Europe

Jun. 8th, 2009 10:50 am
mirrorshard: (Default)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
So, Labour have been beaten into third place by people who can't work out how to unfold their ballot paper, and who would have preferred us not to have been voting in that election at all.

I'm not holding any brief for Labour, but this is dismal.

The European Union is a fundamentally good thing. We're all Europeans together, and always have been. The UK's never been separate in any real sense - even after the sea levels rose and we weren't joined on any more, there's been constant economic & social traffic between island and continent. The whole island-race, silvery-sea thing is a propagandist delusion.

The English are a mongrel race (and not just the English - it's a British thing generally, though the Celtic peoples are a bit less so) and the Matter of Britain is based upon invasion and assimilation. Nobody evolved here; our many-times-great-grandparents trekked out of Africa, through the Middle East.

Then the Beaker Folk wandered over and settled in, and the Celts came calling, and then the Romans marched in with their army boots on, and brought people from all across their Empire, and all of these folk settled in and made British lives for themselves and interbred with everyone else. That brings us up to 1 CE, more or less - eighty generations ago. Which means that, to a fairly close approximation, everyone who had any ancestors from the British Isles at that period is descended from all of them. And this just keeps on going - the Anglo-Saxons turned up and settled down to farming, and after another few hundred years so did the Normans. (Well, the Normans mostly settled down to making the Anglo-Saxons do the work for them, but you get the idea.) It took quite a while for the Normans to become properly assimilated and stop trying to own large parts of France, and there's a reason we c ll it the Angevin Empire - it wasn't run from England. The Plantagenets battled back and forth across France, and occasionally across England (did you know Louis Capet controlled most of eastern England, after invading in 1216, and the King of Scotland did homage to him as King of England? For some reason, they don't teach that part in English schools...)

After Bosworth Field, the kings of England were Welsh, and after 1603 they were Scottish, and after the Civil War a lot of people spent a great deal of time and energy trying to put what were to all intents and purposes Frenchmen on the throne. Then in 1688 we got invaded again, in a more lastingly successful re-run of 1216 with a Dutch Stadtholder standing in for Louis Capet, and the Establishment have been spending most of the intervening time trying to pretend it was both legal (well, retroactively it was...) and bloodless (it really wasn't).

After William's sister-in-law Anne died, we started importing Germans, and haven't looked back since. Our trading fleets, and later our Empire, imported people from all over the world (and eventually, we stopped keeping some of them as slaves) and it took a long time for racism to develop. You don't hear much about BME people in the historical sources; that's at least as much because nobody cared as because they weren't there.

Then there was the Second World War, and the UK nearly got invaded, and we've been celebrating pushing it back since. We've got so many defeats in our history that we have to make the most of the two we did repel - Hitler and the Armada, and what did for the Armada was our weather not our Navy.

So now, after so many wars, we're doing it differently, and settling in with our friends and relations. There are some problems with the implementation (most of them stemming from not implementing it hard enough, or caring enough about it to join in properly) but the basic concept is a very, very good one.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
*applauds*

You are wonderful, my darling, and I thoroughly agree with this. :-)

(Though tbh, my primary objections to UKIP aren't so much their ridiculous anti-Europe stuff, as their evil anti-immigration policies and their scepticism about global warming. Yuck. :-( )

Date: 2009-06-08 10:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Oh, they fail on so very many counts! I don't want to attack them so much as the driving force behind them, though - the same long-standing myth of English exceptionalism that drives the BNP. I'd say they were building fairytale castles in the air, except that all the fairytale castles are modelled on the ones built for King Ludwig of Bavaria.

Date: 2009-06-08 11:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I'd say they were building fairytale castles in the air, except that all the fairytale castles are modelled on the ones built for King Ludwig of Bavaria.

Ha! So true...

Date: 2009-06-08 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] herringprincess.livejournal.com
LOL!

When I was out in India people would not believe me that England had ever been invaded. I gave them a list. It's no wonder Britain had an empire considering the melting pot we're descended from.

Date: 2009-06-08 12:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
It might not have all been "Right! Now it's our turn!", but that must have been a significant part of it!

Date: 2009-06-08 12:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sleetersoulfire.livejournal.com
Not wanting to put words into [livejournal.com profile] herringprincess's mouth, but I think that was supposed to be more a positive effects of the melting pot creating a slightly more diverse and therefore strong situation than a comment of a "Blood gits! We'll show em!" mentality bred from losing so much of the time.

Maybe that's just my interpretation though. ;)

Date: 2009-06-08 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
You missed out the Viking incursions that introduced blond hair and blue eyes all around the coastline from York up round to the Orkneys and Shetlands, too. If you don't have a lactose intolerance, odds are there's a little bit of Norseman in you somewhere back in those 80 generations....

Date: 2009-06-08 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I was including those under the general Anglo-Saxon heading, but you're right, of course. For that matter, most of the Normans, and rather a lot of Dutch, are descended from the same general wave of Viking incursions too. (I don't think you ever met [livejournal.com profile] yaqub, but he demonstrates this quite nicely.)

