A Serious Discussion with The English Eccentric
Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with The English Eccentric (pictured above), a girl who within the last few months has created an endless stream of British patriotism-themed internet memes and propagated them via her popular Facebook page, which at the time of writing nearly has a none-too-shabby 5000 followers. I discovered that underneath the exterior of this quirky online humourist lie serious convictions, motives, and ideals. Our discussion is below; my words are in italics and underlined, while hers are not.
Firstly, when did you start your page, and why?I started it late July/early August 2017, because I wanted a place to share the content that I was making.
Quite recent really. That's approximately when you first appeared in my timeline.
Obviously, your page is patriotically themed.
Quite simply, why be patriotic? And why is promoting patriotism important to you? Or is this just a side-effect of a sense of humour you find entertaining?
Well, that's quite a big question. For the first question I would say that patriotism is a natural consequence of the realisation that, as a native inhabitant of this island, I hold an ancestral linkage with the people who created the history and culture of the place. When I was a child my parents always used to take me out to castles and museums, so I very quickly developed an appreciation for British history. It's vastly important to promote it as I feel it is important for people to feel proud of their history and heritage. I suppose the humour element helps the appeal for some people.
Do you not feel that this sense of pride can be dangerous? E.g. resulting in racism, or the jingoism of the First World War.
Of course, but the same can be said for most things. Religion in its most natural form is generally a thing of good, but in excess can lead to disaster. Moderation is key. You need to have some sense of pride, but not excessively so.
Why the "need" though? My ancestors have lived in England since time immemorial. Why should I be proud of that?
That is rather like asking "Why should you love your family?". You should be proud of it because the culture, traditions, and institutions which they uphold are the ones which have formed you into the person you are today. When we feel part of a nation, we become part of something greater than ourselves, which transcends the everyday - life is imbued with so much more meaning and fullness.
So, to clarify:
1. you love your country in the same way that you love, say, your mother: because it created you and you see bits of yourself in it.
2. for the experience of tribalism.
I understand. A third reason why I personally have a fondness towards Great Britain is simply because it is my home. The land where I grew up.
So, you believe that a moderate patriotism is worth some of its uglier risks.
Oh, and a fourth reason for patriotism (you should be interviewing me!): a quote from G.K. Chesterton comes to mind, something along the lines of "Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her".
That's very true.
I suppose the only good argument against national patriotism is the "imagined communities" one.
Which goes that, nations are fundamentally imaginary constructs - "imagined communities", as you may spend your life not meeting the majority of the national population.
It's awfully funny you should mention that, as I read a few chapters of that book last week and it was discussed this morning in my lecture.
I would say that the criticism is rather pointless as it doesn't change the fact that nations (in some forms or another) have existed ever since humans climbed down from the trees. Tribalism is somewhat innate within humans and so although our allegiances to various groups may change and develop it is still the same. The imagined communities criticism doesn't seem to solve any of the problems. It acts merely as a descriptor. Sort of like if I say that cancer is what happens when cells multiply out of control - that sentence doesn't offer any solutions.
I understand. All tribes are fundamentally imagined.
And I believe Peter Hitchens has said the nation-state is the highest point at which a spirit of shared community can be fostered (even if you don't actually meet everyone in that community).
If anyone does manage to create a nation which encompasses the whole human race I'll take my hat off to them though. (Note: I was here referring to a spirit of shared human identity, rather than a "world state", but I fear I may have been misunderstood.)
Hitchens is spot on with that one. The idea of a unified human state is... somewhat terrifying and Orwellian to me.
True. If it became a tyranny then there would be nowhere to flee. The separation of the world into different sovereign states can be viewed as a safeguard against tyranny so long as one free country is still standing. International war, I suppose, can be viewed as the price to pay for that safeguard.
Are you pessimistic, or optimistic, about Britain's future?
I tend to swing between both. I'd say my usual temperament leans towards pessimism.
This kind of leads me to my next question: is there a political party or movement in the UK which you support? Or particular politician.
Well, I'd class myself as a traditional Burkean/One Nation style Conservative, but my philosophy isn't well matched by any particular party. I have hopes that the Conservative party can return to their (actually) conservative roots. I am fond of Jacob Rees-Mogg and think he is bringing a renewal of traditional conservatism into politics. He is a breath of fresh air.
Ah, I predicted you would mention Mr Rees-Mogg! There seems to be a resurgence in traditional conservatism amongst young people. Although, I'm not sure if it is a "resurgence" as such, or simply just the next generation of right-wingers.
I think it is a resurgence, definitely. In a world in which the public, media, and intellectual sphere is dominated by progressivism, constructivism and post-modernism, conservatism offers a return to the traditional institutions of society which formed the foundations of how we lived. Evola described fascism as a 'revolt against the modern world', and the same can be said for here.
If I may elaborate slightly further;
We live in a society in which concepts such as religion, the nation, the family, the very foundations of how we identify ourselves, are being constantly questioned and even destroyed. We are in a mass-consumerist era where the philosophy is that the more you buy, the happier you are. We are constantly bombarded with sex in advertising and entertainment, all of which creates a trite, vapid, and vacuous mode of existence. People are looking for something else.
