The Arrogance of Ignorance
Tim Steel writes for DOT
We learn, many of us, at school, first to cope with the bullies and the braggers, and then, if we have any empathy, to learn that these unpleasant behavioural characteristics are, invariably, those of the more deeply insecure.
And so, we find, it is, also, with groups of people…even entire nations. The ancient claim, on behalf of Britain, that she ‘ruled the waves’. Britain was, in its time, armed with virtually limitless supplies of gunpowder (from the banks of the Ganges, incidentally) probably a more realistically justifiable claim. Even if the making of the claim of sea faring domination came perhaps a little later than the fact that from the mid 18th century to the late 19th century it proved to be the case, both on land as well as sea.
However it was Dean Acheson, President Harry Truman’s great Secretary of State, who acutely observed in 1962 that ‘Great Britain has lost an Empire and not yet found a role’. The observation was made in 1962, a year before Britain joined the organisation that became the EU.
Sadly, many British…or perhaps here it would be truer to say English, were not satisfied either, as simply members of a club of nations. At least it has seemed increasingly unless they were allowed to call the shots in the Club.
It would be easy to claim that the British have simply become a race of braggers and bullies, but to be fair, that would not be true…especially not to the Scots, Irish and Welsh who were, curiously if fact, amongst the most prominent architects of Empire.
No; sadly, it appears to be the more traditional English who would, rightly or wrongly, often claim Anglo Saxon descent.
However, let’s not get too caught up in the ethnicity of this rapidly evolving appearance of national hubris.
Both Welsh, and Scots, have a strong tradition of true education…the Irish, for the most part, never even had much of an opportunity to match that, having for centuries lived under English domination and Roman Catholic rule, in which education was not encouraged beyond slavish adherence to ancient doctrine.
The foundations of Brexit may be found both in these lingering traditions, and the evident aversion to the creation of an education system that equips the young to do more than acquire skills to serve the masters.
‘Britain has been exposed to the world as possessing an arrogant and incompetent ruling elite’, writes Aditya Chakrabortty, the British journalist of Bengali descent. British, but clearly not just ‘English’ writing on the recent UN report commenting on Britain’s war on its poor. It seems that family origins beyond the British Isles has assisted a greater objectivity in viewing what may well prove to be the final wreckage of the once great Empire.
It is not without its significance that both Scotland and Northern Ireland…whatever the very ‘English’ loving government of the latter may have decided, voted to remain in Europe; so too, it would appear, did the majority of the more truly traditionally Celtic parts of Wales.
It is also, possibly, no coincidence that respect for education is far greater in those ‘Remainer’ parts of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.
Brexit, of course it may be no coincidence, emerged as the European Union began to take a greater interest in the many schemes of offshore and anonymously owned facilities for tax avoidance and evasion, and an appeal to the sad, post imperial ‘nationalism’ of the English living in what is, also, a post industrial England, proved to have potential to take UK out of Europe, in a campaign apparently larded with excessive expenditure.
A complete inability to look beyond immediate gratification and consider what price may have to be paid beyond that gratification appears to have manifested itself in the slim majority that Brexit commanded. Far from a uniquely British phenomenon in a worldwide age offering ‘instant gratification’ to the populations of especially so called ‘developed nations’ it has certainly revealed itself in Britain.
A supreme manifestation of failure to look beyond tomorrow’s interests. Britain it seems has still not found any role in the world that suits their pride. But have discovered a means of employing the arrogance of ignorance to bridge the gap.
The writer is a Marketing and Communications Specialist.