Monday, December 17, 2012

What the 2011 UK census tells us about post-Imperial Britain

The main points that stand out for me from the 2011 census are:
1) atheism is increasingly the norm,
2) London's white British population is a minority in the city,
3) the immigrant population has increased by around three million in the last ten years,
4) there are now more than half a million Polish people in the UK,
5) the tenant population has increased by more than half.

Britain is a post-Imperial power, and has been since the rapid disintegration of the Empire after the Second World War. In a nutshell, what has happened to the UK since then is the effective implosion of its Imperial society. Whereas in the 19th century, Britain spread its social values to its colonies around the world, after the end of the Empire, its former colonies have sucked back to the "homeland" like a collapsing star sucking matter back in on itself. The "homeland" of the former British Empire is now a teeming microcosm of its former Imperial population.

This was inevitable. And what I write here is neither a condemnation or otherwise: this is simple observation, free of judgement.

An Imperial power the size of the British Empire cannot discard the great majority of its Empire in the space of little more than twenty years and expect to continue unscathed. Until the 1950s, Britain was an island of generally homogeneous white people that still ruled a vast colonial population. But that "Golden Age" of Empire was destroyed by the effects of the Second World War. After the war, the bankrupt "Empire" was shown to be a financial conjuring trick, and suddenly the "homeland" needed more people to re-build the economy. So it turned to the colonial populations.

Britain, like France and Portugal, were European, post-Imperial powers looking for a way to survive when it was clear that Imperialism was no longer financially viable and practical in a Cold War world dominated by two huge continental superpowers, the USA and USSR. For the broken European powers to survive, they pooled their talents around a new Franco-German centre, based on trade. After a couple of false starts,  Britain joined the European club, thus put the final nail in the coffin of Imperialism. Britain's last formal colony, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), was relinquished shortly after Britain joined the European club, the (then) EEC.

Britain, always being largely ignorant of continental politics and society, has been considered the black sheep of Europe. Thus its critical voice was always easy for the others to ignore. The expansion of the former EEC, now EU, into Eastern Europe, has had an immediate effect on the population of the "homeland"; now more than half a million Poles live permanently in the UK - a tenfold increase on ten years previously.

Since the 1990s, Britain's increasing role has been as the "conscience of the world"; in order to replace its middling role in the Cold War, it has largely embraced the American belief in an "open door" policy to immigration. This largely accounts for the unprecedented rise in the immigrant population in the last ten years.

The effect of this on British society in general is clear from the 2011 census. London, like New York, is one half of the Anglophone twin cities of globalisation. These two cities symbolise everything that globalisation represents, and are living examples of it. Boris Johnson is another living example: born in New York, now mayor of London, and a passionate promoter of both cities, and the concept of globalisation generally.

As I've said before, "Globalisation" is the direct result of the Anglo-Saxon economic model propounded by the British Empire and the USA. It is also largely interchangeable with the core ideas of Economic Fascism, as I've also said elsewhere. The fact the "the world lives in London", or New York, doesn't change the fact that the same economic model that brings people around the world together, also makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The story of 2011 in Britain is now of economic stagnation in a society of unprecedented diversity. But what this really masks over is the danger of communities in general slipping apart. I don't mean in stark terms of race, religion and so on, but more in terms of more social insecurity, and more psychological distance between people, exacerbated the socio-economic plan of the current Conservative government. As fewer and fewer people can afford to buy homes, or as more and more jobs become temporary and part-time, it makes it more and more difficult to make real roots and develop a real sense of "community". This is the real danger: people no longer talking to their neighbours because they never know who they are (or when they're at home) for long enough, and people not making real workplace connections because they never see the same people from one day to the next.

This is the other story of Britain in 2011. That Britain, long the arch-proponent of globalisation and economic liberalisation, became a victim to it in 2008. But the culprits were not affected, nor punished. It was everyone else who was a victim to it, and the average person on the street who has continued to suffer. This is what accounts for the rise in tenants in the UK, for the first time in living memory, as people see the "homeland" of the former British Empire become a third-rate nation-state. Britain imports most of its goods, manufactures little, and has a national housing shortage; if it were not for the amoral practices of the financial sector in London artificially flattering the state of Britain's economy as a whole, the country would be on a par with failed state.

That said, it is the amoral practices of the financial sector, who have had the ear of government for thirty years, that are responsible for the economic stagnation and social dysfunction outside of the Home Counties.

 "Strength in Diversity" is a great slogan for 21st century Britain. Another way of putting it is "The Empire Coming Home". Both are technically correct, but the second is heavy with loaded xenophobia. The stark future facing Britain is not of "rivers of blood" as Enoch Powell said, but of "streets of desolation", as whole areas of the UK gradually turn into economic black holes.

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