Thursday, 16 March 2017

Time and war

Responding to an SNP MP yesterday, the UK Prime Minister made it clear that there is a huge difference between membership of the EU and being part of the UK.  And she's right, there is indeed; it's just that the important differences aren't the ones she highlighted. But what she said provided yet another indication (as if we needed one) of British nationalist thinking.

The first difference she highlighted was one of time.  She pointed out that we've only been in the EU for 40 years, but the union between England and Scotland has existed for over 300.  As a simple statement of fact, it's incontrovertible; but what is it about the passage of time which makes the difference?  And how much time, exactly, is enough for something to become 'permanent'?

I doubt anyone will give me a sensible or logical answer to that second question, precisely because setting any particular time limit, no matter how short or long, is self-evidently arbitrary. Well, it is to me; it clearly isn't to May, but doubt that she would have a clue about how much time is 'enough', even if she had stopped to think about that before making her statement.  I suspect that the real underlying answer is simply that it's another version of the usual fallback on British exceptionalism - in essence "because UK"; no more detail required.

She did though give us a clue as to the first point, about why the passage of time makes things more 'permanent'.  And the first part of that was the tried and tested "We have fought together". Whatever the question, this always seems to be the first line of defence of 'Britishness' and of what makes us 'British'; for jingoistic British nationalists like May, the unifying factor always comes back to the perceived glorious military might of the UK.  Wars, apparently are what unite us.  Perhaps, in some twisted form of logic, that's why the UK has started and fought so many of them.  

Precisely because it's one of the unwritten laws of Britishness that fighting wars together is central to our identity, it never occurs to these people that, actually, this attitude to war and the rest of the world, and Britain's place in it, might be part of what drives some of us to want not to be part of the UK any more.

No comments: