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The English: Are They Human?

The English: Are They Human? - Gustaaf Johannes Renier There is a (culturally) very telling scene in one Austin Powers movie, written by a man whose father is, I believe, British. The villian is trying to find a polite way to kick Mini-me out of the dining hall, until the bizarre Dutch character on roller skates suddenly blurts out "The little one doesn't realize!"

The Dutch/French author of this book, true to a certain Dutch stereotype, is a kind of hanger-on, an outsider, a proverbial little one, there at the table to state trivialities, without having any greater focus or purpose.

With this author's stated ideal being "the Belgian burgher", it's the equivalent of sitting at a table and getting a menu published in Germany for a British McDonalds, which offers burgers "baked in Holland". Mmm...

What's the point of even reviewing a meal like this? Well, it's because somewhere along the way the Benelux countries, mainly the Netherlands?, became the legal foundation of the modern EU. It's as if they invited the people of Europe to come to Amsterdam, relax their inhibitions and be harangued by Dutchmen in the street.

But,returning, unfortunately, to the book. In truth, the title is meaningless. The author wants to change everything and nothing about the English character. The English are in fact superhuman in his racist mind, even "beautiful", the men he says, who sustain an empire which is such a model for international relations. