Awake! Arise, Britannia! Or Be Forever Fallen! Part II – The Need for Nationalism

‘And Arthur and his knighthood for a space
Were all one will, and thro’ that strength the King
Drew in the petty princedoms under him,
Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame
The heathen hordes, and made a realm and reign’d’

— Tennyson, Idyls of the King


I have been speaking rather rudely up to this point, at times even invoking our great satirists so that I might with the greatest possible force and acerbity expose and condemn those persons and ideas that have done us, and continue to do us incalculable damage.  But criticism and satire can only take us so far.  The sickness has, I hope, been more or less clearly diagnosed; let us turn now to a discussion of the cure.  This will be no easy task, because all of this that we have been speaking of hitherto is really a matter best considered in the light of political philosophy. Before deciding how things ought to be ordered in our country, we must ask the following question: What is the cement of a society, what is it that holds a society together, what is that element without which, a society will begin to come apart, and end in more or less complete dissolution?  There are two basic answers to this question.

The Civil Society: Reason, Self-interest, and The Law

The first answer, the fashionable answer, the one that all our young scholars pursuing a degree in the Social Sciences are expected to learn well and accept without question, has to do with the concept known in the jargon of political theory as ‘civic (or ‘civil’) society.’ Britain, Germany, France, the United States &c., we are told, are all ‘civil societies’ societies with ‘civic cultures.’   This theory of the Civil Society is based on two assumptions. First, it is assumed that all men in a civil society, regardless of their upbringing, intelligence, ability, character, and certainly regardless of their ethnicity and religious affiliations, are equal; they are all equal in that they have all been equally endowed from birth with a capacity to reason, to think rationally.  Second, it is believed that all men, as a general rule, are self-interested; that is, each man will always do what is in his own best interests, will always seek those courses which promise him pleasure and profit, avoid those that promise pain and privation.  Now, this is the key to the argument: If all men are rational, and self-interested, then all that is needed to keep them in order is a well-conceived set of rules and regulations— Laws.  Why is this so? Let us single out one of these rational, self-interested citizens for closer examination. Let us say that this little citizen of ours happens to hate his boss, hates him so much in fact, that he would like to kill him. Now, here’s what’s supposed to happen. This fellow thinks to himself: ‘O, how I would like to kill the bastard!’  But then, in the famous words of Hobbes, he recalls “what he has seen follow on the like crime before, having this order of thoughts; the crime, the officer, the prison, the judge, and the gallows.’ In these days our government kills only the innocent, so prison is the worst that a criminal may anticipate. Thus our citizen must conclude ‘What little satisfaction I might derive from the killing of him, would in the end be overshadowed by the torments and privations of a long prison sentence. This undertaking promises heavy penalties and meagre rewards, and – and therefore, I shall not go through with it…’ This is the crudest of all examples, of course, but it does demonstrate one of the ways in which the system is supposed to work.  Certain undesirable behaviours, behaviours that are destructive of a society, that left unchecked would lead to anarchy, are prohibited by laws, with punishments devised to deter those who would break them. Thus it is hoped that in most cases, our rational, self-interested citizen will choose to obey the laws, because his reason will tell him that to do otherwise would not be in his best interests.

We have discussed one of the forces said to operate on the minds of citizens in a civil society: ‘fear of punishment.’  On the other side, of course, there is ‘hope of reward.’ The rational self-interested members of a civil society are supposed to understand that their obedience to the laws will not only secure them from punishment, but also, in the law run, even redound to their benefit.  How? Let us again turn to our little citizen, and suppose that, having put away his designs against his boss, he has now taken up the idea of defrauding our social services for some benefit or other.  ‘Well,’ he says to himself, ‘I probably could file a false claim and collect quite a tidy little sum. Chances are, I wouldn’t get caught… However, if I refrain from defrauding the government, and if other people, thinking along the same lines as I am, also refrain, then the government will be able to keep costs down and in general run things more efficiently.  This will mean better services for everyone, and better services for everyone will mean better services for me, whenever I may need to avail myself of them.’  It is essential in a civil society, that each citizen identify his own self interest with the interests of society at large.  Ideal, if he understand that by contributing something to society (and this contribution may take a variety of different forms) his contribution will in the long run bring palpable benefits to himself.  This identification of one’s own self interest with that of the whole community may, in certain individuals, amount to no more than a vague intention to refrain from wrong-doing where possible.  It must also among certain others assume the character of deliberate positive action. The highest form of this (again, ideally), is public service: when a man decides, for example,  that by serving on the local council, he may be able to improve the quality of municipal services, from which he himself, like others in the same community with him, will benefit. All public service, according to this theory, is what we might call a sort of ‘enlightened selfishness.’ This is supposed to be sufficient to inspire ‘social’ (as opposed to ‘anti-social’) behaviour among the general population, and among certain individuals, in whom ‘enlightened selfishness’ has developed to an extraordinary degree, a desire to improve the state of society by positive efforts of one sort or another.

Such is the theory.  I will not claim, as I have in the case of multiculturalism, that there is nothing at all in it.  Something there to be sure.  But as a foundation for a society at any stage of  development, or underdevelopment as the case may be, it may hardly be deemed sufficient.  Even a very cursory review of history and of current events will confirm the proposition that a society held together by ‘enlightened selfishness’ and nothing more, is a society that is not long for this world.  There must be some additional bond between man and society, for among the various forces which are apt to influence a man and inspire his actions, this ‘identification of individual self-interest’ does not rank very high.   It is a statement of the patently obvious to say that the Islamic terrorists of 7/7 clearly were not worried about the condition of public transportation in London when they blew themselves and fifty-five innocent people to smithereens. Nor, we may say categorically, were they much concerned that they could be sent to prison for murder. Whatever concern they ought to have had for the public purse, supported in part by their own tax money, and the country’s system of law and order, was easily overridden by a far more potent motivating force: their passionate desire to serve Allah and the cause of global Jihad by gruesomely murdering as many of us as possible. Mere abstract civic virtue, which encourages all citizens of a commonwealth to serve the public good, and not to pillage and destroy it, because it is in their best interest to do so, is utterly powerless in the face of religious fanaticism. According to a series of polls conducted in the last few years, roughly a hundred thousand Muslims living in Britain are in favour of further terrorist attacks on the British public. In reality, the number is very likely much higher, since it requires some courage to admit openly that one is a terrorist, and courage is not the natural condition of man. These Muslims are incapable of participating in British society and contributing to the public good because they identify with its enemies. It would be fruitless to try to appease them with material benefits, or to otherwise cajole them into ‘returning to the fold,’ for in their souls they are devoted to a different ‘commonweal,’ that of militant Islam.

Terrorism, we readily admit, is an extreme case. How, one may ask, does the notion of ‘enlightened self-interest’ fare among the less fanatical? The fact is, civic virtue and the rule of law are bound to be overwhelmed by any strong feeling of ethnic loyalty or religious devotion which happens to conflict with them. This conflict of interests and loyalties may not lead to terrorism in the majority of men, but, be assured, it will have other dire consequences!   Consider, for instance, the internal investigation launched by the Metropolitan police some time ago to determine why complaints of misconduct and corruption against Asian officers are 10 times higher than against their white colleagues.  The report concluded, to the universal condemnation of hapless liberal idiots throughout the country, that ‘Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family … and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality.’[i] In other words, Asian officers are, on the whole, more corrupt than British (white) officers, because of their overriding loyalty to their own ethno-religious communities. Though they may have sworn an oath the serve the Crown, and though they have the threat of dismissal and legal punishments hanging over them, these Asian officers nevertheless choose to serve their own communities through corrupt means at the expense of the British public. There are other more recent cases we might refer to. Systematic studies of this sort of problem are quite rare however, for reasons we can easily guess. A thorough-going study of ethnic minority corruption in Britain would no doubt be quite revealing, if only a courageous Social Scientist (oxymoron?) could be found to conduct it.  Yet we have evidence from at least one sector that the incidence of corruption among the native British is far lower than among non-British citizens of the UK, in the case of Met officers, 10 times lower. This is no coincidence.

‘Public affections’ and National Identity

I have attempted to demonstrate that ‘enlightened selfishness’ is an insufficient basis for society.  It is insufficient because there are other feelings, other motives, in the hearts of men and women, which have a stronger influence on their actions.  Self-love, love of family, and love of one’s ethnic or religious group can easily override any rational considerations concerning an abstract ‘public good’.  If enlightened selfishness does not take root, or is overridden by human passions, as happens inevitably, the only hold that society has on such persons is its power to punish them though the legal system, if in their general dereliction they happen to run afoul of the law, and if they are caught doing so.  But it is clear that no legal system, however efficient, can serve as the sole guarantor of the civil order.  When anything more than a small number of miscreants engages in corruption, criminality, desertion, and treason, then the legal system is soon overwhelmed, and unable to cope, and society begins to break down. What is required, then, for a healthy and cohesive society, beyond an individual’s calculating self-interest, is what Edmund Burke called ‘public affections.’  Citizens, said Burke, must have heartfelt affection for the social and political order in which they live.  Ideally, their affection for their country must at least approximate their love for their own family.  Just as the private man loves his wife and children, sees something sacred in his bond with them, and would therefore never betray them, so it must be with the citizen in regard to his country.

