JOHN PODSNAP is a minor persona in Dickens’s final performed original,“Our Mutual Buddy”, but he will not be likely to forget. He is convinced that England is the most efficient of all imaginable worldwide locations and the relief of the field is nothing greater than “a mistake”. His invariable verdict on the manners and morals of different worldwide locations is “No longer English”, delivered “with a flourish of the arm and a flush of the face”. Encountering a Frenchman at dinner, he presents the “sadly born foreigner” a lecture on “le structure Britannique”. “We Englishmen are very ample with our structure…it used to be bestowed upon us by windfall. No other country is so favoured as this country.”
The observe Podsnappery has since stumbled on its design into the Oxford English Dictionary. But as E.P. Thompson, a Marxist historian, pointed out, many English of us endure from the opposite deformation: reverse Podsnappery. This proceeds from the premise that other worldwide locations are advisable in every design (in particular in relation to food and sex) and Britain is infinitely homely. Reverse Posdnappery is in particular primary amongst the easier classes. There is one thing about an expensive education in personal colleges and Oxbridge that disposes of us to hate their have country. A darkish quantity of English literature is a protracted model of Cyril Connolly’s complaint that England is “a dying civilisation—decadent but in such a damned boring design”.
The Brexit vote has equally divided Britain into two camps. Podsnaps are glad that England is breaking far off from the continent, with its meddling bureaucrats and Napoleonic staunch code (Podsnaps would possibly perhaps perchance simply protest “Britain” but they truly mean “England”). Reverse Podsnaps mediate Britain is rejecting cosmopolitan values in favour of a hideous Diminutive Englandism. What makes the argument frustrating is that both enjoy reality on their facet.
Thus Podsnaps commence with factual elements. Britain does enjoy a uniquely fortunate historical previous. It by no manner skilled modern scare indulge in France or jap Europe or collective insanity indulge in Germany. It contrived ways of limiting the vitality of the order thru parliament and the primary law sooner than some other immense country. It achieved the pivotal role in saving the continent from Nazi Germany. Right here's a historical previous to be ample with.
But this sense turns into nonsense when Podsnaps echo their hero’s peep that Britain possesses these virtues “to the instruct exclusion of such other worldwide locations as there would possibly perhaps perchance simply happen to be”, or after they mediate being ample alongside with your country manner having a research down on others. It's miles an oddity of in kind Britain that the main practitioner of turning sense into nonsense—Mr Podsnap in in kind dress—desires to be the distant places secretary. Boris Johnson looks to regard foreigners as figures of fun and likes to veil that every one factual issues were invented in Britain. In some unspecified time in the future of the 2008 Olympics he claimed that, even though the Chinese would be champions at desk tennis, the game used to be “invented on the dining tables of England within the nineteenth century…it used to be known as ‘wiff-waff’.”
Reverse Podsnaps also commence with factual elements. British historical previous is marred by imperialism and exploitation. A colossal virtue of Britain has been its openness to distant places suggestions and intellectuals. Some of us voted for Brexit for discreditable causes. But reverse Podsnaps snatch factual insights to ridiculous lengths. Emily Thornberry, now the shadow distant places secretary, once posted a tweet mocking a “white-van man” who draped his home with flags of St George. Tom Gann, editor of Contemporary Socialist, maintains that “Britain has the most morally and intellectually degraded and degrading public sphere on the planet”. A YouGov poll final October stumbled on that forty six% of Londoners named “Londoner” as their main identification, 25% European, 17% British and most efficient 12% English.
Reverse Podsnappery is printed by double-mediate in relation to nationalism. Even when English nationalism is the sum of all evils, other forms of nationalism (Irish, Scottish, Palestinian) are fervently embraced. It's miles usually outlined by parochialism. Reverse Podsnaps are less drawn to other worldwide locations than within the usage of them to attack their have. As soon as upon a time they would possibly perhaps fixate on the Soviet Union as a kind of criticising Britain. Now they are likely to fixate on Germany.
Jeremy Corbyn is to reverse Podsnappery what Mr Johnson is to Podsnappery. No topic being brought up in a manor home in Shropshire, the Labour leader has spent his existence in insurrection in opposition to “Englishness”. On leaving college he decamped to Jamaica (the put he used to be is named “beardie”) and Latin The US. As a young MP he beloved to clean down in Irish bars singing Irish freedom songs. He helps an alphabet soup of national-liberation movements. He brought the same starry-eyed credulity to Venezuela that Sidney and Beatrice Webb did to the Soviet Union.
Podsnaps and reverse Podsnaps are both within the grip of the same mistake. They refuse to recognise that every one developed worldwide locations battle with primary complications reminiscent of low enhance, stress from refugees and rising inequality. They fail to scrutinize that economic choices are about alternate-offs, not discovering eternal alternatives. The German emphasis on practicing and the British desire for flexibility both enjoy costs and advantages. But fairly than confronting this error they satisfaction in egging each and every other on.
Time to scrap both Podsnaps
Right here's at its most threatening within the Brexit negotiations. Podsnaps stare the EU as a acquire 22 situation to cancel “le structure Britannique”. Jacob Rees-Mogg calls refined Brexit “the the same of a ‘Norman Conquest’ that will decrease Britain to the extent of a ‘vassal order’.” Reverse Podsnaps stare the European Price because the embodiment of universal files and EU negotiators as cheap of us negotiating with bigoted fools. Taking the country thru the complexities of Brexit without splitting it down the middle will almost definitely be provocative even for rational of us. This would possibly perhaps perchance be not likely if the British refuse to dump the twin bigotries of Podsnap and his alter ego within the dustbin of historical previous.