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One of the curious things about being in East Berlin while the EU staggers to financial collapse is to watch the various manifestations of European tribalism at work. Small countries; small minds. Now It’s England’s turn, with Dave the Prat telling the rest of Europe to get stuffed, and thereby feeding a frenzy of that old anti-continental spite. But what is weird about all this is the way the English pundits speak of ‘Europe’ as something apart from themselves. It’s ‘Europe’s’ problem, they say, and we want nothing to do with it. But since when is England not part of Europe? Is it the massive body of water separating that small island from the rest of Europe? Then you’d have to include Cyprus and substantial parts of Denmark. Is it the case that the Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman invasions were not really European? Or that the English language has no relation to its Germanic base? Or is it yet another version of European tribalism, now manifested as English exceptionalism? Maybe it’s none of this and Dave the Prat is really an unwitting agent of the Chinese waiting for the Euro to collapse.

In the universities, at least. I hear of whole departments, whether academic or administrative, in which every member is seeking work elsewhere and in which no position is filled should someone go.

Reminds me of Engels’s observation almost 160 years ago, in 1842:

England is by nature a poor country which, apart from its geographical position, her iron and coal mines and some lush pasture-land, has no fertility or other natural riches (MECW 2: 371).

The iron and coal mines are pretty much closed, and the last vestige of the fertility of ideas is draining away. As someone put it, during the time of the empire the ruling class perfected the art of fucking up a whole spate of other cultures and societies, so it was only a matter of time before that class, with no-one else to do over, turned in on England itself – like a parasite that runs out of hosts and begins feeding on itself.

This question has almightily puzzled me for many a long year and it is always enhanced when I visit that strange little country. Don’t get me wrong; I have for some strange reason an increasing number of English friends whom I love dearly, but in this case the parts are definitely more appealing than the whole. Most recently, it came up once again with the snow that has fallen there. A few snowflakes appear and the roads are closed, trains cease running, airports come to a standstill, people can hardly get to work, the government ponders an inquiry into dealing with that fluffy white stuff … WTF! In Oslo, I left in early November during a snowstorm. No worries: snow ploughs were out, planes were de-iced, runways cleared, winter tyres were on, cross-country skis came out, people enjoyed a crisp turn – in short, life went on as normal. So too in Canada when I was there a couple of decades ago. But England; no, complete chaos with the hint of cold weather and a little snow. So did they ever manage to run an empire?