Last month my daughter’s Californian boy friend, who is visiting for an extended holiday, insisted we watch Hamilton, the Broadway musical about one of the founding fathers of the United States. He wondered what we would think of the portrayal of George III.
George appears three times for solo performances, dressed in his royal finery, singing his three songs in a style at odds with the general tenure of the musical. He cuts an out of date, sad but arrogant figure, sure that the break away American colony will soon come crawling back to rejoin the British Empire. He swears his love for them, a love so strong he would kill them to prove it, and he discloses a firm faith in them needing him more than he needs them: You’ll be back!
A warning for today?
History proved otherwise but several weeks later George’s songs are the only ones I can remember. Was it the melody, the style or the words? A catchy jingle maybe? Or simply that I thought it was apt for our times.
The line “Oceans rise, Empires Fall” could be a warning to us today – with climate change threatening our security and nationalism taking hold. George’s colonies and Victoria’s empire may have long gone but selective history syndrome, much encouraged by the Make our Country Great Again rhetoric of populist leaders, has resurrected them in the form of delusions of grandeur, exceptionalism and jingoism.
In Brexit Britain the government only recognises Jingos. If you are not a Jingo your opinion is irrelevant and your voice silenced. The Jingos call it democracy and accuse non-jingos, who attempt to warn of the dangers, of siding with the enemy – in this case the EU. Fantasy empires fall, it seems, only if we express doubt and fail to profess our faith in them.
In his hard hitting lecture at the Middle Temple yesterday (9th November) former Prime Minister Sir John Major pointed out that the freedom of speech of those opposing the national strategy of Brexit Britain had been suppressed.
Fantasy empire sinks beneath the waves
When our current fantasy empire falls it will be sudden and take us all down with it. Those in denial, believing that policy built on fantasy will survive an encounter with reality, have not made our country great again. They have undermined its real strengths and left it exposed and weak in a time of crisis. As the fantasy empire begins to sink beneath the waves, our mop haired captain holes the life boats and blusters on about the great opportunities ahead and his supporters still sing that they need us more than we need them. And it seems they are prepared to let some of us die to prove it.