A week after it dared to suggest that the principal “root causes” of terrorism may in fact be extremist teachings within Islam rather than the misdeeds of the west, the New Statesman reverts to type with a lead story entitled “Blair’s Bombs”. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and it will surprise no-one to discover that John Pilger thinks the terrorist attacks were all Tony Blair’s fault.
Anyway, I could respond to this by posting on the Spectator’s lead item, “The Left’s war on Britishness” (which is worth reading for its litany of achievements providing an answer to the question, “What have the British ever done for us?”, though I could have done without some of the tedious boilerplate on “political correctness” in the first half of the article).
But, to quote the Pakistani academic reverentially interviewed by BBC Radio Four yesterday morning about the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, I think I would rather “repay them in their own coin”, with a critique from one of their own. I’m currently re-reading George Orwell’s classic extended essay, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, and the following passage had me punching the air in delight at its contemporary relevance:
The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality… And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia – their severance from the common culture of the country.
In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God save the King” than of stealing from a poor box…
Orwell is scathing about both the attitude of the “Blimps” (i.e. “the military and imperialist middle class”, as in Colonel Blimp) and the “intellectual sabotage from the Left” during the period between the wars:
Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read Blackwood’s Magazine and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous.
It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are fighting a war, and a very peculiar kind of war, that may make this possible.