Melanie Phillips

17 April 2013

An elegy for England

Published in: Melanie's blog

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What was so moving, in the end, was that Baroness Thatcher was buried as a simple Christian. Borne on a gun-carriage to St Paul’s cathedral as a great warrior statesman, Margaret Hilda went as a humble human soul to meet her ultimate fate, as must we all. But what a faith she had, blazing out in those magnificent, soaring hymns and readings that she had apparently so carefully chosen.

The funeral ceremonial was pitch-perfect, solemn but beautiful and uplifting, and choreographed and staged with flawless precision. This after all is what Britain still does so well. So much so that some foolish folk have allowed themselves to get carried away and claim that this shows Britain essentially still remains the same great country it always was.

What a short attention span such individuals must have. Sure, the protests that had been threatened for the funeral, by people whose gross disrespect for the dead suggests an equivalent and alarming contempt for the living, were kept at bay or drowned out by the many who made a point of standing up for elementary decency along the route. 

But Britain is now a country where behaviour that was once unthinkable is now routine. Where the mob is unleashed every minute on social media to make vile remarks, to bully and intimidate. Where reasoned argument has been substantially replaced by vilification and insult. Where so many have been moronically parroting the conformist whine of the day, that Mrs T had been a divisive figure -- as if any true leader does not create argument and controversy

Where young people are so devoid of compassion or respect for another human being, so convulsed by hatred as a result of their narcissistic incredulity that there can be any viewpoint other than their own, that they actually gloated and danced in the streets over the death of a frail 87 year-old who had lost her mind. And then they and those who shared their point of view of Lady Thatcher actually accused her of making Britain selfish and uncaring!

It is indeed becoming a selfish, brutalised, uncaring society. But this is the result of fundamental social and cultural changes -- like the fragmentation of the family, the refusal to transmit a common culture through education, the balkanisation of Britain through multiculturalism, the victim culture which gives a free pass to certain privileged groups for their bad behaviour. 

All these changes flowed from the tremendous onslaught by the left upon the Judeo-Christian values of the west, and the replacement of the bonds of duty which keep a society together by a rampant hyper-individualism and group rights which break it apart on the rocks of selfishness.  

Margaret Thatcher’s flaw was to view everything through the narrow prism of economics, and thus fail altogether to appreciate the need to shore up those bonds of tradition, custom and informal obligation which could not be fitted into the model of the free-market. She left the battleground of the culture war all but undefended.  Those politicians who came after her took a culture that was already beginning to smash against the rocks of individualism and delivered, in many different ways and under different political banners, the coup de grace.

What has also been gradually eroded in this tragic process are virtues associated specifically with England -- not with Britain, but with England or Englishness, the dominant culture within Britain: those knightly qualities of gentleness and tolerance, lion-hearted decency, stoicism and emotional self-restraint, innate fairness and a passion for order. 

Does Dan Hodges, who apparently finds this argument so ludicrous, really think we shall ever have another leader prepared to defend the Britain that embodied those values? Our leaders have spent years not defending but wilfully destroying the bedrock characteristics of British national identity, based on that dominant English culture, in order to replace it with something entirely different.

Yes, we still do these great events incomparably well. Yes, there are still the decent British who turn out in great number to demonstrate their attachment to what Britain once represented.  But they are being replaced by younger generations who in their uneducated ignorance don’t even know what has been lost, let alone care, and who can no longer even think for themselves to go against the deadening consensus.

That’s why I felt it wasn’t just Lady Thatcher being buried in London today.  

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography

Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie