Magazine article Insight on the News

Dissing British Heritage to Appease a Viewpoint

Magazine article Insight on the News

Dissing British Heritage to Appease a Viewpoint

Article excerpt

In Pax Britannica, a superb three-volume history of the British Empire, Jan Morris wrote that her theme was one "of muddled grandeur." At Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897. the empire was the world's largest, encompassing nearly a quarter of the world's land mass as well as a quarter of its population.

It has been all downhill for our cousins since their valiant defiance of the Nazis during World War II. Though Maggie Thatcher got the sinking old island half bailed out (its economy was second only to that of the United States among the G-8 summiteers in Denver a few weeks ago), the United Kingdom in traditional terms of global power and influence may be pretty much ready for the knacker.

It is conventional wisdom, of course, that colonization was nasty and imperialism evil -- no room for nuance in that pious point of view. But there was a grandeur to the dominion "over pine and palm" and the grand cultural and political legacy that has enriched the world and is America's special inheritance.

The surrender of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China was for practical purposes the coda in the long-running play of empire (Scotland is exuberantly "devolving," Wales has ideas in that direction and Ulster probably will be an asterisk eventually). Hong Kong typifies Great Britain's post-World War II withdrawal from east of Suez, and impressive ritual has not obscured the scuttle back to the home island since 1945.

The end of British dignity is howlingly illustrated by a recent national "marketing" study commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corp. To call the proposals embarrassing is on the order of describing an aroused cobra as touchy

To peddle the nation for "the new millennium," the London marketing firm recommends "Great" be dropped from the name of the kingdom. "Great Britain" implies, after all, an aura that might offend someone somewhere.

The Union Jack should be junked, too, the study asserts. The flag is "no longer representative of modern Britain ... hijacked by right-wing politics, it stands for imperialism in many parts of the world." (The jab at conservatives demonstrates how leftists will abase their country to score petty political points). The marketeers believe that a flag more resembling a corporate logo would be dandy. Red and blue vertical stripes, with "Britain" imprinted in white, catches their fancy. …

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