Technology has revolutionised communications. Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg and changed the world. Benito Mussolini led the March on Rome to sieze power. And, in the sixties, we relied on street corner meetings and literature. Today, such primitive methods have been overtaken by the Internet.
Social media is the modern way of communicating and video platforms such as Youtube are very effective. Donald Trump used Twitter and Facebook extensively in his presidential campaign and so did Emmanuel Macron in France.
Newspapers and magazines are expensive to produce and distribute but websites are affordable. We can reach more people on the Internet than we did in the old days by putting leaflets through letterboxes or selling newspapers on street corners. Competing with the mass media is obviously an unequal challenge but having discovered the truth it's our duty to encourage people to think for themselves and reject media brainwashing.
Newspapers, radio and television dominate public opinion but we can fight back by using the Internet. The State uses anti-terrorist legislation to silence its enemies but we can stay within the law by avoiding insulting or threatening language.
Ten years ago immigration was a taboo subject and only the lunatic-left talked about a "crisis of capitalism." Today, these ideas have gone mainstream and you don't have to be a political party in order to have an opinion. So, carry on blogging and posting on Facebook and Twitter. Let our voices be heard.
A Garden Green by William Harris,
first published in 'Lodestar' Winter 1986
Each year brings thousands of American tourists to Britain, and it is clear that many of them are seeking something the do not posses in their own continent. This, I suggest, is a past: their own past forged by their own ancestors, and not the pre-Colombian past of the Indian, which is the only true ancient thing they have. They must travel all these hundreds of miles in order to find their roots, be they of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or Norman descent.
As so much nonsense is talked about Britain's 'mixture of races', it is worth quoting the words of Brian Branson in 'The Lost Gods of England'. In his chapter 'Who were the English?' he mentions these ethnic groups, adding "But none of these inter-breedings was what might be called in genetic terms 'a violent out-cross' such as would have been the case if Britain had been successfully invaded by an armada of Chinese, or Red Indians or African Bushmen. Apart from any alteration in physical appearance that would have befallen the new Island Race under such circumstances, one has only to suppose a pagoda in Canterbury, a totem pole in Trafalgar Square, and rock paintings in the Cheddar Gorge to imagine the cultural changes that would have ensued." He concludes that "the mongrelism of the English turns out to be more apparent than real." That was first published in 1957, before the minarets of the mosque loomed over the trees in Regent's Park.
Names are among the most ancient and lasting monuments in a culture, particularly those given to natural features in the landscape. In Britain they are usually Celtic, the Celts being the earliest of the above ethnic groups. The prefix 'Pen' for 'head' or 'headland' and the many instances of the name 'Avon', which means simply 'river' are two of the most obvious.
The names of our pubs are often far older than the buildings they adorn, and they tell us much. 'The George', and 'The Green Man', for instance, take us back to the traditional Mummers' Play of St George and the Turkish knight, and to a character in the Morris Dance, 'Jack in the Green'. The mummers would usually herald their appearance by announcing "Here come I". . . and in all these traditions, including that of traditional dance and song which is inseparable from it, there are a number of folk-heroes who emerge: St George, Robin Hood and Maid Marion, King Arthur, Hereward the Wake, Dick Whittington, Dick Turpin, Nelson and Lord Collingwood. The villains (all of whom are often cut down by St George in the course of the mummers' play) include: Prince Valentine, Captain Rover, Turkey Snipe, Little John, Bonaparte and Sambo. The last prompts me to remark that the blackening of faces (so upsetting to the susceptibilities of the liberal left of today), is probably far older than the 'Black and White Minstrels', or the minstrels who used to perform on seaside piers. There are accounts of wassailers or masqueraders blackening their faces, and the 'Giant of Salisbury' (a huge effigy , which used to be carried in all important processions in the city, which is now in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum) was found to have had his face blackened at some stage in the past, before he was 'cleaned up'. 'Morris', of course, is thought to derive from 'Moorish' so, like the Mummers' Play, it may date from the time of the Crusades.
After St George in the play has felled the Turkish knight, a doctor is called for, to 'cure' him. He is often played by a small boy dressed in a top hat and frock coat far too big for him and (in the version from Camborne, Cornwall) he says:
"I can cure the itch, the specs and the gout -
If there's nine devils, I can kick ten out."
He always cures the wounded knight so that the audience can then enjoy another bout of fighting but, in fact, his origins go back to the idea of death and resurrection which is the basis of most of the world's religions.
