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.