Regarding Imperial Truth: British history, culture wars and the usefulness of shame

Dear Nephew,

I was very pleased to receive your letter in regards to my work at the Bureau Office for Legend and Lore Communication and Knowledge Services. Before I get to your questions regarding our recent efforts, I must apologise for the tardiness of my reply. We’ve been rushed off our feet here at BOLLCKS. You know the expression “The Devil makes work for idle hands”? Well, my hands were already quite occupied, and what’s more the Devil has nothing on The Buffoon. But it comes with the territory I suppose. As we like to say around hear — “That BOLLCKS for you.”

Now to the matter; You went into some detail in your letter about “Culture War”, patriotism and Britain’s sordid past. Imperial Truth is the term we use for what you came so close to identifying. Most simply put, it’s the political deployment of the belief that the British Empire was bloody brilliant and any refutation of that belief is nothing short of shameful heresy.

You were spot on — what a smart lad you are — in stating that Imperial Truth is tied to patriotism, but you were mistaken in your assumption that only our side has any patriotism to begin with. You mustn’t underestimate the opposition. They’re quite capable of being patriotic and proud of their country and countrymen. Despite our best attempts, the Left has had more than enough victories which could not have existed outside our great Islands. Luckily for us, they do tend to forget that fact. Imperial Truth isn’t deployed to say what is or is not patriotic, only what is the correct patriotism.

Similarly, though I appreciate your eagerness, it isn’t a case of wanting to crush resistance or solve a national mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make dear boy but if you want to get into this business, you must realise that the Government is not about governance. We wouldn’t get very far if we went around sorting things out now would we? No, no, our Government is about creating an enemy.

The Brits are an odd sort; mild, repressed, predisposed to subservience to their betters? truly, but also lovers of war and outrage. Towns, not ten miles away can be sworn rivals, but together they hate the town fifty miles away, and all those towns hate the savages a hundred miles away and so on. When we deploy the Imperial Truth, fighting over hymns or statues or some such, we have no intention or winning ground, or indeed conceding. It’s merely to create a battleground. Once you get the masses annoyed, and even half-believing there is a fight to be had, they’ll do the work for you. A binary sort, the British; once they find someone who doesn’t agree with them on one matter, they easily assume they don’t agree on any matter and therefore, must be enemies to one another’s a way of life. Of course, at that point, we have the boys and girls in Blackdoor say, “Yes, those pinkos hate everything you love” and suddenly, no matter how far the masses might be from Whitehall, we’re in the same town as them hating our neighbours while we turn out their pockets.

Of course, we like to keep the picture simple. I could bore you with polls that clearly point out that the majority of Britain’s don’t care about Imperial Truth either way. They are neither proud nor ashamed. But a three-way football match is not useful to us, incomprehensible for the public and hard for our friends in Fleet Street to sell.

Simplicity is vital in creating a Cult of Imperial Truth. Surely, despite your quite lengthy exhortations in support of Britain’s history, you’re surely smart enough not to know you must not believe what you are selling? Never believe your lie — particularly if it’s a lie about yourself (I swear if we could have to get that into the current bunch, I’d be able to sleep again. Alas, it is an incurable illness that takes grip during youth; hopefully, my words can inoculate you against this). Any idiot who at least thinks for themselves could see it is impossible to look at a period history with all the events, people, rulers and relationships it contains and decide if it was simply good or bad. Thankfully, the British are the delicious brand of idiot who is smart, reasonable and intelligent but would much prefer to let some else do their thinking for them. Ministers must keep the fight and their proselytising simple so that they can create a Cult who will keep the unwinnable battle boiling. Good or bad is the simplest form of proud or ashamed. It removes pesky snags like responsibility, reparation and recurring results; it obfuscation individuals, ideas and ideologies and replaces everything with a simple quality — good or bad. The Empire, of course, gave us Eugenicists and Enlightenment thinkers, slave traders and Abolitionists, the literary Canon and the Penny Dreadful, the Industrial Revolution and slum poverty. But all that is too much to consume. Better to force all that down in one huge meal called The Empire to force a fellow to tell you, yes or no, did you enjoy that?

You mustn’t be shocked (and if you are, well, this is all part of growing up) to learn that there is no truth at all to the Imperial Truth. Of course, the Truth here means myth, but it much harder to win elections on whether or not the masses consider King Arthur and Robin to be the paragons of British behaviour. For one, it’s clearer one can manipulate and pick and choose whatever parts of the myth suit one’sargument. More importantly, it is much harder for people to get annoyed about fiction (at least to the extremes we require). No, it’s much better to cloak the myths of Britain in the shrouds of history then imagine that it is the Truth.

The importance of believing the Imperial Myth is the Imperial Truth, or rather, getting others to believe it is that it allows us to imagine those who aren’t faithful to the Cult have a great shame; that they’re sorry, pitiful creatures who need and demand the true believers to feel bad too. I’m sure a good amount of the hand wringing, wetter and more teary-eyed types do feel shame, but I have it on good authority shame is an impossible concept for some to feel. While that serves us well in government, we cannot do with any of the masses pointing out that it’s perfectly sensibility to see and correct injustice without being responsible for it. For that reason, when it doubt, your opponents must be accused of being ashamed. It not only implies they have an obnoxious, moral smugness if you’re lucky, but it might also be true. This brings me to your shame.

Though I do enjoy hearing from you, don’t imagine for a moment that your correspondence is a good way of you securing a position in Government. Appealing to your deal old uncle is wiced and will not do. You must go to school. Not to be educated of course — education plays very little in securing government posts these days — but to have gone to the correct school and have the correct classmates. Nepotism is much easier to hide when you don’t share blood, and I can only get you a job once, each classmate you have will be a potential employer and opportunity to find many careers. I have high hope for you. Give my best to your mother.


Uncle S.

Journalist, author, comics writer and rambler. I like odd things. Comic found here — Support my writing here

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