"This referendum tamasha is Britain's satyagraha!" said a Bengali friend of mine living in London. He was impressed by the impassioned rantings of those Britishers currently campaigning for their country to leave the European Union - a campaign they are clearly losing.
I had to correct him. While Indians braved bullets, batons, jail-time and the gallows in pursuit of their freedom from foreign rule, the gutless blusterers promoting Britain's "out" campaign haven't risked breaking a fingernail. Listening to their empty babblings over these past few months has been to witness the lamest, most embarrassing independence movement in history.
These clowns are a disgrace, not only to their country but to every freedom-fighter that has ever lived. George Washington, Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela: these men would have been revolted by them.
Like Indians under the Raj, the British today exist under a complex net of laws imposed by the EU, none of which they voted for, that severely curtail their national sovereignty. But, while Indians resolved to disobey them and suffer terrible consequences in order to galvanise their countrymen and challenge the moral bankruptcy of their foreign rulers, the noisy cowards campaigning for a British exit (Brexit) baulk at the thought of confronting the authorities and have thus not broken a single edict.
Of the thousands of laws that yoke the British to European rule, not even the most innocuous has been selected to be made an example of – as Gandhi did with the Dandi March, or the freedom-riders did on the segregated buses of the American South – to highlight the EU's undemocratic dominion over Britain.
|The extinction of the British is already apparent to us living in London.|
Such a symbolic act might have turbo-charged the Brexit campaign, as the full injustice of the EU's strangling legislation was brought to public attention by the arrest, trial and punishment of those who had the dignity and courage to defy it.
But for all the rubbish the Brexiters have loudly spouted about their love of Britain and its unique greatness, it's clear that they aren't willing to suffer a minute of personal inconvenience, let alone imprisonment or a beating, to fulfil their dream of freedom and an independent Anglostan. Even that half-educated loon, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, looks like a hero compared to them: he, at least, made his secessionist dream come true.
What does it say about Britain when even its most ardent nationalists won't make any sacrifice for their country?
The British are finished. Done for. Their extinction is still a generation or two away, but it's certainly afoot and is unstoppable: a journey that will pick up pace in three weeks time, when they vote to abolish themselves as they dissolve their polity and identity into the supranational, anti-democratic matrix of the European Union.
The extinction of the British is already apparent to us living in London, where more than half are foreign born. Take into account Londoners with foreign-born parents, and it's clear that the city is overwhelmingly populated by those with little or no concern for the rest of the country. To live here is to experience a globalised nexus that bears no relation to Britain: it is international, high-energy and ruthlessly ambitious.
As such, it mirrors the global economy for which it provides a necessary hub: London's raison d'etre now, and the source of its wealth. And the British have been muscled out of London for the same reason they have been elbowed aside in the global market: they can't compete with foreigners – not even in their own backyard. The British know they can't compete, and never will again, which is why they will choose to melt into the protection and safety of the EU.
Go to the upmarket neighbourhoods in London and the British people you meet there will probably be delivery-men – a job that's also increasingly being lost to immigrants. Indians, Americans, Chinese, Arabs and Russians all have a greater presence in these parts of town. And the trading floors of the city of London, the financial centre, are also increasingly bereft of Brits – as are the senior positions of the multinationals with bases here.
While the seats of British power – Downing Street and Houses of Parliament – might be in London, the real power here is no longer with the British. The British are no longer a force in their own capital, let alone in the world.
The Brits know the game is over. Their culture exists in a dreary permanent state of retrospection as they consume an incessant diet of historical films, documentaries, novels and biographies. British culture is now nothing more than nostalgia. Even their pop-music – once the ultimate proof of British genius and originality – is a dead-end.
Britain's current pop-stars – the male ones especially – sing in bizarre voices that are an embarrassing mimicry of African-American divas from at least thirty years ago, performing lyrics full of African-American idiom too. It is a painful self-abasing minstrelsy that no one here comments on, as though it were perfectly natural for a young white Englishman, like Sam Smith, to style himself on Aretha Franklin.
Indeed, even while so many Brits rail against this country's colonisation by the EU, Britain's whole-scale colonisation by the USA, that has been underway since the first American troops landed here during World War 2, is quietly taken for granted: a point driven home when US President Barack Obama, on his recent visit here, sternly instructed the British to do as they're told and forget about their independence, and vote to stay in the EU – which, of course, they will.
Can you imagine any foreign leader coming to Delhi and speaking so high-handedly to Indians? Of course not.
There is a backward-looking resignation to every aspect of British life – even its cuisine. Rather than offering interesting fusions of the myriad international flavours presently on offer here, Britain's countless cookery shows are obsessed with baking the stodgy national fare of the Victorian era – pies, buns, scones and the like – the most comforting of comfort foods: precisely what you'd order as a last meal.
The British have this romantic fixation with the past because they have no future. But while in other countries, France in particular, the prospect of national demise has inspired a crop of enraged and brilliant writers – such as Michel Houellebecq and Eric Zemmour – and scintillating public debate, the British response has been a collective bingeing on cakes and low-brow costume dramas.
The BBC makes a valiant effort to fool the public into thinking they still matter, with ridiculous programmes that suggest Britain can solve global warming or the Middle East crisis, or even influence elections in India and the USA. But the people increasingly don't believe it and opt for light-hearted American teen shows on Netflix instead.
Now that they can barely affect the world, let alone rule it, the British simply don't see the point in themselves. That is why they won't fight for their sovereignty. The people who, with their empire, first got the process of globalisation underway will, ironically, be the first major country to be extinguished by that same process.
In the space of a 100 years, they will have gone from a position of commanding pre-eminence to total non-existence – and without a shot being fired at them. Has any nation exited history with such abject quiescence?
In the meantime, the British will continue to provide things of value to mankind: engagingly written children's literature, for instance, and actors skilled and affordable enough for the demands of large-scale American television productions.
Some semblance of their culture will, of course, always be preserved, if only to satisfy tourists from Asia, who, when in England, will want to experience something "authentically" British that reminds them of their favourite scenes from Downton Abbey. On the whole, they will be fondly remembered.
If the British really wanted to survive they only had to emulate the satyagrahis who drove them out of India without raising a hand in anger. But they were people of infinite courage and determination, who loved their country with an intensity that no Brit can comprehend.
Such self-sacrifice and resilience is alien to the British, and that is why India – the nation they thought they would rule for a thousand years – will continue to live long after Britain is gone.