But not in a very healthy manner. There’s still so much hangover from this notion of ruling the world (for ruling read feeling entitled to ownership of) that we may as well have not changed at all.
Having said that, maybe it’s overanalysing it to project imperialist spill onto the entitlement. America doesn’t have a history of imperialism, yet still has this sense of entitlement and manifest rightness. Almost to a larger extent. They’ve had less jolts. Their isolation seems less splendid, but also more ivory.
National psyche isn’t really something there’s much experience in analysing. Interestingly, like the unconscious mind (if you’d buy that for a dollar), you only get to see it through distortions and representations. From the political bodies at the top level, to the dreamwork of the mass media, everything is a misrepresentation. The bodies that create this entity, or any kind of kultur/zeit/andere-geist, are all liars by trade. The people that build our myths are story-tellers, not really reporters. And of course, any genuine collective spirit is made up from this huge population of different people. This melting pot of different brains, viewpoints, eyes and everything else.
The ‘English’ have been not been monadic for almost as long as we’ve not been nomadic. (I don’t know if we actually had a nomadic period, but we should have, just to make that pun work).
How do I, as a largely English person, feel about the loss of empire? Even that’s a little complex. My dirty little secret (occasionally not so secret) is my love of the song ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ which reminds me of a long lost friend (a human being, not the empire). And I quite like cricket.
But other than that, the Empire just brings in me that odd self disgust of feeling part of something horrific. That awareness that people have died for an idea that you are smeared with. The awareness of past oppressions that still have a huge impact on societies and people across the world.
The disgust at any kind of nationalism, knowing that it is built on acres of grotesque entitlement. This entitlement to rule the waves and ‘the colonies’. It disturbs me greatly.
Have ‘the English’ adapted? Largely by turning actual ‘power’ and oppression into symbolic varieties of the same? I kind of feel like all that stuff is still lingering, but it’s changed into something almost more malodorous. It’s turned into discourse and ‘spirit’. All that ideology has adapted to fit a time when the power structures that maintained it are largely dismantled.
And it still works to do those same horrible things, without even the pretense of good work for the world. (Maybe there are different pretenses instead).
The short answer remains true. Yes, ‘we’ have had to adapt, as the world has changed, but that doesn’t mean we’re okay now. There’s still a lot of apologies to make, and a lot of fucked upness to rectify.
And new fuckednesses too.
Illustration by Adam.