The Bonfire of Culture

Christopher Harries

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” 

George Orwell

Reports emerged on the weekend of plans to remove two staple anthems from the setlist for the Last Night of the Proms. The anthems have been kept on the setlist however they will be performed without vocals. Coronavirus restrictions were apparently considered as the means to enable such change according to the media reports. 

One may ask why is that quote by Orwell applicable? These anthems are some of the last vestiges of British colonial culture. However problematic it may be, that culture is ultimately part of the history of this country.

Pestilence and public health is the cover such latter-day Savonarola use to operate. Where Savonarola and his followers targetted for destruction artwork, books and other perceived causes of temptation, in modern Britain we see art, music, literature subject to attention from woke zealots.

The zealots of today are not driven by faith in the Almighty, instead, they are driven by a desire to force everyone to accept their world view. To crush dissenting voices and obliterate any material be it artwork or literature that does not conform. Intolerance is wrapped up in the guise of tolerance. The metaphorical pyres are being stoked by such zealots for our history and traditions as the Dominican friar stoked the flames for the vanities of Florence.

Our past is something we cannot escape. No matter how many statues are pulled from plinths, portraits removed or anthems removed from setlists, the past is impervious to change. While the past is impervious to change, our comprehension of events may indeed change in time and so we should seek to ensure that we truly understand our past.

It does seem that those who take issue with facets of historic Britsh culture and traditions do not apply the same standard to other cultures and traditions prevalent in modern Britain that are not in keeping with our enlightened liberal values. Could it be that the zealots are merely using the cause as cover for an underlying agenda?

Granted some in favour of change are well-meaning albeit misguided however others advocate change out of contempt for this country. As Orwell remarked in England Your England “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings.”

Instead of following those contemptuous of this country and embarking on the wanton destruction of parts of our culture. Let us preserve our traditions and ensure that future generations come to fully know our history. 

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