How, then, one might ask, can citizens be made to feel affection for the country in which they reside? This question would seem to address the problem, but in fact it does not. For affection, or love, is among those human feelings which are either given freely, or not at all.  Though one may be able to force a person to feel hatred, revulsion, and other negative emotions by abusing or torturing him, it is impossible to forcibly extract feelings of affection from a person. The object which you want him to love will either inspire feelings of admiration in his heart, or it will not. However, let us not suppose that love and affection are so mysterious that we cannot say anything definitive about what inspires them. A few thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote that, as a general rule, ‘there are two things which most cause men to have a care and to love: that [the object of their care or love] is their own and is lovely.’  (Aristotle, Politics 1262b23-6) We love and care about the things that are our own and which we find to be delightful. Thus, for a citizen to love his country, he must feel that it is his own (not someone else’s or no one’s) that it is lovely (not vile and ugly). In other words, he must have a sense of national identity.

We have now at last arrived at the second answer to the original question, ‘what is that essential element that holds a society together?’ I believe that national identity is the foundation upon which the whole edifice, including the civic order, rests.  For national identity allows us to feel an almost personal, almost intimate connection with persons we have never met. Because they are our countrymen, though they may reside in the county furthest from our own, they are nevertheless members of a national extended family of which we also are a part. We owe loyalty to them, just as we owe loyalty to our own families, and to the members of our own communities. And we owe loyalty to the state (the governing institutions) whose only purpose is to serve our national family.

How does national identity accomplish all of this? Before we answer this question, it would be best to attempt to define ‘nation’.  Edmund Burke gave the following definition:

The nation is not an idea only of local extent , and individual momentary aggregation ; but it is an idea of continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space.  And this is a choice not of one day or one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice; it is a deliberate election of ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil and social habitudes of the people,  which disclose themselves only in a long space of time.[ii]

The nation, then, according to Burke, is not merely a political contract or club, to which anyone may sign his name and join if he so chooses; it is much more than merely the aggregate of individuals currently living within a legally defined set of geographical boundaries. The nation is a specific people, which sees itself as a collective entity, descended from what Burke elsewhere refers to as ‘an ancient race of ancestors.’ The nation is both the spiritual essence and the physical embodiment of all that this specific race of people has experienced, and created over many centuries.  All that the people possess, and all that they are, flows from those centuries of experience: their national personality, their rites and traditions, their laws, their system of government. And since all that the people presently possess are things that they have either received from ancestors, or have built anew on foundations laid by ancestors, the nation is an idea of continuity, of a never-ending process, or progress, begun long ago by ancestors, continued by us in the present, and to be taken up in future by our descendants. Continuity, of course, entails an obligation of different generations to one another. As Burke wrote, it is precisely in this sense that the nation is a contract, ‘not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’[iii]

Given this definition of the nation, national identity, then, is simply an awareness of the true nature of one’s nation and an acknowledgement that one’s personal destiny is tied to that of the nation. Academics, such as the communist Eric Hobsbawm, have long argued that nations, and national identity are artificial formations; that national narratives were created by elites in order to fool the masses and divert them from seeking their ‘real interests’, whatever those might be. While it is true that the modern concept of nationalism was not formulated by intellectuals until the 18th century, that still does not mean that nations and national identity did not exist long before that time. The fact is, even as an intellectually formulated ideology, nationalism is more in tune with human nature than any other modern ideological system. This explains its success, and the powerful resonance of its ideas with peoples throughout history and throughout the globe.

National identity will arise of its own accord among any population that shares racial, cultural, and religious heritage. Consider, for instance, one of nationalism’s central ideas, ‘continuity.’  There is a passage toward the end of William Morris’ novel News from Nowhere in which Ellen, a young woman,  contemplates motherhood: she says, ‘I shall have children; perhaps before the end a good many; – I hope so.  And though of course I cannot force any special kind of knowledge on them, yet, … I cannot help thinking that just as they might be like me in body, so I might impress upon them some part of my ways of thinking; that is, indeed, some of the essential part of myself; that part that was not mere moods, created by the matters and events round about me.’ What parent has not had such thoughts? By having children, we ensure continuity, the survival of at least some part of ourselves after we ourselves have ended our life’s journey. So much poetry has been written from time immemorial about the human dilemma of mortality, and the dream of immortality. It is a perennial feature of mankind. It is natural for mortal human beings, who cannot take the world with them, to wish that people like themselves in body, and bearing some of the essential part of themselves should inherit their world.

