- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

As an American I should be pleased about Ulster, and the peace process and all that, led by our good senator, applauded by newspapers and the liberal boys in the media. I suppose I would be pleased if these currents were all about the bright new future for Britain.

Unfortunately they are not. What I see, glued with horrible fascination to my TV set and British newspapers is the latest twitch in a destructive political fit that has afflicted the United Kingdom for a generation and more. It seems obvious to me that it is going to destroy the country where I now live.

The ailment is only incidentally to do with Ireland or Europe. It has much more to do with a certain species of intellectual clowns left and right-wing who have for decades taught the British to despise their country. For these people the present splintering of the United Kingdom is a jolly good thing, and the amputation of Ulster and the coming Federal Europe are occasions for applause.

I came to know some of these people years ago, when I lived in the Northwest London enclave of Hampstead. They displayed an extraordinary hatred for their own country. It seemed the British had done so many awful things. The empire was a black mark on the face of world history racist, brutal, and oppressive. The ruling class had exploited the working class at home and behaved like Hitlerites in their Pall Mall Clubs. Royalty and the aristocracy were parasitical chinless wonders. And the big businessmen were corrupt and mendacious. Snobbery and prejudice were, to listen to some of my Hampstead acquaintances, purely British inventions, and the guiltiest of all were those who dared to express any sort of national pride or speak a good word about their country. Britain was now no better than an American aircraft carrier. Admittedly there was some rather good architecture and art on this island, but the British and their country were definitely A Bad Thing.

It soon became clear that this caricature was the property of a relatively narrow clique. What I did not anticipate was the extent to which these jaundiced views would infiltrate British media and education and become the motive for so much political discourse, literature, and drama. Throughout the '60s and '70s, for example, it was difficult if not impossible to find a play or documentary or even a news report on television or a play on the British stage which did not serve up the same radical chic caricature. By the 1980s it was so bad that the BBC actually banned a play "The Falklands Play" by Ian Curteis which attempted to buck this trend, and helped to undermine Mr. Curteis's career.

A large percentage of the British hatred and contempt hurled at Mrs. Thatcher focused (and still does) on her patriotism. When the Irish troubles captured and held the attention of the media, the phony-historical myth of an 800-year struggle was embraced to supplement the legend of the ugly empire, and Mrs. Thatcher was condemned as stubborn and jingoistic for defending British sovereignty in Ulster, not giving in to the IRA hunger strike and for rejecting Federast Europe.

The drip-drip effect of all this public noise was bound eventually to affect the attitude of the British toward their country. The effect on public morale has been odd not an impulse of rejection, but a growing indifference, a slack electoral resignation under policies that are well on their way to destroying the United Kingdom, transforming it into a group of weakened regions dominated by the continental arrangement between France and Germany.

The gradual severance of Ulster from the United Kingdom fits perfectly into this pattern, as do the pro tem devolution arrangements for Scotland and Wales. As seen by an outsider, these are sticks of semtex set and primed to destabilize the fault lines which have opened up along the internal frontiers of the United Kingdom in the past decade or two.

As an American who has lived on this island for most of my life, I shall be sorry to see the end of the United Kingdom. Despite the aspects of smugness and nastiness described above, I, like many people in my own country, have believed that the despicable radical chic Hampstead caricature was a lie, and that Britain still had a great deal to offer after its historical flirtation with empire.

The British have always been tough, ingenious, and usually clear-headed, with a gift for commercial banditry that has served them and their friends well in an increasingly hard and competitive world.

But I do know that much, if not most of what made this island and its people a great power in the world its tradition of law (which Brussels bids fair to destroy), its literary and artistic vitality, its sound political stability and the cool sense of worth that goes with it, and above all a sane sense of puissance oblige is still alive across the Atlantic, in America whose system was designed and set in motion by British intellectuals.

America still values its British aspects and traditions. If the British themselves are now demoralized enough to allow their government to let slip away their sovereignty and drown their best qualities and traditions like an old cat's unwanted litter, it is comforting to know that at least some of them will survive elsewhere.

Herb Greer is a writer living in London.

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