively dangerous - dangerous to its self-esteem, dangerous to its perception of its own capabilities and dangerous to its awareness of what it must do to protect and preserve itself,
We should not want Britons to descend to the kind of insufferable national bumptiousness experienced by foreigners when some of our football fans, well laced with booze, swagger through their cities. But nor should we be reluctant, when questioned about our feeling of nationality, to explain the real foundations of our pride.
I have long been convinced that our decline during the later part of the 20th century was something which began in the mind, in a kind of self-hypnosis in which a quite silly and self-deprecating view about ourselves replaced a once-supreme national self-confidence.
We have got to rid ourselves of this complex, and a start might be made in reminding ourselves - and some others - of what the world owes to us.
For that is a mighty big debt indeed.