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The Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana Paperback – February 15, 2002
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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There is a brilliance to much of Hitchens' lamentations in this work that makes for a sadness when one is made to realize all that has been forgotten and wrecked that was good about Britain.
That said, there is much I do not miss that he waxes nostalgic for. Society and culture rarely remain static, and the old adage about hindsight being twenty twenty applies to this book in many ways.
We had a TV commercial back in the 70's that pitched a brand of "brown bread" (it was colored that way, it was not whole grain)called Hovis. It depicted a young working class boy and his dad walking up a steep hill in the early part of the 20th century in a North England town. When they arrive home, cheerful mum has plenty of Hovis on hand. The music in the background, a traditional English brass band, plays a solemn yet cozy tune. By implication it was great back then, everyone was chipper, life was wholesome and of course, so is Hovis bread. A comedian, Tony Capstick, soon recorded a send up song to that tune speaking in voice over as the lad now all grown up that went something like this: I'll never forget that first day down pit(coal mine), me father and me worked a 72 hour shift, then walked 43 miles home in the freezing snow wearing sacks for clothing...we had a lot of good things in them days, rickets, diphtheria.
The book at times does come off as a little like the Hovis ad, and perhaps Hitchens' misty eyes for the past are at points clouded more by sentimentalism than reality. He is a conservative but a statist conservative. He wants the government to nanny society just as liberals do; just in opposite ways. It is perhaps this facet of his thinking that I find most disagreeable. If there are now schools in Britain that are essentially Islamic madrassas that he dislikes, it is a consequence of the state sponsoring Christian schools earlier on that he liked. If homes have become cookie-cutter and characterless it is a consequence of government provided housing. The decline of the church, perhaps a response to having religion as an arm of the state. Hitchens' dislikes the virtual disappearance of the British Union Flag in preference to the specifically English St. George Cross. I consider myself English and not British, because like many of my countrymen I realize that Britain is a political contrivance not an identity.
Hitchens' makes his case eloquently even if not in my opinion always accurately, but we both agree that what Britain is now is a pitiful spectre of it's past great attributes.
Peter Hitchens describes how this world was subverted and finally chain-sawed into oblivion by an unholy coterie of jealous and doctrinaire do-gooders, misfits, intellectuals and an evermore influential leftwing media.
We now live in a geographic entity called Britain where state schools are obliterating our extraordinary achievements with a Stalinist airbrushing of history; where policemen operate like an occupying army; where the media indoctrinate the population with trash culture and scandalously biased `news' and opinion.
Now I know why I became out of sorts with the Archers. Those stolid farmers had become uncertain, self-critical, simpering, lap-dogs to masterful, bossy, manipulative and crusading wives. They were eating quiche for tea and measuring their manure in "kilos". In the novel `1984' George Orwell invoked a creepy feeling of alienness in the reader by having his hero go into an English pub and order a "litre" of beer. Well, pints are still in English pubs - just, but the new Archers' Britain invoked exactly the same feeling of alienness in me. And Peter Hitchens has explained why.
That Archers' England has been captured by scriptwriters, politicians and activists who have a clear agenda - to mock, denigrate and finally wipe out all that they could find of beauty and strength and worth - and replace it with a gender neutral, guilt-ridden, multicultural nightmare. Meanwhile the general population is sedated into apathy by consumer prosperity and brain rotting, social conditioning TV. It is an England that "would have lost at Trafalgar and Waterloo, and given up on the attempt to colonize America, because of the absence of safety nets, sexual equality and proper child care."
This same coterie hypocritically sends their children to élite schools to avoid them being turned into "mannerless, uncultured ignoramuses" by the state cooperative.
Peter Hitchens' work challenges head-on the new taboos and shibboleths erected by this coterie. Of course they spit and fume in frustration when he mercilessly dissects the cancerous, illogical and spiteful nature of their doctrines. Some of them have written sulphurous reviews on this page. Pay no attention to them - they are the Little Folk. Low self-esteem, the worm in the wood, the taint in the blood. They might change masters but they will be forever slaves.
As Anatole Kaletsky wrote, "a nation that loses its self awareness will lose its self-respect" and "Many people have become embarrassed, even afraid of being British". On those nosey, multi-racial official forms I am reduced to writing `Native English' in the `Other' box...
Is there any hope? Peter Hitchens book is a magnificent call to arms. It is required reading for the British people to confront the dry-rot that is eating the heart out of their cultural identity.