The New Culture Forum’s So What You’re Saying Is series has been making waves on YouTube for good reason: the series has given free voice to a whole retinue of outstanding speakers whose opinions are normally talked over on conventional current affairs broadcasts. The latest episode, an interview with Melanie Phillips, is no exception.
Phillips is perhaps unique among contemporary commentators for the depth of her insight, not only into the current social and political landscape, but also for how we reached this point – and therefore what is likely to emerge from it.
It’s worth taking the time to watch the full 40 minute interview, but there are two particular highlights which get right to the nub of where we now are.
Firstly, reflecting on what the Brexit vote means culturally, Phillips relayed the two thoughts she had upon hearing the outcome of the referendum back in 2016.
“The first was: Britain now has a chance of rescuing itself,” she told host Peter Whittle. “For the first time ever in my professional – and indeed in my entire – lifetime, the agenda of the West- destroying left had been stopped. The West-destroying left which believes that the very idea of a Western nation, the very idea of a British nationality based on its historic traditions, culture, religion, language, literature, all of that they hold up as racist.
“We’ve been told that year in year out. [It has been] expressed in the education system, expressed in the culture. People have had it thrust down their throats – and look, that’s what they voted for.
“So for the first time I thought: Britain now has a chance of regaining its identity, and thus pulling itself out of the state of cultural demoralisation, which in my view it’s been in since the end of the Second World War, which made it prey to all these negative West-destroying, Britain-destroying ideologies.
“So if it became itself again and thrived, then there’s a chance that it can recover from it’s cultural demoralisation. That was my first thought.
“My second thought was: they’ll never allow it.”
‘They’ll never allow it’ – how prophetic that thought was. As we sit on the brink of a third missed Brexit deadline, over three years on from that fateful vote, it must now be clear to any thinking person that there is indeed a sort of conspiracy of liberal opinion against the sovereign state of Britain, and against the mainly working class Britons who voted for it.
The inevitable outcome has been the rise of what the chattering classes sneeringly call ‘populism’ – Donald Trump in America, Brexit in Britain, Le Pen in France, Alternative For Germany and so on. Philips acknowledges that some of these movements are wholesome expressions of nationalism, others less so, veering even into expressions of the old Nazism, but all, she elucidates, are an outcome of the suppression of a healthy expression of Western patriotism.
“You’ve got a situation where the entire political establishment in the West has basically sung from the same hymn sheet for decades,” she says, “which, with some variations, has been: we have to be in a globalist world, not just because it’s economically to our advantage, but because there is something terribly wrong with the very idea of the nation state.
“In my view, this demoralisation across the West goes back to the Holocaust and the Second World War. In fact, I would say it goes back further – it goes back to the trenches of the First World War, and you could say that it’s actually wrapped up with the 18th C enlightenment which had the seeds of this destruction because it elevated the individual – but that’s a bigger and more complex argument.
“You can certainly say that the Second World War and the Holocaust had a shattering effect on Western morale because there it was: one of the very worst crimes in human history, in the very crucible of high Western culture.
“Germany. A country which thought of itself as so cultured, so educated; it loved Goethe, it loved Beethoven, it loved Schiller, and it produced one of the most barbaric regimes ever known to humanity. I think that did something terrible to the Western idea of itself as the embodiment of reason, the embodiment of progress.
“In particular the idea that the nation did this, that nationalism did this. In my view, this is a mistake, because in my view Hitler was not a nationalist. Indeed, Hitler despised nationalism as being petty and narrow. What Hitler was, in his mind, was an imperialist. He was going to restore the Holy Roman Empire. To that end, he had to occupy everyone else’s country. And if Britain hadn’t been nationalist, if Britain in 1940 hadn’t had the strongest belief in itself as a nation, defending itself against oppression and tyranny – a nation that understood what it was, founded upon the principles of democracy and liberty and all that, it would never have fought Hitler.
“So this is a profound mistake, but that mistake has led people to negate the idea of the nation in Europe, so the peoples in Europe have nowhere to go. They have no way of expressing their belief of themselves as a nation.”
It is certainly a truism to note that there are healthy expressions of nationalism, and there are unhealthy expressions. Our task, as we fight merely to keep the flame of British patriotism alive, must be to cleave to moral expressions of what it means to be British: “Play up! Play up! And play the game!” and always to rigorously oppose dishonest expressions, which has never been the British way.
Watch the whole interview here: