Thursday, 7 July 2016

Being Superior to the Foreigner.

A phrase suddenly dropped into my head yesterday:

There’s no such thing as a foreigner.

Like most sound bites, of course, it would have to be expanded for the sake of argument. ‘Foreigner’ is not an absolute term, but a relative one. People who come from London are foreigners to me because I wasn't born in London. Welsh people are foreigners because I’m English and they’re not. (And isn’t it interesting that the very term ‘Welsh’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘foreigner?’) Nonsense, right? The concept of ‘foreign’ is defined by the concept of the nation state. So if the Scots have another referendum and choose to break from the UK, Scottish people will become foreigners. OK, that’s that settled.

But it still disturbs me greatly that one of the contenders for the Tory Party leadership in Britain, Andrea Leadsom, today claimed that she truly believes that Britain can become ‘the greatest country on earth.’ Now we really are into the realm of nonsense.

How does one define ‘the greatest country on earth’? The richest country? The most powerful country? The country to which the rest of the world looks up? The country which the rest of the world fears?

This is supremely childish language. It’s the language of the jingoist, the egoist, the right wing extremist. I thought we’d moved on from that sort of thing after the fascist movement in Europe was finally defeated in 1945 and the League of Nations created. Why would I or any other intelligent person want Britain to be the greatest country on earth? What we want is for Britain to be a safe, peaceful, happy, tolerant, prosperous place to live. You don’t have to be the greatest country – whatever the phrase means – to achieve that. Was Germany a good place to live in the late 1940s after the Nazis’ aim to be the greatest country on earth had been thwarted? Would it have been a good place to live if the Nazis had won? For some maybe, but think of the darker consequences. And I’ve read that Denmark routinely comes top of the life satisfaction surveys. Does Denmark ever strut some childish aspiration to be the greatest country on earth? So who is Andrea Leadsom trying to impress? Or who is she trying to kid? Why are senior politicians so ready to hold themselves up to ridicule by all but those who can't see or think beyond the flag? Maybe it's because an awful lot of people like to delude themselves that they are superior to foreigners.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair today answered the suspiciously mild criticism of him in the Chilcot Report by claiming that the world is a better place for his decision to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent foreign civilians (not mention a few hundred non-foreign service personnel whose families are not very happy.) Good; now we can rest easy.

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