Like de Gaulle, I’ve always had a `certain idea` of England. None of it is particularly accurate, but it reflects some sort of truth. It can be very difficult to describe without collapsing into triteness, or without sounding like the contents page of The People’s Friend. The familiar images roll by: old maids bicycling through the morning mist to Holy Communion, England is the country and the country is England, under the oak whose antique root peeps out upon the brook that brawls along this wood, whan that Aprille with hys shoures soote, when Adam delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman. One can indulge in a Betjemanian roll call of English place names, like a suburban metroland version of the Miltonic original: Kirby with Muckby-cum-Sparrowby-cum-Spinx is down a long lane in the County of Lincs.
People who sneer at this lyrical evocation of their homeland are the first to indulge in it when it comes to foreign countries. France is imagined as a land of sexual ease, wine, Gauloises, Gitanes, left-bank cafes, lavender fields in Provence, beret-wearing onion sellers (do they exist?) and a generally higher standard of civilisation. You can rotate these stock images for any country you care to mention. Whether or not they are true or whether we see them like a cubist painting in a glass darkly, distorted and fragmentary, is irrelevant. The perception exists, and people will distort reality in order to fit that perception. Not having been to France for a long time, I have no way of telling how accurate they are
But I have been to New Zealand, where I lived for some time. Most English people have an almost sacred view of the Antipodes, like an undisturbed, transplanted England of the 1950s. Australia is seen as a continent spanning England with sun, minus the immigrants. The houses are bigger, the wages are higher, slap another shrimp on the barbie, she’ll be right, mate. New Zealand is seen as a sort of paradisaical reflection of England in the south-seas, untouched, no immigrants, larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies, breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of paradise &c.
All rubbish, of course. New Zealand is a wonderful place, particularly the South Island which I know best. But Auckland, like London, is nearly half non-white and rapidly decreasing, but without the consolations of the architecture or the National Gallery or the British Museum. Half of all births in New Zealand are non-white, which actually makes the situation worse over there. New Zealand is already only 70% white, granted with an indigenous minority of another 15%, but this makes the country worse than even England, which houses the overwhelming majority of the immigrants in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, a much higher proportion of immigration to Britain comes from the European Union and whilst their presence here is to be deprecated, a Pole will disappear into the British population after one generation in a way that a Chinese man will not.
The South Island, with 1 million people, is still overwhelmingly white. But the country as a whole is accelerating into the brick wall at a much greater speed than Britain. Culturally, there are far fewer outlets for anti-immigration sentiment; there is no equivalent of the Daily Mail, or the Express or the Sun, which take very strong anti-immigration stances and command a readership of millions, or even tens of millions online. John Key, the former Prime Minister, refused to change course on immigration and dismissed concerns over it in a very airy fashion. This has to be contrasted to the way in which anti-immigration policies are more or less de rigeur amongst British politicians. Even if they are for it, openly they have to take a much harder stance, particularly with the Brexit vote holding their feet to the fire.
Australia is particularly ludicrous in this sense. Australia enjoys a reputation as an anti-immigration country, turning back boats full of indigent Vietnamese orphans and brown-skinned people. My grandmother, who visits the nicer parts of Australia to see her friends, enthuses about the place. This is encouraged by watching Border Patrol programmes in which whingeing Indians are deported, Chinese scams are found out, and brown-skinned drug dealers are captured by hard-nosed customs officers. This is despite the fact that net immigration is higher in Australia than Britain! Australia has a much higher rate of foreign born people than Britain (discounting that some of these are British). To some extent, the anti-immigration reputation functions as a potemkin village, whilst the population replacement agenda grinds exceeding small.
When I returned back from New Zealand, people thought that I was insane. `What the hell are you doing here?` was the cry. The rejoinder, that living abroad becomes boring, wasn’t understood. 2000 years ago, Horace in an epistle, asks his friend Bullatius how he he found Chios, Lesbos, Samos and the Aegean. They change their skies, but not their souls who flee across the sea. Emigration as a form of escape never works and once the novelty wore off, I realised how vulnerable New Zealand was. New Zealand is not likely to end up as a Chinese colony, as some people think. The experience of Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong shows that ethnically Chinese people are quite capable of defining themselves as being separate from China proper. My own experience of young people in the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand is that most of them are utterly deracinated, living in a miasma of American pop-culture and having very little contact with actual New Zealanders. Many of them don’t sound Kiwi, but talk with horrible faux-affected American accents. The danger is that New Zealand becomes a multi-racial, multi-ethnic melting pot of rootless consumers rather than the new Britannia in another world that it was meant to be.
We have to focus on this country and saving it. There is no escape, no untouched paradise, no Anglo-Saxon Israel in the south-seas to which we can flee if things go wrong. We must, as Enoch Powell put it, `guard the parent stem of England and its royal talisman, for we know not what branches yet that wonderful tree will have the power to put forth`. I can think of no better tribute to that supreme patriot than to carry out his instructions.