Date: 2009-06-08 12:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yaqub.livejournal.com
Oh yes, we did have our fair share of Viking visitors too. And although it's slightly less obvious now, there are pictures of me when I was four or so, when I was very blond indeed. Plus the typical blue eyes.

Date: 2009-06-08 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] actionreplay.livejournal.com
Very interesting post. I spent a summer working in Angers, which was the seat of power of the Angevins, lovely place, fascinating history. Went on a lot of the local tourist office's guided tours which gave the history from a French perspective. I do recommend it as a stop off on any holiday on the Loire valley.

Date: 2009-06-08 12:32 pm (UTC)
ext_4917: (Default)
From: [identity profile] hobbitblue.livejournal.com
Aha, thought that name rang a bell, Angers is a twin town with my home town of Wigan. I've still never been to France mind, and know very little about Angers (apart from what I just learnt from this comment), I'd got the impression it was quite an industrialised place though..

Date: 2009-06-08 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] actionreplay.livejournal.com
Not in the town centre. The town centre is GORGEOUS.

Date: 2009-06-08 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sleetersoulfire.livejournal.com
It's one of those annoying things in life that you and I have not had more face-to-face chats, putting the world to rights. Your depth of knowledge and ability to wield those facts into cogent and compelling arguments has always impressed me.

Life is so much less than fair.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
You flatter me unduly! Mostly, I just make sweeping assertions and deploy the power of snark. Also, it works far better when I can write it down than in conversation. Nevertheless, thank you very much.

Date: 2009-06-08 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thalassius.livejournal.com
I have some major qualms about the EU as it stands, but they're about democracy and accountability, of which the EU does not currently have enough, and often exhibits a towering contempt for.

Good summary (though - Napoleon!). From a historical point of view, England at least (and Britain from 1707) won rather more wars than is strictly normal in the last few centuries, because once some kind of navy came into being, it simply had an easier time in any war - a large moat, plus no undefended border in the rear backing onto another hungry Great Power. Crossing the Channel was far from impossible, but it was much more challenging than invading through the Ardennes. The only successful invasions since 1216 - 1485 and 1689 - were successful because the invaders had powerful sympathisers here, and now we pretend they weren't actually invasions. Before that, with all those possessions in France, the Kings of England lost every war in the end, despite all those showy battles they won. The sceptr'd isle makes a national virtue of a handy geographical feature.

As a contrast, we think of France as having a dismal military record - and, over the last few centuries, it genuinely does. France has been defeated in every major war since 1500 except the American Revolution and WWI. But 1500 is about when France achieved its present boundaries (more or less) - before then, they were amazingly successful. They defeated the Angevin Empire, the Counts of Toulouse, the Aragonese, the English, and the Burgundians (among others) to create France. And this France was sufficiently powerful, expansionist and wealthy to scare the hell out of its neighbours, who in any given war would eventually band together to stop it. It took almost twenty years and six European coalitions to bring down Napoleon (Britain could stop him invading alone, but not defeat him alone), but they were successful.


Edited Date: 2009-06-08 06:18 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-06-08 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com
I'd have said that the point when England started winning more wars than was strictly normal could be dated to 1603 - with the accession of James I/VI to the English throne. Before this point England was more or less in a deterministic position. England had Scotland on our Northern border and France on our Southern (well, ish). We were certainly militarily more than a match for Scotland, and at times more than one for France. But neither was stupid, and whenever we fought one, we would need our army on the other border fairly soon - and we couldn't take both on successfully with our army that widely separated.

I'd have been interested to see what would have happened in an alternate timeline where Bloody Mary lost Calais, meaning that the English didn't have a serious second front, and so were free to concentrate almost our entire strength on Scotland. But Elizabeth didn't have little issues like the Armada to deal with. My reading is that England would have been able to take Scotland almost free from French interference - and the timeline wouldn't have been too different (it would have ended up by 1707 as a solid country with no land-bound threats and able to project everything overseas, and with the Scots feeling hard done by). And going into alternate histories, the sooner the English lost all their mainland territory, the sooner they could deal with Scotland and cease being a major European power and instead turn into a major World power. (Or at the very least the next version of the Norse depending how early it happened).

Date: 2009-06-08 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thalassius.livejournal.com
I'd put it around the same time - England didn't do either particularly well or particularly badly during Tudor times.

However, the Scottish front didn't need the army: the northern levies crushed Douglas at Homilton in 1402 and James IV at Flodden in 1513, while despite an earlier defeat, an inferior English army at Solway Moss in 1542 was able to take advantage of Scottish dissension to rout their army. The great northern families tended to have more than enough troops to deal with Scotland; the only problem was that those same troops were frequently used to rebel against England (1402-3 being a case in point). . .

Your alternate timeline confuses me - Mary did lose Calais, and Elizabeth never retrieved it.

Date: 2009-06-10 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com
My alternate timeline is based not on Mary losing Calais, but Elizabeth not being worried by the Spanish and other continentals to the same degree.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I'd forgotten 1485, so good catch! On the other hand, my understanding is that that was a bunch of disaffected English launching from their base across the water, so I'd class it as the civil war we don't talk about rather than the invasion we don't talk about.

