Will ye no’ come back again?
Will ye no’ come back again?
Better loved ye canna’ be.
Will ye no’ come back again?
– “Bonnie Charlie”
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.
– Judge Learned Hand
I grew up with admiration for the British people. I saw films like “Gunga Din.” No, it wasn’t a realistic portrayal of British colonialism in India. But it was a history lesson nonetheless. I learned about a murderous religious cult called Thuggee, from which we get the word “thug.” Members strangled their victims for money and to worship the goddess Kali. The cult was suppressed by the British using police and the military. I learned that murderous cults must be suppressed by force.
And I learned to love the sound of bagpipes, and to associate it with the arrival of rescuers. So years later, when I watched the film “The Longest Day,” a portrayal of the Normandy invasion that began the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, I was not surprised when British troops were accompanied by a piper − which actually happened. There they were again, intent on defeating another murderous cult.
That is what I think of when I think of the British − the bulldog determination to defeat tyranny, with the sound of bagpipes approaching in the distance. Sadly, the Britain I admired is no more:
Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity.
− Mark Steyn, “After America”
Britain is further along the road to the welfare state than we are, so what is happening there is a warning to us. We can look at Britain and see ourselves in a short time, perhaps shorter than we imagine. And it’s not a pretty sight.
We see a British soldier hacked to death and almost decapitated on a London street, while unarmed “police” stand by idly and wait nine minutes for armed police to arrive. We see rioting and looting by feral young people, motivated by anger at the suggestion that welfare benefits might be reduced.
And now many Scots may vote for independence from England – not to get away from the welfare state, but if anything to intensify it. Their notion of “independence” includes continued dependence on government handouts. Many Americans share this unworkable and ultimately destructive notion.
Britain will go broke if the benefits are not reduced, but this made no difference to the rioters, any more than practical considerations make any difference to drug addicts. Once a person is addicted to anything − be it heroin or government checks − an attempt to cut off the supply will evoke rage.
It might be possible to resuscitate Britain from this overdose. But first Britain would have to recognize that there is an overdose, and what the drug is. On the contrary, the “progressive” response is to administer even more of the drug:
● More payments for not working, so there are more people not working − who have nothing to lose by rioting.
● More payments for having children out of wedlock, so there are more fatherless boys − who have no moral principles that inhibit them from rioting.
● More multiculturalism − so there is no respect for British traditions that would preclude rioting.
● More secularism − so there is no concept of sin associated with looting and rioting.
● More liberalism − so there is less punishment for rioting.
In effect, socialists bribe people with money and social programs, in the hope that they won’t become violent. But paradoxically, socialism produces dependent, entitled, demanding ingrates who are more likely to become violent.
It’s sad to see a person die. But it’s sadder to see a civilization die. When a person dies, the principles and ideals he held dear may be handed on to his heirs. But when a civilization dies, that is the end.
Then the principles and ideals exist only in books – if we can still read and find a bookstore – but they no longer inspire us. When we visit the Parthenon, we are impressed with what the ancient Greeks achieved, but we are also depressed by the decrepit state of the building. We see a reminder of past glory − emphasis on past.
I can visit Edinburgh Castle and see mementos of the heroes who defeated Hitler, and the eagle standard that the Scots Greys seized from Napoleon’s troops at Waterloo. And I can listen to the wail of the pipes. But instead of a rousing march celebrating another victory over tyranny, they are sounding a dirge mourning the death of a great civilization.
So why do American liberals want to emulate Britain, given its downhill course? Britannia used to rule the waves; now she can hardly defend her own sailors and marines from a third-rate power like Iran. (More U.S. defense cuts?) Britannia used to bring civilization to distant lands; now she can hardly civilize her own young people. (More “progressive” education?) Britannia used to lead the world in medicine: now her cancer-survival statistics are the worst in Europe. (More socialized health care? Why? U.S. cancer-survival rates are the best.)
A female rioter declared, “We can show the police we can do what we want.” In three generations, the Brits descended from Churchill to that. But don’t feel superior − we are on a similar downhill course. If our budget deficit requires similar cutbacks in social programs, we may see similar disturbances.
When the people of Magna Carta, the charter of rights dating back to 1215, do not defend those rights in 2014, it is a sad day.
When the people who survived the Great Depression and World War II allow their great-grandchildren to grow up uncivilized, it is a sadder day.
When the people who fought the Nazis for five years cannot keep a soldier safe from terrorists on the streets of their own capital, it is an even sadder day.
And when citizens of free countries like America and Britain grow up with so little religious, ethical, and patriotic foundation that they run off to join homicidal fanatics like Al Qaeda and ISIS, it is the saddest day of all.
If young people are sliding downhill, they need something with deep roots to hold onto. If we haven’t given it to them, they will continue sliding downhill until they hit bottom – no matter whether bottom is a terrorist group like ISIS, a street gang, or drug addiction. Value-free education produces value-free graduates. If we leave young people to “find their own path,” we have no right to complain when that path leads over a cliff.
The pipe tune I first heard as a child, and which caused me to fall in love with that untamed sound, was in the film “Gunga Din.” Later I learned the words. To me, they refer to all those we loved who are no longer with us. But now, they refer to the British nation itself. It’s dying from addiction to socialism. And if we don’t reverse course soon, the pipes will also be sounding a dirge for America.
Can we continue to exist as a free nation, when our government has seized the power to control everything from light bulbs and toilets to dishwasher detergent to what our kids eat for lunch? And now, in the name of fighting obesity, it claims the power to ban school bake sales. But at the same time, our government neglects its duty to secure our borders from terrorists and those carrying potentially fatal diseases.
Our government neglects its primary duty to protect us, but anoints itself with the power to control the minute details of our everyday lives. Yet many citizens fail to notice, much less to care. The pipes that bemoaned the departure of Bonnie Prince Charlie will soon be sounding to mark the departure of our liberty – that is, unless we rekindle the flame of liberty in our own hearts. While there is still time, please join me in blowing on the embers.
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