The higher meaning or calling, you mean.
Exactly. What Scruton calls the "sanctification" of life.
I suppose we cannot know if it is truly a "resurgence" without the data.
Yes. Unfortunately all we have at the moment is first-hand experience.
Actually, I would probably say conservatives are a smaller minority in this generation than the last, just a very vocal and rejuvenated one. Just my opinion, based on what I've seen. But this generation's batch of conservatives are new.
That's a possibility. But I don't think we'll have any concrete ideas until proper election polling occurs.
It may be a small movement but I do think it's a new one. I think there are more conservatives in my parents' generation, but those conservatives are the "last remnants" of a dwindling minority. I think many of the conservatives of our generation are of a new tradition; that is, they are conservatives by conversion rather than inheritance.
Yes. What we are seeing is the birth of a new, reactionary conservatism.
Yes - reactionary. That's the key word. In that sense you're only "conservatives" insofar as you want to conserve what little is left from before the Cultural Revolution. But mostly you're "reactionaries", because you're reacting to the Cultural Revolution and creating something new to replace it with.
It's cyclical. That's how ideologies are formed. From one reaction against the current paradigm to the next.
You mentioned Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Conservative Party. Young members of this reactionary movement are turning towards the Tories because they have nowhere else to go (now that UKIP is being flushed away). Many of them know full well that it is far from its genuinely conservative roots, but think they have no other choice. They think they can change it from the inside. I know one young Conservative who plans to do this. Hence, the "Activate" organisation, "Moggmentum", etc.
But I have heard Peter Hitchens say (who wrote a brilliant book on the Conservatives - "The Cameron Delusion") that since Michael Howard's tenure as Leader, the Party has become centralised and it is now effectively impossible for a genuine small-c conservative to become Leader. Hitchens therefore advocates its abandonment by genuine conservatives so that it may crumble, so that a genuine conservative party may stand any chance of taking its place.
To which opinion do you lean - should the Tories be infiltrated or abandoned?
The pragmatic in me says that it would be very difficult for a 'new' party to get off the ground and significantly change things. I think the best method would be infiltration. To slowly make conservative policies appealing to the party members and general public.
To clarify: you mean that, post-Tory destruction, it would be difficult for a specifically traditional conservative party to get off the ground?
Yes. Also that the main party wouldn't collapse. Labour and Conservative will be locked in perpetual battle like primordial beings, it seems.
The Conservative Party is very good at clinging on to life, like a wealthy elderly relative who just won't die. And the Labour Party has experienced a resurgence under Corbyn.
It is the most successful party in any democratic system. It is astonishingly resilient.
I think Jeremy Corbyn was democratically elected; that's why he won. If such a system were introduced to the Tories, Jacob Rees-Mogg would be a very likely winner.
I think so too.
All right, I want to go into re-wind a bit here. You mentioned a reason for your patriotism was that you are descended from Britons who lived here thousands of years ago.
What about immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants? Where do they figure in your ideal of Britain as a patriotic country?
That's a very complex question. I don't want to get into the semantics of what defines someone as 'British' as it's a very contentious topic, but I think if someone is willing to work for the country, integrate with our culture, respect and follow our values, then I have no problem with that.
My girlfriend, for instance, is of Nigerian parentage. But she considers herself British and loves this country to the point that out of patriotic loyalty won't let us move Down Under!
Her and others like her have also been shaped by our ancestors, if not by blood, but by values and culture. Would you agree?
Of course. We've a had a tremendous effect on the world, for good and bad.
Ah, a final question. Do you have any opinions on how Brexit is being handled? Where would you like to see Britain with regards to the EU?
I personally admire May for her courage in dealing with Juncker and the EU, as they are making things tremendously difficult. I can certainly see the difficulties with getting a deal which is best for everyone. I would personally like to see us navigate a deal which leaves us with as much decision-making power as possible.
I'm all out of questions. 🙂
Thank you so much for your time!
No worries, I enjoyed talking with you!
I, too, believe that patriotism is important (yes, it's Dominic talking again now). I support the country I happen to live in because it's rational to do so; it's where I and most of my loved ones live (if the United Kingdom is successful then some of that success will improve our daily lives), but I am also fond of Great Britain simply because it is home, and also because the world owes it a great deal. Does this make me a patriot? Yes, it does, but there is another important reason for anyone to be patriotic. Humans, being the advanced apes that we are, naturally become tribalistic about shared identities, and being tribalistic about a shared country is more inclusive than being tribalistic about a football team, ethnic minority, or village. What patriotism does is generate a shared sense of identity in a sovereign state to overcome these lesser loyalties so that inter-tribal conflict can be avoided and so that the state can therefore run more smoothly. If the various tribes and nations of South Africa, for instance, valued their South African identity over their tribal identity, much violence would be prevented and that country would be happier, friendlier, and more prosperous.