On nationalism: A Response to Paul Kingsnorth
On the night of the EU referendum vote writer Paul Kingsnorth decided to air his views on his Facebook page as to why he was voting to leave. My partner challenged him and she was blocked (unlike the men who also challenged him). He then wrote a blog post entitled “The Grief of the Elites” in response to the Brexit result. Han proceeded to challenge him on this post … I continued where she left off … below is my response:
I know you are pretty stuck in your mindset but I feel I must comment on this thread for I sense an implicit nationalism rising in your words. As someone of Jewish Eastern European heritage on my paternal side (and Olde English on my maternal) I feel I must be vigilant when I think I can smell it. Firstly, I am observing a narrative forming that frames this referendum result as a peasants revolt . Led by Boris, Gove and Farage!? That would be funny if it wasn’t profoundly tragic and simply untrue. And `The Grief of the Elites’. Really? Would that be the same grief felt by Rupert Murdoch? In some ways you are part of an elite yourself are you not?
You say “National cultures grow and form over time. They are distinct and real. England is different to Scotland is different to France is different to Syria because of history, place and practice”
What an incredibly reductionist way of looking at culture.
I disagree with your actual basic assumption. What I do, my culture, could be very different to my neighbours culture. The rituals my community practices may differ from the culture of your community and may have more in common with a community born in the region known as Portugal. Community is an attitude and a corporeal lived experience. And isn’t it community that we all desire?
Conflating culture with national identity is not only lazy but also dangerous. It creates a romanticism, a longing for something that never was and distracts us from creating something now, something real. England is just a flag, a national anthem, a geographical reference point, a trope, an arbitrary boundary drawn, as every other nation state is, in blood.
Romanticism is dangerous… blood and soil. Remember?
I know that many will say that patriotism is different to nationalism but to my mind that is just semantics. Nationalism is akin to patriotism and “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,”.
Just in case you pick me up on my individualism. Of course we are all humans and, ideally, stewards of this planet, that is what unites us in our diversity. Not Nationalism.We should not seek community in nationalism but in each other and the wider non-human community.
You also state “there is no reason that the UK has to be a neoliberal state”. Are you for real? There were good people in the EU working on this across borders. My democratically elected MEP Molly Scott Cato for one. Do you really think we can extricate ourselves from the global economy when we import 40% of our food? A number rising rapidly everyday. We would probably agree that localized small scale farming must be one of the ways that we feed ourselves as we move forward. But we are no where near that place yet!! (I am acutely aware of the CAP but examined the view of experts on this aspect which contributed to my decision to vote remain). Perhaps you are a depopulationist as opposed to a fairer resource distributionist? So as you sit back and contemplate from your Dark Mountain (in the EU?!?) ask yourself one thing, do you really know your shadow?
Whilst I accept the result (even though calling it democracy without accounting for the relentless far right media is dubious to say the least) I feel it even more pertinent to deconstruct any nationalistic tendency when it arises. As for PR resulting in more UKIP MPs, it would also result in more Green MPs and it would be the responsibility of all of us to affect the consciousness of the polity island to prevent a further rise in UKIP and nationalism.
Btw I enjoyed reading Real England when it first came out but I was very disappointed that you never mentioned this island’s rich cultural relationship with cannabis that continues to flourish today….
One final point you use the term “settled British people”… I’m curious what this means? In the words of Michael Rosen “When does a person become indigenous?”
Anyways, just to reiterate we won’t defeat neoliberalism with nationalism or isolationalism.