Date: 2009-06-08 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com
To me the notion of the British being a mongrel race is slightly dubious. When was the last time we were overrun by a hostile army? 1688*? I think the only country that can claim longer is Japan (remember they surrendered in WWII). So what immigration we've had we've had in at most hundreds or possibly thousands, not the rampages of an overruning army and conquest (which really creates mongrels).

* No, the Americans in 1944 don't count. There might be an argument for 1746 with the Scots Lowlanders (+English allies and German mercenaries) defeating the Scots Highlanders (+French allies and mercenaries).

Date: 2009-06-08 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Well, you'll grant that we're quite thoroughly mongrel-ish from before then - there are almost no distinctively British phenotypes. If you pick a face off the street, the odds are pretty good that you can find one just like it somewhere else.

Japan has quite a bit of mixed descent too, though I don't know any details beyond that there are several distinct Japanese phenotypes.

Date: 2009-06-08 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thalassius.livejournal.com
Yes, I agree with you, though I can't think of a big wave of migration post-1100. Before then - Vikings everywhere, Saxons in England, Romans (which includes the IX Hispana, assorted Germans and Illyrians, and contingents from the Euphrates among many many others) everywhere except Ireland, and Celts everywhere. That lot is more than enough to class the English at least as mongrel*.

But this was more or less in place by mediaeval times: after the Norman French, the inputs are much smaller. England was ruled by Welsh and Scottish kings, but they didn't import a nobility wholesale the way the Normans did. Even William III's Dutch and George I's Germans weren't more than a few thousand. The Huguenots may be the biggest single immigrant group between about 1100 and 1900, and they were tens of thousands. Jews after 1655, thought I have no idea of numbers. At the same time, though, you'd have a constant trickle, which is probably more significant.

*I think the Sicilians beat us on mongrel stakes: the island has been settled by Siculs, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French (briefly), Catalans, Spanish and Italians. Oh, plus a Jewish minority. And the British and Americans in WWII. Sicily has some of the loveliest examples of cultural syncretism in art I've yet seen - the Greek/Norman/Arabic Palatine Chapel in Palermo is an astonishing mix.

Date: 2009-06-08 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
That does sound quite amazing! Even the pictures I see from a quick google are gorgeous. I'm never convinced by the hybrid vigour argument as far as human genetics go, but I think it's a good one in art.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
There are some very good reasons for people to be opposed to the structure, administration or even existence of the EU, though, without being anti-European partnership (being against increased federalism is a good one, as is understanding the history of it, which is often unpretty).

On the other side, I don't think you're stressing the positive benefits of the EU enough either. Try things like anti-discrimination legislation, employment rights, anti-poverty initiatives and the like, which are all fucking awesome things which help people directly in their daily lives - and I find these arguments tend to work well on people who are only interested in what's in it for them :-)

Glad you made the post, though, there are some useful points which certainly need to be made more often.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I'm not too keen on the federalism argument (either side of it) because very few people seem to use the term the same way. I'm aware of a few of the problems, and not unconcerned, but I'd class most of them under "stemming from not implementing it hard enough, or caring enough about it to join in properly". (Which isn't to say that there aren't people with valid issues that can't be solved by wholeheartedly joining in, of course.)

And I quite agree on the positive benefits! Mostly, I just wanted to expose the complete hollowness of the anti-European position based on "history".

Date: 2009-06-08 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
Well, as an anarcho-syndicalist, I *do* believe there are some good arguments to be made against fedaralism, the particular one for me being that it places extra layers of hierarchy above the heads of most people, and that it can and often does contribute to delocalised decision-making which can end up distanced, insensitive and, at the extreme, colonialist. I'd prefer a system of regional decision-making with strong links to other regions and some linked responsibility for trans-regional issues.

But that's a side point, since I'd much rather deal with what we've got than wait for the revolution to create syndicalist utopia.

I think the historical argument is great, and often like to make it myself (;-P) But since the tenor of a lot of anti-EU parties (including No2EU, which has barely been deconstructed at all) is very much "What has Europe done for me lately?", I always enjoy pointing out how wrong that is as well.

Basically - UKIP, great party for selfish rich white people over 35, pointless for everyone else.

Date: 2009-06-08 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
[T]he particular one for me being that it places extra layers of hierarchy above the heads of most people, and that it can and often does contribute to delocalised decision-making which can end up distanced, insensitive and, at the extreme, colonialist.

That one I can agree with, but I'd also be tempted to say that it's bad enough already and a bit more can't hurt - and also that having competing jurisdictions and sovereignties can stop either of them doing too much damage. But then I'm a cynical bastard on occasion.

Date: 2009-06-08 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
it's bad enough already and a bit more can't hurt

Things can *always* get worse.

Equality of arms is an interesting and sometimes useful idea, but if it actually achieves the end intended then it's stalemate rather than progress. When one's political system exists only to try and limit damage and not to offer any hope of betterment, well, that's a surefire recipe for apathy if ever I saw one.

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