The discussions on the United Commonwealth Society group on Facebook got me thinking. They are talking about the future of the English speaking world, not including the USA. As a longtime Anglospherist, this is a topic of great interest to me.
The following came out in a single gush, with minimal editing. It is a lot of ideas that I, and Jim Bennett, and others, have been kicking around for a long time. I am not sure what it is. A sort of manifesto? Reveries on the future of the Anglosphere?
What if … ?
What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?
What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?
What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?
In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?
What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?
What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?
What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?
What if we imagined the prospects for future configurations of the English speaking countries without any undue idea that the current, deeply flawed arrangements are permanent, or ought to be permanent, or even can be permanent?
What if the Second Elizabethan Era now approaching its end, is an Elizabethan Interregnum, which will turn out not just to be the sunset of an empire, but of the firm rooting of separate nations, a predecessor to a confident and equal participation in a larger union, a new dawn?
What if this era is the necessary predecessor to renewed and reinvigorated institutional forms for the former Empire and Commonwealth, especially the Commonwealth Realms?
What if the next era will not be one of continued fragmentation, and cultural dissolution into the geographic regions where each Anglospheric community happens to lie, but a United Realms of the Commonwealth, a new union of the major English Speaking countries (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), comprising more than 125 million people, which will respect the sovereignty of each, while joining their strengths for the benefit of all?
What if instead of a largely symbolic Commonwealth of Nations this central core or cluster came to have many communities accrete to it by distinct agreements, specific to their own circumstances, regarding trade, defense and movement of people, for their mutual benefit?
Churchill once referred to “…the whole manpower, brain power, virility, valor and civic virtue of the English-speaking world, with all its galaxy of loyal, friendly or associated communities and states… .”
What if that metaphorical galaxy still exists?
What if the story we have all been told for so long is wrong?
What if these strengths, these virtues, this galaxy of peoples, has not declined or fallen?
What if those peoples are even now shrugging off a period of scattered growth and development, and will soon waken to a new life of unified strength, freedom and prosperity?
What if the history of tomorrow is unwritten?
What if the chapters to come can be different than most people think possible?
What if it is up to the current generation to write it?