“When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir” Thomas Paine
Chinon, France. 17 August, 2011. As I write this I gaze upon the noble ruins of Chinon castle, once the hub of an enormous twelfth century English empire that spanned more than half of France. The regions around Chinon even spoke early English! This enormous monument to permanence is on first sight the very embodiment of power and might. Below Henry II’s great bastion the river Vienne flows serene, a ribbon of velvet across the sun-baked golden landscape of ‘eternal’ France. In the fields sunflowers bow their heads in proud penitence, whilst ripe, purple grapes drip from ancient vines like ruby jewels, awaiting their moment to serve Bacchus. And yet this empire of certainty lasted but one generation before it too crumbled and died like so many before and after. Chinon is in fact a monument to uncertainty.
In many ways Chinon is thus the perfect place to reflect on the events that singed London’s fringe last week. A million miles away, maybe, but even here change and uncertainty are never far from the gilded surface of la France profonde. Coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty has been the genius of a France often besieged on all sides. Coping with change and uncertainty is also the truth we are all facing as the false certainties of the twentieth century fade from this very twentieth-first century present.
What happened in England could befall all Western states if the state fails the people. The riots, what the French call les emeuts, were ended not so much by the state, but by ordinary people of all colours and creeds who sensing the failure of the state began to act. It was as though instinctively the duties of the citizen were recalled and acted upon.
My subject here is hyper-immigration because even if the Whitehall bubble/village does not want to hear it the English street is putting much of the blame for the riots on the frictions caused by uncontrolled hyper-immigration. Clearly, not all of England’s many ills can be blamed on the hyper-immigration of the last fifteen years that was so strangely imposed on the English people by what became known in England as Labour’s Scottish Government of Occupation. Indeed, it is said that Gordon Brown was the best Prime Minister Scotland ever had! This is probably a little unfair but given his obsession with the developing world Brown clearly forgot that development begins at home. In fact Brown was simply at the end of a long-line of left-liberal experimenters who whilst well-meaning to all intents and purposes destroyed the balance between rights and responsibilities upon which all democracies rely.
The first challenge therefore will be to grasp the true nature of the problem. Stopping immigration is not in and of itself the solution. In any case, preventing people seeking a better life is like trying to stop gravity. No, the real challenge will be to deal effectively with the uncertainty engendered by the change hyper-immigration has come to represent.
Rather hyper-immigration has become an easy metaphor for all that is wrong with a deeply divided society. England is a country divided by class, divided by race and dangerously divided between those who pay taxes and those who live off said taxes. Hyper-immigration is also part of Britain’s story. The last chapter if you will of a grand story of empire. Many of the states that were born of the British Empire are corrupt and in some cases close to collapse. They are assailed collectively by massive population growth that their under-developed institutions are simply unable or unwilling to cope with. As a consequence they export people to Britain.
Taken together with the massive influx of Eastern Europeans since 2006 the loss of social cohesion is plain for all to see, save those in the Whitehall village determined to look the other way. The challenge now must be to a) better prepare immigrants to succeed in British society; b) prevent further immigration en masse further adding to the legions of welfare dependents; and c) alleviate the marked fear across much of the indigenous population that is becoming daily more apparent. White flight is a reality in England today.
To do this will require of the elite a political courage they have lacked for a generation. It is a mark of the thought fascism that pervades much of the chattering class, who by and large do not have to live with the consequences of their social engineering, that only ethnic minorities may talk about race. The fact is that race is intrinsically linked to culture and identity. Endlessly and disingenuously talking up diversity as though it is strength whilst at the same time failing to confront the negative consequence of difference has led to millions of people leading parallel rather than connected lives. The disconnect between policy and reality has thus become starkly dangerous. David Cameron, employing one of the endless metaphors politicians use to avoid using ‘race’ or ‘immigrant’, likes to talk about Britain’s ‘communities’. They are in fact more like ghettoes and becoming ever more so.
So what lessons do I now draw from the les emeuts. First, it is not too late to rebuild English society. However, government must realize that having seen their sense of fair play and tolerance exploited ruthlessly by both Left and Right over hyper-immigration the English are reaching the end of their tether. Second, whilst multiculturalism as a social entity is a fact the way multiculturalism has been enacted as policy has created the impression immigrant cultures are promoted at the expense of English culture and identity. The Left likes to say England has no culture as such to justify this. In fact, England has a rich tapestry of regional cultures that need protecting. Third, the left-liberal experiment by which all malfeance is either forgiven or explained away is so denuding the individual of responsibility that society is rapidly subsiding into an abyss Fourth, it is time to stand up to all those on the Left who accuse of racism anyone with a point of view on hyper-immigration not of their own ilk. This has cowed the majority into an angry silence over what is one of the most profound changes to English society ever seen.
What’s next? The way out of this mess – for that is what it is – will require enlightened conservatism (with a small ‘c’). There must be a new concept of citizenship promoted actively and ruthlessly across the school system and beyond, driven by a bipartisan political consensus with roots deep into civil society. The duties of citizenship will be listed and communicated – loyalty to the state; respect for the law; respect for others and their property. Above all, political leaders must not only stop talking in metaphors about hyper-immigration and its consequences, but recognize that it is precisely that issue that concerns society above all others. That debate must be legitimized once and for all.
Finally we must not only face up to the fact of hyper-immigration but begin to build a new country around it. For then we will be better placed to cope with the many uncertainties that lie before us all and only then can we finally take race out of the social equation.
Former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson once said that Britain had lost an empire, but had yet to find a role. He was wrong. Britain did not lose an empire…it simply moved in.