By Arun Srivastava
The corona pandemic has exposed the myth of the British exceptionalism. The myth has been created by some people who are engaged in the psychological war to prove the dominance of the UK. This word is usually referred to identify the nature of the capitalist development.
This element of exceptionalism was at the base of Donald Trump and his friend Boris Johnson denying the response of the global fraternity to the existence of corona. Their initial responses were at odds with the rest of the world. But soon both of them realised their follies and fell in line as this virus does not respect their perceptions and delusions.
For this arrogant attitude both of them had to pay dearly. But they continue to pursue their own brand of politics. While corona devastating and ravaging the USA economy made Donald to realise the fragility of the theory, Boris after being infected with the disease was forced to understand the illusions of exceptionalism.
It is the abstract arrogance that has made Britain overtake Italy and Spain as the country in Europe that suffers most from the coronavirus pandemic. The tragedy acquired such a character that eventually on 20 March Boris Johnson announced the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Even as he did so he told his people that this decision was an assault on the national character.
What was really shocking was at no point Boris conceded that the UK was facing three dangers; a public health crisis, an economic crisis and a social crisis. Churchill’s protégé, Boris nonetheless had forgotten the basic fact that free-market capitalism is incapable of addressing this national emergency. Capitalism has been reconfigured to stand on two stools: the financial sector and rampant consumerism. What happens if you strip consumers from consumer capitalism?
There is a growing consensus that the present crisis is the gift of the capitalist system and economy. World would not have been ravaged if the capitalist spread was checked. No doubt the rightist rulers have primarily been responsible for the creation of this situation, who ignored the dire needs of the people, the folks should also be held responsible for their craziness in embracing capitalist mode of life and culture.
The fact of the matter is Britain already has been in a social crisis before the pandemic began. While the political institutions of the country chose to look away, the task was incidentally performed by the virus which publicly exposed the entire social order.
Exceptionalism helped to shape official policy towards the corona crisis. It lies behind both the idea that there should be a distinctive British response to this global challenge, and the assumption that there was something peculiarly unnatural in expecting Brits to obey drastic restrictions. Under Boris the UK witnessed emergence of policy of “herd immunity”.
It is incredible that Britain and its political establishment still believe that they are the path-setters. But it is not so. For more than three years, the world has watched Britain attempt to act on the result of its 2016 referendum and leave the European Union. But so far they have not succeeded in evolving a clear approach mechanism as to how this should be accomplished. Boris’s strategy has simply been evasive and lacks clarity. He is not clear about the future of New Britain.
Margaret Thatcher asserted British exceptionalism with regard to the EU in a 1988 speech, and each of the past three prime ministers has approached the EU from that standpoint—believing that Britain deserves preferential treatment and more-than-equal status. But all the three failed in their move.
An insight into the functioning of the state would make it amply clear that the sense of exceptionalism has caused much damage to the country than anything else. Few countries have allowed their sense of exceptionalism to damage their interests in the way Britain is doing. British has been paying for its unjustified sense of overconfidence.
Boris in his pursuit to practice exceptionalism has allowed it to damage the economic and political interests of the country. Ever since 2016 referendum millions of papers and articles were written about the Brexit and the UK, but no one has explained in concrete terms how Britain will flourish once out of EU. It is only conjectures and postulates that prevail. Why do so the British elite see the EU as a constraint on British influence in the world? It is interesting to watch that while French and German still have faith in EU, the British elite is in the state of confusion.
Why does a country that is significantly poorer than Germany, with far fewer internationally competitive industries and greater dependence on foreign capital and managerial expertise, believe it can afford to quit the single market?
The fact of matter is most of the British elite know little about Britain’s economic strengths and vulnerabilities. People claim that Britain is the sixth biggest economy in the world (just behind France) but the fact remains that three-quarters of the country is poorer than the EU-15 average, or that its growth performance (at least per head) has been mediocre at best.
Jeremy Corbyn had tried to provide a new direction to the polity, but the fear of emergence of new power politics and philosophy aborted it. It is a fact Britain has a fairly large number of poorly educated people than other European countries. With these people dependent on government financial support it is unlikely that would prove to be the productive forces and stimulate the economic growth of the country.
At this hour the prime argument is economic. The coronavirus shutdown of so much economic activity will cost an estimated 15 per cent hit to the UK economy. Brexit would also see the UK economy shrink by 3.2 per cent in addition to the £130bn that Brexit has cost Britain in terms of lost trade and investment since 2016. (IPA Service)