The Abolition of Britain


But I think it is important that Anglophiles, especially those
in North America, begin to understand that the imagined,
ideal Britain which they have treasured for so long has
been swept away and is being replaced by an entirely
different country-a place of shrinking liberties, of
increasingly arbitrary authority, of bad manners and
violence, of illiteracy and ignorance, of cringing conformism.
As the culture disintegrates, the physical, political,
diplomatic and military entity formerly known as
Britain is also breaking up, and is likely to be
incorporated into a new European superstate.

Any Anglophile will say his or her love began with British literature: Austen, Tolkien, Trollope, Pym; Thackeray, Herriot, Chesterton, Milne; Lewis, Eliot, Stevenson, Read; Bronte, Wodehouse, MacDonald, Grahame.  Page by page we are drawn to the customs and manners and mores of Britain.  We take trips to find the Britain of our literature. We search for pockets of preservation, places that match the geography of our imagination. 

If you want to hold on to that Britain, if a look at modern reality will dispel your dreams, stay away from this book.    

A nation is the sum of its memories,
and when those memories are allowed to die,
it is less of a nation.

What Morris Berman does in The Twilight of American Culture–describes what he calls a cultural massacre in America–Peter Hitchens does in The Abolition of Britain.  Hitchens outlines the changes that have taken place within one generation, between the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.  Morris’ view is from the left; Hitchens’ is from the right.

The face of Britain has undergone radical plastic surgery
so that it can no longer recognize itself in the mirror.

Hitchens recapitulates themes from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death; the decline in literacy, curiosity, imagination, and the ability to think for oneself. He examines the effects of television and computers, the decline in education, the rise in divorce and single parenting, the ignorance of history, the rejection of great literature, the loss in one generation of religious sensibilities.  

Anyone trained from his earliest years in the television
habit is likely to become extremely passive,
because his ability to imagine, to hold conversations,
to think without prompting, has already been
weakened and withered.  He does not need them.

We welcome into our homes the machines that
vacuum the thoughts out of our heads
and pump in someone else’s.

Blunt as his brother Christopher, but conservative and unrepentant of his politically-incorrectness, Hitchens exposes the inconsistencies and unintended consequences of present policies.  One weakness I see in this book is that Hitchens ignores the failures of the British Empire; there is a reason that it came down. While he decries the direction England is going, he doesn’t delineate a solution.  As a journalist, Peter Hitchens’ thoughts are accessible at his blog.  A few random quotes from the book:

The universal conscription of women
 into paid work has emptied the suburbs…

Home death is becoming as rare as home birth.

…fewer and fewer children have two parents,
and where more and more women are
married to the State.

The most significant change for the majority
is that life is no longer so safe, so polite or
so gentle as it once was.


4 thoughts on “The Abolition of Britain

  1. Funnily enough, I just posted on my main blog the other day about being an Anglophile…and yes, my love for all things British initially began with the literature (along with the fact that I attended a British school in Beirut, Lebanon, for a couple of years.)I’ll probably take your advice and avoid this book, but I did enjoy your insightful review!

  2. Carol, thanks so much for the author suggestions…I will definitely check them out!  Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog…we obviously have some things in common!I didn’t know Christopher Hitchens had a brother who had turned from atheism, either.  You learn something new every day in the blogosphere!

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