A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day!
This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men of the West! – Aragorn’s speech, before the Black Gates
It always comes back to Tolkien, doesn’t it? A man who lived through the hell of the WWI trenches, who recalled from first hand a time when you could use the term ‘Great Britain’ without ironical quotes around it, a time when there were very real social issues and pathologies to criticize and to try and deal fairly with – but also a time when the common people took enormous pride and confidence in what they were, in their country, in themselves, in their institutions – and in turn, the various institutions looked toward the general welfare of the commonality. I like the 19th century for that very reason, both the British and American versions. It’s a kind of mental refuge to me, these days. For all its pathologies and shortcomings – citizens of both countries had cultural self-confidence. In the main, a self-confidence based on real accomplishment is a hell of a lot more attractive than a pitiful, helpless and apologetic bleating about ones’ societal and cultural shortcomings.
Really, whom would you look to; someone like Isaac Kingdom Brunel, or Lord Gordon (just to pluck two examples at random) … or a cringing and eternally self-abasing creature like Uriah Heep? Never mind that the first two are real, the third a literary creation; there are plenty of vicious, ostentatiously humble Uriah Heeps now active in political life, and plenty of them – a sufficiency of them, actually – infiltrated into academia and in the media. They’ve been doing their destructive work for decades, always with the best intentions, and ostentatiously for the good of us all. They preen themselves on this, and make good careers out of it.
Only, somehow and mysteriously, it has had such malign results as the vicious and very well documented murder of a British soldier by Islamic jihadi muppets in front of a large crowd, in the capital city of what was once a proud empire. Wrap your mind about that. A public street adjacent to a military base; they bash him with a car first, and then carve him up with knives, swagger about the street declaiming on their purpose, shouting Islamic slogans … and wait for the armed officers of the law to appear. Who did arrive, twenty minutes later, when the victim had doubtless bled out – the news reports have it that his head was cut off, which would certainly remove any urgency in responding with medical aid. Meanwhile the murderers, with bloody hands swagger about, explaining why they did it. Three women come forward to protest this act, and I accept that this took enormous courage on their part – given that this horrible event took place out of the clear blue. I also accept that the initial witnesses to this atrocity were shocked, disbelieving … and that any impulse on the part of members of the public to intervene in any meaningfully effective way was likely squelched on the instant of being considered. The duty of any good British citizen these days, or so I have gathered, is to to be passive, and never to resist being robbed, raped or murdered, since such resistance is likely to injure or inconvenience the robber, rapist or murderer. This precept of non-resistance has been enforced over the last few decades by prosecution and convictions obtained against those who actually did resist outrages against their own or others’ property and persons. The end result was what we saw this week in Woolwich; no resistance, no rescue. Thus are a free people reduced to serfitude. Pity, that – but I am certain that the ruling classes like it very much that way.