Sword dances are to be found mainly in the north of England and the midlands, and are either long-sword or short-sword ('Rapper') dances. There are several characters involved, apart from the six dancers, such as 'The Fool' and the 'Betsy'. The last is a strange hermaphrodite type of figure, a comic man in drag (also found in the Mummers' Play as 'Beelzebub' or 'Betsy Bub') who is, no doubt, an ancestor both of the pantomime 'dame' and the modern 'drag queen' At the climax of the dance the dancers (his six sons) decide that the Fool has 'got to go', and they put their six swords together to form a hexagon around his neck (known as the 'lock' or 'knot'). He is ritually decapitated and falls to the ground lifeless, only to spring to life once more and join in the next dance - the same pattern of death and resurrection once again. We also see this in the many versions of the popular 'John Barleycorn', a symbol of spring, when the first beer was brewed, who is cut down, thrashed, cut and drowned, but always survives and comes to life again.
Any idea that folksong is about innocent rustics disporting themselves with naïve decorum could not be further from the truth. Many of the folksong collectors, in the early part of this century, were amazed and incredulous at what they heard from the lips of shepherds, gardeners, and farm-hands. When many were illiterate and had no places of organised entertainment, these songs served the same purpose as reading the 'News of the World' - relating scandals, murder, seductions and all kinds of 'goings on'. It is utterly pointless to judge their values with the yardstick of prevailing ethics of today (a current pastime with some trendy pressure-groups who delight in sticking on labels suach as 'sexist', 'classist' or 'racist'!) There are songs of seduction and cuckoldry, and one which is clearly a warning against venereal disease: in 'Firelock Stile' the beauty sits on the stile (a parish boundary, no doubt where she could ply her trade with impunity):
"when a stump of a nail catched hold of her clothes
She fell down and she did expose
Her old rump-a-tump tooral looral laddy-dy" -
but six weeks later:
"She gave him some fire to keep out the cold" -
And he cursed the young damsel that learned him to play on her rump-a-tump-tump" -
Some of the humorous and macabre, such as 'The Body-snatcher's Trade', in which the would-be body-snatchers are hoaxed by a soldier getting into the coffin and pretending to be the corpse come to life. 'Little Sir Hugh' commemorates the mysterious murder of a nine-year-old boy at Lincoln in 1144 (mentioned by Chaucer and Marlowe) and the song even found its way into Norman French. It has clear connections with one of the most deeply disturbing songs 'The Bitter Withy', which uses pagan material in a nominally Christian context. The snobbish sons of 'Lords and Ladies refuse to play with the young Jesus, who makes "a bridge of beams of the sun". They try to follow him over this bridge and are all drowned; their distraught mothers go complaining to Mary, who lays Jesus across her knee -
"And with a handful of the bitter withy she gave him slashes three."
What are the folksong collectors to make of that? Or of the unfortunate prejudice regarding tailors as unmanly? This is exemplified in 'The Lousy Tailor' in which the butcher comes to seduce the tailor's wife, and catches the tailor hiding under the bed with a gun (which he is too frightened to use):
"Oh, spare my life, the tailor cries,and you shall have my wife."
The native British tradition in song, dance, drama, and its other manifestations is a fascinating mixture of the comic, the tragic, the bawdy, the romantic, the absurd, the frightening or the terrible: it is a green garden full of variety and loveliness, but not one to be trodden by the squeamish, the prejudiced or the faint-hearted.
A Changing World
In the last hundred years there has been so much progress
that it's hard to keep up with it. We are all conservatives at heart but we know that change is inevitable.
A two shilling coin - one tenth of a pound - was introduced in 1849 as the first step towards decimalization, but it took until 1971 before we changed over. The 'Daily Mail' and the National Front started a campaign to keep pounds, shillings and pence, and they did the same for drams, quarts, bushels and pecks - measures that are meaningless today. The 'Daily Mail' still gives out temperatures in Farenheit that nobody under sixty understands.
The first commercial television service was launched in 1955 with considerable opposition. Tory grandee Lord Hailsham objected to its "overt brashness, egalitarianism and immorality." Cyril Black, the evangelical Tory MP for Wimbledon, led a nationwide campaign against it, and Clement Attlee, leader of the Labour Party, vowed to restore the BBC monopoly if they were returned to power.
