Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

After Empire

Martin Amis has made a TV programme about the English in which i gather (I haven't seen it) he repeats the old chestnut about us "having lost an empire and not yet gained a role." Who first said that? Some mid-century statesman? More to the point, is it still true?

I'm beginning to doubt it. Nobody under fifty remembers imperial Britain. And even I, who am now in my 60s, only witnessed the roar of the shingle as the tide went out. By the time I was a teenager we were already reinventing ourselves: pop music, fashion, TV, movies, theatre, satire- that's how we were going to rule the world from now on.

Also, all through this period, the Empire was coming home. First the West Indians, then the Ugandan Asians, then everybody else- bringing all sorts of interesting cultural stuff with them. A substantial proportion of the population now consists of the grandchildren of people who weren't imperial rulers but imperial subjects. That's got to change things about a bit, don't you think?

I look at England today and I see a country that strikes me as quite lively in its own way. As upbeat as any country ever is.  We're still pretty good at all the things we set out to be good at in the 60s. And we're now pretty good at food too- which no-one can ever have expected. And computing which had hardly been invented back then. And top-end science. Oh, and banking which perhaps we should shut up about. Boris Johnson called London "the capital of the world" the other day- and it didn't seem like a wholly ridiculous claim. A nation in decline? Only if you measure greatness in terms of gun boats and boots on parade grounds. A people yearning for a time when half the globe was pink? I'm not feeling it. I don't believe I've felt it for years.
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