National identity does not need to be painstakingly inculcated in the way that the doctrines of artificial ideologies such as communism or multiculturalism must be, so that populations might be made to accept them.  National identity does not rely on intense programmes of indoctrination. The germ from which it grows will occur to people naturally from their daily experiences.  Men and women living in the town or city of their birth need only look about them, and a mere moment’s contemplation upon what they see will reveal to them one of national identity’s central ideas, the feeling of the great debt owed by them to ancestors. As Thomas Carlyle wrote,

It is all work, and forgotten work, this peopled, clothed, articulate-speaking, high-towered, wide-acred World.  The hands of forgotten brave men have made it a World for us; they, —  honour to them; they, in spite of the idle and the dastard.  This English Land, here and now, is the summary of what was found of wise, and noble, and accordant with God’s Truth in all the generations of English Men.  Our English Speech is speakable because there were Hero-Poets of our blood and lineage; speakable in proportion to the number of these…  I tell thee, … [our ancestors] had not a hammer to begin with; and yet Wren built St. Paul’s: not an articulated syllable; and yet there have come English Literatures…[iv]

It is a sign of wisdom in the statesman, who, seeing national identity as a natural outgrowth of civilized life, understands the necessity to cultivate it and thereby allow the people to benefit more fully from the feelings of solidarity and patriotism which a mature sense of national identity engenders.  The wise King Alfred, called The Great, understood this very well. Most of the books the king produced as part of his literacy campaign in the last decade of the 9th century were intended to improve the Christian morals of his people. But King Alfred also endeavoured to give the English a clearer sense of their national identity.  According to historians, the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, undertaken by Alfred, was intended to provide the English kingdom with a ‘united and ordered’ history.[v] Likewise, the translation of Bede’s Latin Ecclesiastical History of the English People into the vernacular, commissioned by the king, made a compendium of stories of English heroes and saints available to the populace.

Given the great importance of a healthy, mature sense of national identity to the social and political well-being of peoples, it behooves us to be very specific about the particular conditions requisite for its formation and the particular manner in which it, once formed, is experienced.  National identity forms on the basis of racial and cultural commonality. If we survey European history, and in particular, the history of our own country, we will see a gradual process of political consolidation which joined together tribes already sharing racial and cultural characteristics.  Even though political consolidation often involved armed conquest, the use of naked, and sometimes downright barbaric force, the resulting political formations, nevertheless, were able to survive and function because of the racial and cultural commonality of the tribes and factions being brought into them.  In cases where there was not sufficient commonality, the conquered tribe or kingdom often had to undergo very significant transformations before it could be incorporated into the growing political unit. For example, the Danelaw could have proved unassimilable to the expanding kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, had it not been for the wise policy begun by King Alfred, and continued by subsequent Anglo-Saxon leaders.  Racially, the Anglo-Saxons and Danes were virtually indistinguishable. But, culturally, they were quite different. Their main difference lay in their religious beliefs, the Anglo Saxons being Christians, and the Danes Pagans.   This would have been an extremely volatile mix. But King Alfred, upon defeating his Danish opponent, Guthrum, demanded as a condition of peace that the Pagan king convert to Christianity. King Guthrum assented, and thus began the Christianisation of the Danes, allowing for their eventual incorporation into a Christian English kingdom.

Those conditions which allowed for the formation of a nation must remain in place if that nation is to continue to flourish. For as we established earlier, in order for a person to love and care about his country, he must feel that the country is his own, and that it is lovely. And in order for people who have never met to feel that they are part of a single national family, they must feel a sense of common ownership and they must agree at least to some extent upon what precisely they love about their country. This presents difficulties, because the nation itself, as a concept, is rather abstract, until one can put a human face, or faces, on it. People cannot own abstractions, nor, in most instances, can they love them. Love and intimacy are for that which is tangible, for that which we can see and feel. Thus, national identity depends most of all on common national symbols, which crystallize and embody for us the essence of the nation, the essence of the common bond joining individual communities together into a great national family. These symbols take a great variety of forms: they can be historical events, particular scenes or moments in art or literature, national heroes, and particular deeds performed by them in the service of our country.

