Thursday, 12 November 2015
God, The Queen and Nuclear Missiles: the Importance of Jeremy Corbyn
There aren’t International League Tables for this, but if there were I guess we could come pretty high up: British people (or at least, English people) find it very hard to imagine a Future which differs in any way from the Present. They are very happy with the present, partly because they are very frequently told they are happy with it, and they feel no impulse to expend mental energy exploring possible alternatives – even if they do sometimes singalong to John Lennon’s Imagine.
Thus it is that they are undisturbed by the fact that their Heads of State for the next hundred years have already been chosen for them: after Elizabeth, they will have Charles then William then George. No votes there for generations as yet unborn.
Likewise, though nowadays remarkably non-religious, they take it for granted that their children should be made to Do God in every school in the land and that their Establishment Does God on every possible occasion – opening of sessions, closings of sessions, funerals of the Mighty, christenings of Royal children – and pretty much regardless of any actual belief. It is as if God lives on as some totem, like Stonehenge, some piece of architectural heritage which must not be pulled down lest the ruling class is pulled down with it (a most unlikely scenario).
Sometimes you will be bullied if you don’t conform – stand up and sing for the National Anthem (which is not National at all, merely an invocation of the Deity on the Monarch’s behalf); wear your Poppy (soon it will be worn all year); curtsy, bow or kneel for the Queen.
In this context, which extends to encompass school uniform, public schools, Honours in the name of a lost Empire and – not least – ageing nuclear missiles, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party - egalitarian, unbeliever, republican, and anti-militarist - is a splendid challenge to the British way of not living. His small actions upset the complacent refusal to imagine alternatives which characterise English life.
At least on one issue, he has broad support. The whole of Scotland is agin’ replacing our ageing submarine-based nuclear weapons system – for which it provides the docks - with a hugely expensive new system, controlled by the USA. (The British Finger on the Button only works if the Americans are pressing the button too).
And he has worked some magic by tempting the Military out of the corner and got the Chief of the General Staff - one of those not-so-bright Generals with whom we have been afflicted for centuries – to say daft things about Our Nuclear Deterrent, things which can lead only to the conclusions that (a) countries without such weapons of mass destruction are all – and every minute of every day - quaking with fear that the Russkies will invade; (b) that all countries without such weapons should acquire them ASAP, notably those like Iran and Saudi Arabia unable to deter nuclear-armed Israel.
Mr Corbyn is under enormous pressure. He yielded on the Poppy. But he made up for it by declining the VIP lunch which follows the Remembrance Day service – one of those coercive Establishment get-togethers – and instead spoke to some War Veterans out in the street.