Voting Leave: Home at Last

Fundamentally, our understanding of the EU referendum reflects what we believe a nation to be. If a nation is a business arrangement, then the EU is just fine. A business has employees who come and go. There is no expectation of unswerving loyalty to a business. If a better opportunity comes up, then an employee can negotiate an exit and take that opportunity. An employee would never be expected to sacrifice his life to preserve the existence of the company. He does not expect his children and grandchildren to work there either. His commitment is simply a matter of temporary mutual convenience; love does not come into it.

But if a nation is more like a family, more like a household, then the EU is a violation of the dignity of that household. The EU claims to provide prosperity, but at the same time stipulates that the householder shall not be able to decide who shall enter. A real sense of belonging, a sense of possession, is thereby denied. You can have wealth just as long as you don’t want to have a home. Because a home without four walls and a door you can lock is a chilly place. It is, in fact, not a home at all.

Love is not general. It is specific. A man who loves women in general is a lecher, and not to be trusted. A man who loves one woman in particular can be a husband and a father, and establish a household securely. A man who loves any country that pays him well does not genuinely love any country. A man who loves one country can serve his country well. He is a patriot. His love for his country does not imply hatred of others. He does not love it because he believes other countries are inferior. He loves it because it is his country. Possession is essential for loyalty; it is essential for love.

Without borders, there is no country to love. Without borders, there is no possibility of patriotism. Patriotism is in effect banned, because anyone who expresses it represents a threat to the vague utopianism of those who claim to promote ‘love for humanity’. But there is no such thing as love for humanity, only love for individual human beings.

Specific love is real and concrete, and permits the one who loves to work with a sense of meaning and purpose. He works to build his household so that he can pass on what he has achieved to his children and grandchildren. He fights to protect his country so that his children and grandchildren can be preserved in freedom in the homeland which they possess.

Everyone wants a home, unless they have been educated out of that desire, and taught to think that abstract utopianism is superior to concrete and specific loyalty. Patriotism is a natural and a beautiful thing, which is just as basic to humanity as the child’s love of his family and the husband’s jealousy of his wife.

There has been a concerted effort by the liberal elite to educate ordinary people out of the desire to belong to a specific place and specific people. Once they have been splintered into isolated individuals with no deep-seated loyalty, they can serve the interests of international capital more efficiently. But this inconvenient human desire to belong, to be loyal, to love, simply will not go away. As G K Chesterton puts it, the common man ‘has been offered bribes of worlds and systems; he has been offered Eden and Utopia and the New Jerusalem, and he only wanted a house, and that has been refused him.’ (from ‘The Homelessness of Jones’, in What’s Wrong with the World).

‘Bribes of worlds and systems’: the abstract notion of European solidarity is no substitute for actually having a place to call your own.

That’s why the EU referendum wasn’t fundamentally about economics. All of the squabbling about how much money goes back and forth was irrelevant, or only important insofar as it impinged upon this one central question: are we going to be allowed a country to live in, or must we surrender it? Are we going to be allowed a home? Are we going to be permitted to love our country? Because we can’t very well love her if she has been legislated out of existence. Strangely, liberal middle class Remainers who agonise about self-determination for Tibet and Palestine are distinctly queasy about allowing the same thing for Sunderland. A white working class person is banned from wanting to possess his country, while the oppressed peoples who form the pet causes of the chattering classes are lauded for wanting this.

I grew up reading The Guardian, convinced that most British people were stupid and needed guiding by their betters, and viewing flag-waving patriotism as boorish and distasteful. After what happened on 23rd June, I am shaking off the last chains of the arrogant liberalism which I absorbed in my youth. I can stand shoulder to shoulder with all those ordinary people who refused to be bullied into surrendering their country, who insisted that they had a right to a land which they could call their own. Well done Britain; I love you for this.

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15 thoughts on “Voting Leave: Home at Last

  1. I’ve been pondering on this a little longer and have worked out where my main issues with the argument rest.

    The main problem with your argument is Yorkshire.

    People love Yorkshire. Boy do they love Yorkshire. And, in so far as Yorkshire has borders, you are right to say that boundaries create things that we can then love. Yet Yorkshire has no status as a state, nor does it have any control over its borders. Yorkshire in the UK has no sovereignty, it cannot pass its own laws, and it has to abide by whatever Westminster decides. Yet people love Yorkshire. People speak of being patriotic Yorkshiremen. If your argument holds, then the existence of the UK is a violation of the dignity of the household of Yorkshire.

    Then there are other points in your argument where you are make poor analogies, or take the case too far.

    I’m not sure you can claim that the EU was doing any of the things that you claim here it was doing. Who knows, maybe Europe will become a sovereign state in the future, but it is certainly not one now. The EU never stopped anyone from loving England (or is it Britain, or the UK, or Yorkshire…?) The EU has made no steps to end the existence of any state.

    To compare the relationship between Tibet and China, or Palestine and Israel, to Sunderland and the UK (or did you mean UK and Europe? I’m not sure anyone in Sunderland wants self-determination) is a weak analogy. No one in Sunderland or the UK has been disenfranchised, or prevented from voting at local, national and European levels. Although the EU Commission is not any more democratic than our own executive in Westminster, the EU most certainly is a democratic organisation with checks and balances that have at times driven it into gridlock. Critics of the EU’s sluggishness would do well to remember that this is the price of having an organisation that is not despotic and which relies on consensus.

    And, finally, I think there is nothing lecherous or insincere about claiming to love humans in a general sense. The great conversations of mankind are not bounded by borders of nation states. Nor was Jesus’ instruction to love thy neighbour qualified to include only those neighbours who were countrymen. Would I risk my life to save the child of a Spaniard, or a Norwegian, or a Russian? I hope so. For our ability to love humans in a general sense, beyond any notion of patriotism or nationality, is I think one of the beauties of our humanity. I do not think leaving the EU will change this, but nor was it necessary to leave the EU to reclaim this.