The pace of change will not slow down, in fact, we can expect even more changes with artificial intelligence and self-drive vehicles. Technology is changing society and national governments are using taxation to redistribute wealth. The next step could be a universal basic wage, an old idea originally proposed by Major Douglas and now being supported by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
Some people are trying to put back the clock. The so-
called 'Islamic State' movement has caused death and misery all over the world. Similar movements in the West, though not so bloodthirsty, are just as reactionary. Ukip's former leader Nigel Farage adopted the dress and habits of the fifties. When most people were wearing shorts and tee shirts, he was sporting an overcoat with a velvet collar and a trilby hat. His obsession with the past has so far succeeded in devaluing the pound but his movement has thankfully been consigned to the dustbin of history.
The Myth of Economic Nationalism
Britain is a small country with a huge population and even the most rigid nationalists know that we could not survive on our own. The Tories believe in world trade and are opposed to protectionism but the National Front and their allies are still following John Tyndall's 'Six Principles of British Nationalism' which was published in 1965 and called for a revived Empire.
"If we consider only the six mentioned countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia) this Commonwealth would represent a world power with the combined area as great as Russia, with a European population of nearly a hundred million, of which about 85-90 per cent would be of British stock. This area would produce a super-abundance of natural wealth of almost every kind, with a vast fund of human skills ready to find substitutes for any materials that were in short supply. Such an area could, and should, become economically self-sufficient and militarily strong enough to deter aggression by any other power unaided. This would provide the basis for an entirely free role in world affairs, unfettered by the dictates of UNO or any other international grouping. We would have the means provided we had the will, to pursue an entirely independent British destiny, friendly to other powers but in no way reliant on them."
Without a common currency, or at least a system of fixed exchange rates, a revived Commonwealth would be forced to use a reserve currency such as the dollar or the euro. It would not have been possible to establish an independent Sterling Area in the sixties because our economy was too weak, and today, such a proposition would be unthinkable because we don't have sufficient gold and dollar reserves.
John Tyndall’s dream of a revived Commonwealth was unrealistic in the sixties and completely impossible today. South Africa and Rhodesia have been lost to white rule. Canada is part of the American economy, and Australia and New Zealand rely on Asia. China and Japan buy most of Australia’s coal and iron ore. The Aussies are not likely to abandon their markets in support of a new British Empire. When JT wrote that 85-90 per cent of the Commonwealth population was of British stock he ignored the Afrikaners, French Canadians, Irishmen, and the millions of immigrants from every European country who have settled in the old dominions. Like most 'Nationalists', JT couldn't understand other people's nationalism. He wrote:
"I have never been able to understand this search for an Australian identity; you already have one and have had one for a thousand years, that of the British people who pioneered a land to the best of British standards."
The Australian Nationalist Jim Saleam replied:
"No, we Australians inherited all that old-Europe could offer, all of old-Europe, from the Latins, the Germans, the Slavs and the Celts and deep back to Greece and Rome and the dark lands of Eurasian forest and steppe. But we went on to create a new people and a new nation. We pioneered a land to the best of European standards and we will create a stormy history - a new Britannia in another world."
John Tyndall was motivated by patriotism but flag waving doesn't feed a nation. The 52% that voted to leave the EU are about to face the consequences. Our little islands cannot support an immigrant-swollen population of 65.5 millions. We import half of our food and fuel and we depend on the European market. The Tories want to tie us to America and the pro-Europeans want to stay as we are, but whatever happens we can forget about a revived Commonwealth.
'Imperial Preference' was the policy of the pre-war British Union of Fascists. Oswald Mosley wanted to turn the Empire into a self-sufficient world power. In the thirties that would have been possible but when the Second World War destroyed the British Empire he turned his attention to Europe. Unfortunately, some of his supporters lacked his vision and tried to keep the Empire going.
John Tyndall's spent half his life perfecting his oratorical impression of Oswald Mosley. He mastered the voice, the delivery, and the gestures but he never understood the policies. He may have flirted with National Socialism in his youth but he was essentially an insular nationalist.
The Front National are dropping their anti-EU policies following Marine Le Pen's failure to win the French presidential election. Opinion polls show that French people are worried about immigration but they are overwhelmingly in favour of the EU. The NF must do the same if they want to survive. If we leave the EU we will have to join the World Trade Organisation and rely on America. That's the reality of our situation, we will survive but the Empire has gone and it's not coming back.
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