England’s post-imperial stress disorder

2016-06-01T100450Z_1138960992_D1BETHJNQWAB_RTRMADP_3_GLOBAL-ECONOMYAndrew Brown at The Boston Globe:

The campaign to get Britain out of the European Union is hard enough to understand if you are British. For foreigners it must be quite incomprehensible. Although Scotland, Wales, and Ireland are all solidly in favor of remaining, English attitudes towards Europe have become as delusional, and as powerful, as American attitudes towards gun control. We are suffering from national psychosis: post-imperial stress disorder.

Three dates are useful in understanding the deeper roots of what is happening to this country — 1945, 1956, and 1966. 1945, when the second world war ended, still feels like yesterday in the English imagination. We were bankrupt, with our cities bombed to rubble and hundreds of thousands of young men killed or wounded. Food, clothing, and petrol were all rationed and would be for another five years. But when you ask if British society was better then, a huge majority of the English people think it was. The overall figure is 51 percent worse today to 27 percent better, and when you break it down it is only those under 24 or non-white who think things have really gotten better since the war. Otherwise men and women from every region of the country believe that British society has got worse in the 70 years of European peace and unimaginable prosperity since the war.

The problem, you see, is that this peace and prosperity did not come on our own terms — which brings us to the second crucial date, of 1956. That was when the British Army, in collaboration with the French and the Israelis, invaded Egypt to recapture the Suez canal. I was there, though only a year old: My father was at the time the British consul in Ismailia, on the canal. He’d known things were going wrong for months, ever since he received a top-secret coded cable asking where the post office was in Ismailia — something that showed that an invasion was being planned, but that no one had any maps for it.

more here.