It is hard to fathom what is happening at Westminster. Watching Boris Johnson’s address to the House of Commons, in staccato – almost Churchillian – fashion, made me realize that I did not have a clue on how to feel about the horror picture show that we are all being forced to endure.
Boris Johnson may have sounded like Winston Churchill – a leader who he admires – but the comparison stops there because there is absolutely nothing that can be compared without offending the war-time leader of a country that resisted oppression.
The nature of Johnson’s assembled cabinet speaks for itself. It comprises views favouring the return of the death penalty, opposing same-sex marriage and supporting fox-hunting – not to mention the genetic hatred of the European Union!
I admit that I have lost touch with the personalities involved in UK politics. Most of the politicians with whom I grew up have retired into the wilderness or moved on to a better place. When I left the UK in 1984, a certain Margaret Thatcher was still alive and very much kicking the living daylights out of the political left and the dreaded unions. The Iron Lady had won a substantial victory in the 1983 general election, with her opponent Michael Foot resembling more an uncle I would have liked to have who would tell me countless stories of how Marxism can enrich the world,
In my opinion, Marxism is a great creed of human liberation. It is the creed which says that when all other empires fade and vanish, our business is to enlarge the empire of the human mind. – Michael Foot, 1980
In stark contrast with,
There is every chance that in 2050 […] we will be able to look back on this period […] as the beginning of a new Golden Age for our United Kingdom. – Boris Johnson, 2019
The two statements are, of course, filled with senseless rhetoric, but whereas Michael Foot’s romantic vision of the world centered on a philosophical fulfillment of what it means to be human, Boris Johnson echoes the renaissance of a Golden Age that was characterised by greed, egoism and a total exploitation of the less fortunate both at home and overseas.
But what line of thought would you prefer? Is it not better to champion a vision of freedom and compassion than to pretend that your country – and your country alone – is equipped to become, “the greatest place on Earth?”
What is so special about the United Kingdom anyway, that the country feels the need to coil up on itself like a faulty spring that has just been extracted from a failing engine?
We are all biased – sometimes to the point of blindness – when it comes to dishing out unconditional praise for the country where we were born.
In trying to search for answers, I came across a post from a British expat living in Canada, entitled, “Seven Reasons Great Britain is Truly Great.” The reasons that are given could be applied to just about any country in the Western world whose economy is not completely busted and whose citizens are not being run by a dictatorship.
We are all biased – sometimes to the point of blindness – when it comes to dishing out unconditional praise for the country where we were born. My son is born in the Netherlands and carries with him a sometimes erroneous logic that puts his land above all others. When there was a heat-wave that the Netherlands managed to escape from, he told me how beautiful this country is, being subject to 23°C instead of 40°C. It’s a child’s logic of course, but a logic that some carry deep into their adulthood. It is an, “I was born here so it must be good,” kind of logic.
I remain extremely fond of the UK, or London to be more precise because the number of times I have been further north that the Watford Junction, you can count with the fingers of one hand. And there lies another problem that is intrinsic to the UK. It is a land comprising pockets of openness to others across the waters, engulfed in a maze of inward-looking souls and uncompromising patriotism. Sunderland will always remain Sunderland, no matter what. Its people will never look further afield than the Northern Pennines, in the same way that I never stepped out of cosmopolitan London into the green pastures of rural England. The only difference between us is that they have been brain-washed by a false dream in which leaving the EU would make Sunderland great again. I lived in London which I was convinced could not get any better, thanks, in part, to the EU. Maybe we had false dreams and misplaced convictions, respectively.
I mentioned at the very beginning that I didn’t know whether to laugh or worry. Now here’s the funny bit.
When Boris Johnson was named foreign secretary he pretended to know everything about foreign lands and their interactions. He failed to mention that, in fact, he knew very little. This lack of knowledge served him well and carried him all the way to Downing Street. The present foreign secretary is Dominic Raab who freely admitted that he knew precious little about the importance of Dover for international trade. Where will that take him, I wonder? Maybe we have royalty in waiting.