Could I please obtain a copy of your remarks where you cited George Bernard Shaw as to Englishmen's natural tendency to think that permanency was theirs just because they were born in England. I think the quote went something like "Don't think that God's laws will be changed just because you were born here." Thanks much.
MARK SAYS: Well, you can "obtain a copy" of my remarks very easily, because I made them in a book, now available at all good bookstores and most bad ones, too. The idea is to save my kids from the poor house, and my employees from having to moonlight as crack dealers. But, just to whet your appetite, here's the relevant passage. I chance to be passing through London at the moment, and the level of denial and absence of historical memory in Britain's media is quite remarkable.
Don't forget, if you've a favorite column or even a favourite column you'd like us to reprise, drop me a line here.
The new Britannia
from After America, August 8th 2011
Unlike the French and the Russian, the British Revolution happened overseas - in their American colonies, when British subjects decided they wanted to take English ideas of liberty further than the metropolis wanted to go. You can measure the gap in the animating principles between the rebellious half of British North America and the half that stayed loyal to the Crown: The United States is committed to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", Canada to "peace, order and good government". Britain has always been a more paternalistic society, with a different sense of the balance between "liberty" and "order". That's what comes with being an imperialist: The old British elite took it for granted that they had a planet-wide civilizing mission. As the empire waned, a new elite decided to embark on a new civilizing mission closer to home. It turned out to be a de-civilizing mission. There is less and less liberty and opportunity to pursue happiness in the new Britain, and little evidence of order and good government.
Does the fate of the other senior Anglophone power hold broader lessons for the United States? For many Americans, it will be a closer model of decline than Greece. It's not so hard to picture a paternalist technocrat of the Michael Bloomberg school covering New York in CCTV less for terrorism than to monitor your transfats. Britain is a land with more education bureaucrats than teachers, more health-care administrators than doctors, a land of declining literacy, a threadbare social fabric, and an ever more wretched underclass systemically denied the possibility of leading lives of purpose and dignity in order to provide an unending pool of living corpses for the government laboratory. A people mired in dependency turning into snarling Calibans as the national security state devotes ever more of its resources to monitoring its own citizenry.
You cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without grave consequence. We are approaching the end of the Anglo-American moment, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world. Even as America's spendaholic government outspends not only America's ability to pay for it but, by some measures, the world's, even as it follows Britain into the dank pit of transgenerational dependency, a failed education system and unsustainable entitlements, even as it makes less and less and mortgages its future to its rivals for cheap Chinese trinkets, most Americans assume that simply because they're American they're insulated from the consequences. There, too, are lessons from the old country. Cecil Rhodes distilled the assumptions of generations when he said that to be born a British subject was to win first prize in the lottery of life. On the eve of the Great War, in his play Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw turned the thought around to taunt a ruling class too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming. "Do you think," he wrote, "the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?"
In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.
from After America
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