Our national myths are often just as important as our verifiable, real history, for myths are a kind of exemplary history: in them are embodied our national ideals and lessons of our cultural and historical experience. Consider for instance, the following moment from Sir Thomas Malory’s tales of King Arthur. Arthur and his knights, having decided that England should no longer pay tribute to the Roman Empire, go on campaign in Europe to defeat the Romans and thus establish England’s independence. The campaign is a success, chastening the Romans and bringing many new dominions into English possession. In the conclusion of this episode Malory provides us with one of those moments which crystallize what it means to be English:

Thus the king gave many lands.  There was none that would ask that might complain of his part, for of riches and wealth they had all at their will. Then the knights and lords called the king to a council on a fair morn and said,

‘Sir king, we beseech thee for to hear us all. We are under your lordship well stuffed, blessed be God, of many things; and also we have wives wedded. We will beseech your good grace to release us to sport us with our wives, for worship be Christ, this journey is well overcome.’

‘Ye say well,’ said the king, ‘for enough is as good as a feast, for to tempt God overmuch, I hold it not wisdom. And therefore make you all ready and turn we unto England.’[vi]

So many elements of our English national character are evident in these few lines from a mid-15th century text.  The journey, so ‘well overcome’ is undertaken to secure complete independence from foreign domination, something our island nation has always fiercely striven for. Here we notice also the English people’s famed  prudence and moderation, the belief that ‘enough is as good as a feast.’ Having achieved their end, the king and his knights do not wish to prolong the campaign for the sake of further conquests and riches. And finally, we see here the beginnings of English democracy. The decision to make war on the Romans is first taken by the king after consulting with and securing the approbation of his knights and lords. And it is the suggestion of the men, readily assented to by the king, which puts an end to the campaign and brings the whole army home to England.

King Arthur, then, as well as other elements from the legend which surrounds him, is among the many cultural symbols with which all English people can identify.  The legend of Arthur told in Malory and in subsequent accounts is about us, our origins, our ideals, our historic struggles. Arthur is one of our national icons, and a loveable character. Though this is a hero of legend (about the real, historical Arthur we know very little) he is nevertheless an embodiment of Englishness. Indeed, the essence of that love of country necessary for social cohesion, whether we term it ‘public affections’ or ‘national identity’ might well be thought of as a common admiration of the same persons and things. When all the English can admire a single person, and what that person represents, or a single legend, and the thematic content thereof, this provides a basis for our notion of ourselves as one people, with a common heritage and common aspirations.

Knowledge of the grand sweep of our national history, and literature are crucial for the development of a mature sense national identity in the population, and for the flowering of public affections. Yet perhaps more important than either of these things are the real living symbols, the national heroes who trod the very earth we tread, and whose accomplishments are there for all to see.  Love is specific; intimacy involves personal closeness.  National heroes are men and women like ourselves, whose genuine thoughts and feelings we can know, whose struggles can elicit our sympathy, whose achievements can evoke our admiration. They are thus the dearest of all embodiments of the national spirit; our admiration for them unites us in love of our country like nothing else. For instance, as Thomas Carlyle wrote, the English could thus say of Shakespeare that ‘Yes, this Shakespeare is ours; we produced him, we speak and think by him; we are of one blood and kind with him.’[vii]

In point of fact, the importance of the phenomenon Carlyle called ‘hero-worship’, and of our having proper heroes to worship, cannot be overstated.  These days, the tendency is to ignore this most vital question of all civilized life: how to distinguish human worth from human unworth, and how to learn to love the one, and despise the other?  The effete liberal-Marxist chattering classes, as well as the current crop of politicians and community leaders, do not like this question, perhaps because they know that they themselves are essentially worthless, and could never inspire genuine feelings of admiration in anyone; that the British people, could they but remember how to distinguish worth from unworth, would sooner hate these intellectually and culturally stunted ‘elites’ with a perfect hatred than love them. Let them continue to ignore it, but as long as human nature remains what it is, this question also will remain. Carlyle revealed an important truth about human nature when he said ‘It is the very joy of a man’s heart to admire, where he can; nothing so lifts him from all his mean imprisonments, were it but for moments, as true admiration. Thus it has been said, ‘all men, especially all women, are born worshippers; and will worship, if it be but possible. Possible to worship a Something, even a small one…’ Indeed, humans have always been inclined to worship persons and things which have seemed greater and more glamorous than themselves. How vital, then, that the objects be worthy of worship! ‘What sight is more pathetic,’ notes Carlyle, ‘than that of poor multitudes of persons met to gaze at King’s Progresses, Lord Mayor’s Shews, and other gilt-gingerbread phenomena of the worshipful sort, in these times; each so eager to worship; each, with dim fatal sense of disappointment, finding that he cannot rightly here! These be thy gods, O Israel?’[viii] It is unfortunately even worse with us now. Whom or what do European men and women worship today? At least in Carlyle’s time they sensed that the ‘gilt-gingerbread phenomena’ were not the real article. But now an alarming proportion of our countrymen fanatically worship Hollywood actors, rock-stars, professional footballers and other sham heroes. These be thy gods?

