January 26, 2012
Watching President Obama deliver his State of the Union Address, I got to thinking of my dad.
Derb, Sr. was born in 1899 and was compulsorily retired from his job as a furniture-company repo man at age 65. That point in time—the mid-1960s—was one of great changes, in Britain as much as in the USA. Dad, who was of a reactionary temperament, disapproved of all such “great changes.”
Two things he especially frowned on were Britain’s entry into what was then called the European Common Market and mass immigration into Britain from the Caribbean and South Asia. From his retirement through to the late 1970s, dad occupied himself with writing angry letters to newspapers and politicians urging opposition to both things.
Dad wasn’t an educated man. His spelling was erratic and he had no prose skills. The recipients of his angry letters probably got hundreds like them and binned them on the handwriting alone. No newspaper ever published one of dad’s letters.
Not that it would have helped. The die had already been cast. All of British society’s important power centers agreed that union with Europe would be a jolly good thing and that opening the country to floods of Jamaicans and Pakistanis would be culturally and economically invigorating.
Both things were disastrous. The European project yoked Britain to a mercantilist bureaucracy tasked with “harmonizing” countries that had spent centuries developing widely differing approaches to public affairs. Mass immigration frontally assaulted Britain’s tolerant insularity, turned sleepy old working-class neighborhoods into hotbeds of crime, and introduced an aggressively hostile religion into one of the world’s least-religious nations.
The folly of all that is now obvious. The curious thing is that cranky, semi-literate old dad, firing off his misspelled letters to the local rag, was right on those issues, while all the credentialed panjandrums of politics, academia, business, and the media were wrong. For all his lack of education, dad was no fool.
I recall Lord Melbourne’s observation:
What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.