    Just my thoughts.

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    • I disagree on your Yorkshire point. People can be proud Yorkshiremen and women but more often then not they are also proud to be British as well. They recognise Yorkshire is part of Britain, a constituent element in this land and for it to be secure it takes it’s lead from Britain’s security as a whole since Yorkshire is contained within. If Britain is secure then so is Yorkshire.

      I agree on the wider point of love of humanity. I do love humanity but Anthony’s observations in this area are also accurate in their practicality and real world application.

      Excellent blog overall Mr. Radice.

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    • Yorkshire is in Britain, and loving a particular part of Britain is part of being patriotic. I don’t see any contradiction. Love grows out of the particular circumstances of a person. Every patriotic person will love a specific place and people within his homeland.

      Also, on government for Yorkshire: another of the reasons I voted Brexit, which I didn’t deal with in the blog post, is subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should always be made at the most local level possible, and that when a higher executive abrogates a power that belongs lower down, it is both ineffective and immoral. Therefore I do think there should be more local government and local laws. Westminster is a distant executive, and I would like to see more devolved power. But the most distant of all is Brussels, so getting rid of that is at least a step in the right direction.

      The EU may not be a sovereign state, but it does undermine possession and love of one’s country, because it does not permit control of one’s borders. The rules about who can belong somewhere, and what belonging means, have a huge impact on the identity of a country, and those decisions should be made by the country itself. This is a classic case of the application of the principle of subsidiarity.

      I wasn’t saying that there was a Sunderland Independence Party! I was pointing out that white working class people in places like Sunderland wanted to take back possession of their own country, Britain, which they rightly believed had been stolen from them by a liberal elite who had made decisions on their behalf without consulting them.

      On love for humanity: the principle of love is general, but its application is always specific. In specific circumstances, we may well act charitably towards anyone of any nation. Of course that is right. But the specific circumstances of nationhood are underpinned by the specific love of patriotism. This does not exclude loving, and sympathising with, those outside one’s nation. This is one of the biggest slurs on the patriot. In fact, patriots sympathise with other patriots. An Englishman’s love for England allows him to sympathise with the Frenchman’s love of France. But those who do not have specific attachments see the whole thing as some kind of primitive barbarism of which the masses must be cured. Sorry, they don’t want to be cured. The don’t want to be as rootless as the liberal elite that berates them with its pious internationalism.

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      • Thanks for the reply. In brief, I’m not sure your point about loving Yorkshire as part of Britain addresses my point, as indeed one could love Britain as part of the EU or, indeed, England as part of the U.K. My point here ultimately is about arbitrariness as to what constitutes ‘your country’. I think you argument is underpinned by a notion of the nation state that does not apply to our country (the UK, not Britain, or England).

        On subsidiarity, I have some time for this case and it’s a more rational argument than an appeal to patriotism. It’s why I am agnostic on Scottish independence. The question to determine is at what level any particular decision should be made: international trade agreements, for example, do not need ratification by parish councils.

        And on Scotland, there are plenty of Scots who would accept your argument here about patriotism and fully reject that their love of Scotland comes as part of loving Britain (or, to be accurate, the UK).

        And, finally, what I reject here is the assertion that being part of larger political institutions stops us from loving our country. I have an emotional attachment to Britain, but I also have an emotional attachment to Europe, and to the Westcountry, and to Bavaria, and several other places as well. Some of these places control their borders and others do not, but none of this makes it impossible for me to feel that attachment.

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  2. Michael :if everyone is my Brother then no one is my Brother including my actual Brother because my moral obligations will have been stretched so thin so as to be meaningless…what we are witnessing is the decline in social solidarity brought about through mass immigration . The referendum has simply let the genie out of the bottle . You say you love Humans in general ….maybe you’ve not yet reached my sad old age of 50 or maybe life just has’nt scarred you int he way it has me ….how can one love ‘ Humanity ‘ ? We’re a phenomenon for sure but one does’nt have to love a phenomenon sureley ? Don’t quite get your Yorkshire thing ….

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    • It’s quite possible to love different people and groups in different ways. My love for my sisters differs from my love for my Year 7 pupils which differs again from my love of Devon. One’s love of Yorkshire is not simply a derivative of one’s love of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Indeed, I suspect English patriotism rather than unionism is what played a key role in this referendum.

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  3. What if we think of Europe as the home and the different members of EU as different rooms in that home? Now, my favourite places in my house are my bedroom and kitchen. That doesn’t mean I don’t like my front room or can’t go there when I want to. That also doesn’t mean that I stop my family from coming into the kitchen nor do they stop me from going into the dining room.

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  4. I think that many of your points are pertinent but I would argue that love for humanity is a vaguery but having humanitarian values and principles is not. This distinction is the difference between creating bigots (who see others as somehow sub-human) and patriots (who love their country without it requiring the denigration of others).

    The UN Declaration of Human Rights is interesting in this manner because it sets out the stall for how we should aspire to act towards others and ourselves but roots this in individual societies. Indeed I think the real problem is that many forget Articles 28 – 30 which outline our duties to the society we live in.

    However, the real question is that we are a multicultural country and what is now our duty as members of society to move forward? I will put up my slides from Wellington and I would like it if you could have a look at some point and tell me what you think because I do think we need to think carefully about what and how we teach in relation to British History – I will tag you in when I do.

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  5. Excellent blog and replies.
    Mr Fordham – you state ‘EU most certainly is a democratic organisation with checks and balances that have at times driven it into gridlock.’
    I am sincerely interested in how your reached this conclusion. I do not wish to sound glib, but please can you enlighten me to this claim?

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