The point I wish to emphasise here is that national heroes are needed not only to reinforce a sense of commonality, but also to spur the individual and collective achievements that make civilized life sustainable, and progress possible. When we love and admire worthy persons, we are more likely to do after their example, and to do so joyfully.  As Carlyle wrote, ‘The grand summary of man’s spiritual condition, what brings out all his herohood and insight, or all his flunkeyhood and horn-eyed dimness, is this question put to him — What man dost thou honour? Which is thy ideal of a man, or nearest that?’[ix] A person who idolizes Hollywood actors, rap musicians, or footballers is unlikely to aspire to anything worthy or useful. In order to aspire to do good and great things, men must admire goodness and greatness, and real human manifestations thereof. It is true that a nation is sustained in part by mere selfish individual initiative (capitalism), the promise of cash and comforts to be received in exchange for goods well produced and services well rendered. But there are many indispensable professions which demand extraordinary exertions and selfless sacrifices, and offer material rewards incommensurate with what they demand. One must own that the soldier is miserably paid, when one considers the work he does. The same might be said of the teacher, the scientist, the statesman (unless he is a dishonest embezzler as so many today are). Yet so much of a nation’s general prosperity depends on whether these particular men and women do their duty well or ill. All progress, all advancements, all great achievements in science and art are the result of individual human talent and skill properly inspired and properly channelled. Humans need heroes to inspire them by example to great feats and deeds of self-sacrifice. And nations need national heroes so that their populations should be inspired to realize the full potential of their individual natural gifts and to do so in service of the nation.

The deed of a national hero provides inspiration, instruction and a standing challenge to all members of the nation.  When an Englishman contemplates the lives of English heroes, an instant connection is established between him and them. He sees that men and women of his own blood and lineage were capable of great things, and understands that he too, by virtue of the genetic and cultural heritage he shares with them, must have something of that same greatness in himself. He sees a loveable human and familiarly English example of success, and discerns, without having recourse to philosophy, the personal qualities and values which allowed the hero to be successful. He apprehends likewise the importance of the particular goals that the hero sought to fulfil. The hero, he  perceives, believed that the welfare of the nation was an objective good which merited all the exertion and self-sacrifice. And once he has come this far, there is nothing left but for him to accept the national hero’s challenge to his countrymen: ‘I did what I could in my time. Can you be to your time what I was to mine? What will you do with the gifts that you have inherited? How will you protect and build upon what I and countless others bequeathed to you?’ Unlike abstract philosophy, the challenge of the national hero can be heard and answered by all members of the nation. Take a one of those working class English pupils whose ‘underachievement’ the NUTters have recently deigned to notice, and recount to him the life-story of Sir Francis Drake. Will he not want to make something of himself? Will he not say to himself: ‘That Francis Drake, a poor son of a farmer from Devon, sailed round the globe, mapped the west coast of North America, claimed many new lands for England, brought great riches to the English crown. And when England was under threat of invasion from the Spaniards, he sailed for Spain and “singed the King of Spain’s beard”: he sacked one of Spain’s main ports and set back the invasion for an entire year. If he could do all that and more, what might I do? What can I do for my country?’

[Continuation in Part III]


[i]. ‘Secret report brands Muslim police corrupt’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/jun/10/race.topstories3

[ii]. Edmund Burke, ‘Speech to the Electors of Bristol’

[iii]. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

[iv]. Thomas Carlyle Past and Present

[v]. Erich W. Guthrie, ‘King Alfred’s Literacy Program’ http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/1001Guthrie.htm

[vi].Malory, Works

[vii]. Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes Hero-worship and the Heroic in History

[viii]. Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present

[ix]. Ibid.

About Alfred Smith

Alfred Smith is the alter-ego of a graduate student in politics who lives somewhere in the UK