Friday history was made. The most successful country in the last half millennium voted on whether to split up. On Saturday the news decided that the election failed and that nothing was changed. The news was wrong. In the long view Britain is ended. The bell cannot be unrung.
I have written elsewhere about the stories we tell ourselves to make a civilization.
As a relationship the English people now know beyond doubt that nearly half of the Scots dislike them enough to seek separation. It is no longer possible for that to be denied. And as the Scots who wanted to leave England behind wished to join the European Union, the Northern Irish and the English will feel that the Scots like the French and the Germans – The French and the Germans! – better. This does not instill confidence.
The arguments for continued union were unfolded and examined and proved to be paltry things indeed. Foremost among the reasons for preserving the union was inertia. Second was habit. As an American I had not realized that these peoples had come to discount each other so. It seems like an old married couple who no longer have anything in common except the past. Or like the boy who decides to date the girl next door be cause she is so close. Practical, perhaps, but hardly flattering to the girl next door.
This lack of love and reasons for union will be remembered in days to come.
A Chained Unicorn and a Crowned Lion. Is this continual demonstation of disdain not insulting?
The Union was forged less from a common royal family then by work. Together they created the greatest empire the world had ever known. They established modern science, engineering, and finance. Their poets forged each other’s languages. Before the union neither had a language of power and precision. They formed the first civilization in the history of the world to outlaw slavery. They thwarted Louis IV, Napoleon, and Hitler.
And in the last century they slowly lost it all.
There are reasons, cold and practical, for the union still, but in the hothouse environment of an American hegemony and enforcement of a peaceful trade regime these reasons are not apparent. The one thing that may hold them together for a while is the realization that America is no longer a reliable ally. The one thing that can forge the bands of unity again is the mutual doing of great things. Britain is no longer in the mood to do great things. And unless England purges itself of the scorn they feel towards Scotland the corrosion will continue.