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jerryking : decay   1

How Britons forgot that history can hurt
September 19, 2019 | | Financial Times| by Simon Kuper.

Centuries of stability have created a country careless about risk... the British mainland has meandered along nicely since Newton’s death in 1727: no conquest, dictatorship, revolution, famine or civil war. The sea prevented invasions; coal made Britain the first industrialised power. Few Britons developed strong ideologies that they were motivated to kill for.

How to square this historical stability with the UK’s newfound instability?......What explains Britain’s transformation? I suspect it’s precisely the country’s historical stability that has made many of today’s Britons insouciant about risk. They have forgotten that history can hurt. Other countries remember....their citizens remember how countries can go horribly wrong (see Uganda, the French in Algeria, etc.)......Britain has no comparable traumas. Terrible things do happen there but chiefly to poor people — which is how the country is supposed to work. Even the losses suffered during two world wars have been reconfigured into proud national moments. The widespread American guilt about slavery is almost absent here.

And so, Britain has a uniquely untroubled relationship with its past, and a suspicion of anything new. No wonder the natural ruling party calls itself “Conservative”.

Britain’s ruling classes are especially nostalgic, because they live amid the glorious past: the family’s country home, then ancient public school, Oxbridge and Westminster. They felt Britain was so secure from constitutional outrages that they never bothered to write a constitution.

But it’s wrong to blame British insouciance (embodied by Johnson) on the elite. It extends across all classes. Most Britons have learnt to be politically unserious. Hence their tolerance for toy newspapers they know to be mendacious — Britons’ ironic relationship with their tabloids puzzles many foreigners.

Postwar Britons — the most shielded generation in this shielded country’s history — voted Brexit not out of fanaticism but in a spirit of “Why not?” Many Leave voters argued additionally that “Things can’t get worse”, which any Ugandan could have told them was mistaken. Some Leavers even seemed to crave a bit of history.
'30s  Argentina  Brexit  carelessness  complacency  constitutions  decay  false_sense_of_security  German  history  historical_amnesia  insouciance  ruling_classes  Simon_Kuper  social_classes  United_Kingdom  worrying 
september 2019 by jerryking

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