By David T Breaker
Every year St George's Day comes, and swiftly goes, without much fanfare or fuss. Just as with great moments of our history, vast numbers of us don't even know when it is, and another great number care even less – they know only the leftist version of England as evil imperialist. The globally unique self-loathing among certain types, best identified by Orwell, has proven victorious in the classrooms and lecture halls, percolated out through society to the dining rooms and streets, and has reached the point where even a Conservative Prime Minister states that Britain is "to blame" for many of the globe's problems.
This self-loathing first stemmed from a disdain among a supposedly "intellectual" socialist class for the very principles and values of our nation, and now – with the spread of that attitude – those values, the principles upon which we created a nation the envy of the world from a small, foggy but beautiful island off the coast of north-west Europe, are facing extinction. And with them so too will go anything deserving of envy.
There is every year the annual naval gazing among the newspaper columnists and bloggers and Question Time panels as to what is Englishness. Some dismiss the notion, some seek to avoid a fuss being made – I sympathise with that view – and others rattle off tick box lists of tea, football, cricket, Shakespeare and Elgar as if we are some kind of identikit nation, all sharing the same passions and tastes, our identity reduced to stereotype.
This I find the most depressing: you can argue with the self-loathers, pointing out the good and the great, but if we have surrendered the fight for England as an idea to instead accept only the pity of England as theme park style list of traits, then what hope do we have?
In the United States, where the values of English liberty were enshrined in stone as a great constitution, they do not have this issue. The average American, when asked what it is to be American or what his nation stands for, would almost always answer the same correct and great answer: freedom. They might even quote from the Declaration of Independence their unalienable right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", yet I dread to think what the response would be this side of the pond if the average person was asked the exact same question.
And thanks to this decline in self-belief, a kind of national amnesia where we've forgotten who we are and what we're for, we find ourselves sleep walking into things so alien to our traditions that any nation sharing our values and not paralyzed by this strange national narcoleptic-amnesia would be aghast. The Americans know the value of free speech and free press, they placed it first on their Bill of Rights, yet just this week we have that alien law – the European Human Rights Act – and our own, home grown culturally-amnesiac judiciary conspiring together like shadowy villains to pass injunctions and "super-injunctions" to block the disclosure of revelations, even to an MP, and presumably next "mega-injunctions" to prohibit even thinking about it.
There is certainly no set in stone defence of liberty here, no "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" drummed into all as a matter of patriotism. Yet this is just one erosion on a long and ever growing lists of erosions, another straw that failed to break the camel's back – because the camel is asleep it appears – and another nail in the coffin of the "idea" of England.
This St George's Day, and over the Royal wedding holiday next week, many things will be celebrated. There will be tea towels and china of dubious taste, flags and bunting of excessive quantity, and village fetes and street parties, all alongside the usual charms of our architecture, landscape, literature, cycling maids, warm beer and cricket. Steam trains will still chuff through fields between market towns.
Yet in our rush to celebrate all of these great things, things which are among the greatest contributions of mankind to civilisation, we must not forget that they are just physical manifestations of our ancient freedoms – and those freedoms are under siege.
Two years ago I argued here that St George's Day was about freedom, and that although it should be a bank holiday it mustn't be allowed to descend into a St Patrick's Day style pub crawl just with a different colour scheme and dragon slaying, but rather be about celebrating freedom and English liberty. A day to remind each other who we are and what we're here for. Now more than ever that's needed: it's the only chance we have waking the country up from its sleepwalk.
But here I would like to break with the gloom for just a moment, because as under siege as our ancient liberties are – and they are under siege – it is better to have had and lost than never had at all. We must renew and reinforce our defence of our threatened liberties, revive those that are lost, but still celebrate what we still have, because our country has an awful lot.
We are still largely free from coercion, our historic inheritance still world beating, our culture still mighty. We just need the public to remember to what we owe all we love and cherish: freedom. Happy St George's Day!