Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

Ian Black has written a long and delectable article in The Guardian in which mourns the loss of "Britishness" which, he thinks, Scottish Independence will ring out. ... or is it "in"?

The Kings Own

Black's article begins, actually, in Injia at the close of The Raj, and with a discussion of Nirad Chaudhuri's  The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian,  in the course of which Black observes that
"his love of Britain sometimes seemed one of the few unconfected aspects of his persona, and though it came with its share of wilful mannerisms and maxims (such as his belief that British food could only be truly enjoyed if the eater wore British clothes), his appreciation of the country’s history, literature and landscape was profound. ....
Only in Britain could it be said that "clothes make the food." 

One might very well begin a comment in the FRENCH manner, by observing, indirectly and tangentially that the article, wonderfully, begins in just that way: with Indian observations a propos Scotland. Are we not tired of “direct and to the point” Americanisms?

This is one of the better stuffs the Guardian has rolled out in recent memory, and the stuff rather proves itself (that is to say, “its point”) : there is something known as Britishness.

That said, I think the article overlooks the historicity that is taking place (or at least kicking in the womb) and that is: the death of the nation state.

Nation states and empires arose primarily from material and economic motives The word “nation” was originally used to refer to a network of Genovese banker/merchants.   In 1788, Spain's Count of Aranda put it this way: “...the new form of government will call forth laborers and artisans from all nations, because men go where they think fortune will smile.... Thus aggrandized, we should foresee that this Anglo-American power.....” He meant, of course, the United States and was prophesying that it would become a strong, unitary, nation on account of the material motives and emotive hopes for which it provided both the opportunity and the form.

But the nation state -- which gave rise to the Spanish, French, British and American empires-- no longer exists except as an empty shell.  As far back as 1994, Le Monde published a series of articles on how nation states had lost control over their own political economies and, thus, over their own destinies.  Twenty years on and it is evident that the UK and the US in particular have become mere agencies of a new political-economic cluster: the corporation, a form of feudalism which is instrumentalizing and at the same time breaking down the nation state.  History has seen this before.

This may seem absurd as the United States bombastically flexes its muscles around the world. But bombast is all that is really left. The nation no longer meets the material fortunes of individuals or reflects their collective sense of — usness... or in the UK’s case of ushness.

Britain has become the province of “the financial sector” which seeks to privatize the country. The Scots see this and wish not to break away, but actually to create a new and revived sense of Britishness, closely apart.

Definitely worth the Uniform


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