- Apr 12, 2008
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Overdosed on Socialism: Great Britain, R.I.P.
David C. Stolinsky
Aug. 15, 2011
Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity.
− Mark Steyn, “After America”
Max Hastings is an eminent British historian. His scathing article on the recent riots in Britain makes enlightening but painful reading. Britain is further along the road to the welfare state than we are, so what is happening there is a warning to us. Our situations are not identical, but they are similar enough that we can look at Britain and see ourselves in a short time. It’s not a pretty sight.
We see rioting and looting by feral young people. The motivating force of the riots was not anger at another racial or ethnic group, but anger at the mere suggestion that their welfare benefits might be reduced.
Their nation will go broke if the benefits are not reduced, but this made no difference to the rioters, any more than practical considerations make any difference to drug addicts. Once a person is addicted to anything − be it heroin or government checks − an attempt to cut off the supply will evoke rage at the supplier, or at anyone handy.
It might be possible to resuscitate Britain from this overdose. But first Britain would have to recognize that there is an overdose, and what the drug is. I see little evidence of this. On the contrary, the “progressive” response is to administer even more of the drug:
● More payments for not working, so there are more people not working − who have nothing to lose by rioting.
● More payments for having children out of wedlock, so there are more fatherless boys − who have no moral principles that inhibit them from rioting.
● More multiculturalism − so there is no respect for British traditions that would preclude rioting.
● More secularism − so there is no concept of sin associated with looting and rioting.
● More liberalism − so there is less punishment for rioting.
In effect, socialists bribe people with money and social programs, in the hope that they won’t become violent. But paradoxically, socialism produces the dependent, entitled, demanding ingrates who are more likely to become violent. Hastings writes:
Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters…
Of course it is true that few have jobs, learn anything useful at school, live in decent homes, eat meals at regular hours or feel loyalty to anything beyond their local gang…
They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong…
They respond only to instinctive animal impulses − to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.
It’s sad to see a person die. But it’s sadder to see a civilization die. When a person dies, the principles and ideals he held dear may be handed down to his heirs. But when a civilization dies, that is the end.
The principles and ideals exist only in books, where we can study them if we are interested in the past, but where they no longer inspire us. When we visit the Parthenon, we are impressed with what the ancient Greeks achieved, but we are also depressed by the decrepit state of the building. We see a reminder of past glory − emphasis on past.
I grew up with admiration for the British people. I saw films like “Gunga Din.” No, it wasn’t a realistic portrayal of British colonialism in India. But it was a history lesson nonetheless. I learned about a murderous religious cult called Thuggee, from which we get the word “thug.” Members strangled their victims for money and to worship the goddess Kali. The cult was suppressed by the British using police and the military. I learned that murderous cults must be suppressed by force.
And I learned to love the sound of bagpipes, and to associate it with the arrival of rescuers intent on defeating a murderous cult. So years later, when I watched the film “The Longest Day,” a portrayal of the Normandy invasion that began the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, I was not surprised when British troops were accompanied by a piper − which actually happened. There they were again, intent on defeating another murderous cult.
Then there were the magnificent speeches of Churchill. During the darkest days of World War II, Britain stood alone against the Nazis for 22 months. The Soviet Union was allied with Hitler for almost two years, France had fallen, and America had not yet entered the war. But there was Churchill:
An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender.
Never give in − never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
You can always take one with you.
That is what I think of when I think of the British − the bulldog determination to defeat tyranny exemplified by Churchill, with the sound of bagpipes in the distance. But the Britain I admired is no more.
Just as the Tower of London is an impressive relic of the past, so is Britain itself. I can visit Edinburgh Castle and see mementos of the heroes who defeated Hitler, and the eagle standard that the Scots Greys seized from Napoleon’s troops at Waterloo. And I can listen to the wail of the pipes. But instead of a rousing march celebrating another victory over tyranny, they are sounding a dirge mourning the passing of an era − and the death of a great civilization.
Britannia used to rule the waves; now she can hardly defend her own sailors and marines. Britannia used to bring civilization to distant lands; now she cannot civilize her own young people. A female rioter declared, “We can show the police we can do what we want.” In two or three generations, the Brits descended from Churchill to that. But don’t feel superior − we are on a similar downhill course. If our current budget deficit requires similar cutbacks in social programs, we may see similar disturbances.
When the people of Magna Carta, the charter of rights dating back to 1215, cannot defend those rights in 2011, it is a sad day.
When the people who survived the Great Depression and World War II allow their great-grandchildren to grow up like animals, it is a sadder day.
And when the people who fought the Nazis for five years cannot stand up against their own feral young people for three nights, it is the saddest day of all.
The pipe tune I first heard as a child, and which caused me to fall in love with that untamed sound, was in the film “Gunga Din.” Later I learned the words. To me, they refer to all those we loved who are no longer with us. But now, they refer to the British nation itself. It’s dying from addiction to socialism. And if we don’t reverse course soon, the pipes will also be sounding a dirge for America.