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England is drifting towards grave civil unrest

Sunday 19 May 2013

By Thomas Pascoe Politics and society Last updated: April 15th, 2013

Were it not for smartphones, England would be close to a state of civil disorder. It is a kingdom divided against itself, but it has so far lacked a single point of controversy around which public discontent can calcify. At the same time, a generation, drained of intellectual vitality and moral vigour, tweets and fidgets its way through a life mediated entirely by the internet. The curious belief that clicking a button can change the world has, for now, largely replaced the civil unrest of earlier generations.

This state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely, though. It concerns me that the outpourings of anger and hate on the Left in the wake of Lady Thatcher’s death have been passed off as the activity of a few dozen oafs. Morons these people may be, but their actions are part of a wider phenomenon. England, always an angry nation, is seething below the surface.

For all that we protest, how many on the Right have not expressed sentiments as ugly and bilious in their own homes? What remains of the compact of politeness which governs our public life has prevented much of this bubbling to the surface, but can any reader of the comments below the line on these blogs really doubt that there is a significant body of opinion in this country which actively despises Muslims, for instance, with a passion and lack of reason which is reminiscent of pre-war Germany?

But where does this anger come from? It arises because we have lost all purpose as a nation. "We are all in this together," we are told. But in what? The practice of austerity. Why must we be austere, people ask? To honour our debts. Debts to whom? To the financial markets, a motley collection including the same groups which caused borrowing to be so great in the first instance. This is our national programme. Rally around that.

We have no cause left to fight for globally. Instead of acting as a guarantor of the balance of power in Europe, we have acquiesced in the peaceful subjugation of national rights by a supranational body marching to the beat of the German drum. The Christian evangelism of Empire has given way to the inglorious world of conference activism.

Domestically, the battles of reform are now largely in the past. The uneven progress to full democracy which ran from the early Plantagenets to the New Liberals is one of the great stories of humanity. Yet, after 85 years of universal suffrage, the nation is as economically stratified as in Edwardian times. True, living standards have increased across the board, but there has been no end to the economic dominance of an oligopoly.

There is now no hope of one either. The energies the English once devoted to improvement through statute they now devote to seeking the deprivation of others. Right and Left argue about what should be confiscated from whom.

The result is that England has turned in on itself. Finding no fault with our system, no claim to stake in the wider world, each class attends itself to the destruction of the privileges of others. Without common cause, our collective energies find an outlet in a drive for destruction.

England, as we knew it, ceased to be sometime in the closing years of the last millennium No country can be the same when its principal city and most of its positions of note are occupied chiefly by people who are ignorant of its history, resentful of its traditions and who scorn its national religion. These people are not immigrants, but the English themselves. Trying to build a new Jerusalem requires a unity of purpose we now lack. I worry that we are building a bonfire instead.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

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