Travelling back from London with my eldest child on the tube today, I enjoyed one of those moments in which we enjoy ‘the pleasure of recognition’. I could tell that the girl sitting opposite me, whose gaze lingered fractionally longer on me than on the others in the carriage, was thinking the same thought: ‘Someone else in this carriage is English!’ Her bewildered expression was that of someone lost in a foreign city – a city far from home.
She reminded me of the solitary rather awkward looking white boy in a large inner-city school contingent I saw visiting the Globe Theatre in the summer. For all I know, this pupil might have been utterly at home in his diverse cosmopolitan environment, and I was a fossilised relic of a vanished world. But I could not help but feel pity for him. Did he too not have a cultural inheritance (albeit it now a minority culture), a birth-right, a right to innocent friendships untainted by the debilitating baggage of identity politics, the charge of hateful whiteness, historical injustice, casual microaggressions, and, of course, institutional racism? Not much fun for him I suspect being subjected to the rigours of a multicultural diverse curriculum whose purpose is the deconstruction of Western civilization. Not very educational either: ‘Has anyone in the class heard of Charles Dickens? Yes, he was a sexist racist homophobe …’
The replacement of the English in London is now so far gone that one views it almost with detached scientific interest as a botanist might when viewing the displacement of a native species. There will be a day when the only moments of recognition occur on visits to the national museums, the custodians of the past, and to Madame Tussaud’s – which is where we had just been. In Madam Tussaud’s they have laid on for tourists a ‘Spirit of London’ experience in which one is trundled round in a black taxi on rails and treated to a glimpse of London through the ages – the age of Elizabeth, Shakespeare writing his plays, the Great Plague and Fire, Wren’s rebuilding, Nelson, Victorian London, the Blitz, and the swinging 60s. It’s surprisingly well done and does the job – though I would have thrown in some burning French ships in the Nelson display. But one can’t help wondering, ‘What was it all for?’ A thousand years of history, of organic development, the spirit of a people, dissolved in a generation. Why?
One is tempted to answer, ‘Because some academic, fired by vicarious resentment, instituted the ideology of diversity’. But perhaps it is deeper than that. The new ideology could only take root because the old civilization was finished, decadent, rotten. Yet I feel sorry for the next generation. Somehow, they will have to live us down.