'The insularity of the English, their refusal to take foreigners seriously, is a folly that has to be paid for very heavily from time to time.'I thought of that line on the 7th July 2005.
Of course, Orwell's next line was: 'But it plays its part in the English mystique, and the intellectuals who have tried to break it down have generally done more harm than good.'
He goes on to say, rather wonderfully:
'The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935-9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most ‘anti-Fascist’ during the Spanish Civil War are most defeatist now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia – their severance from the common culture of the country.
In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British.'
Still a recognisable picture, mutatis mutandis and accepting that they now have power, eh?
The essay can be read here.
*A word I have started to use again as it apparently offends both Islamic and Marxist mullahs. As a kid it was a word I enjoyed (Biggles in the Orient, for example and the whole mysterious Chinaman trend in adventure fiction). I even considered supporting Leyton Orient because of my liking for it.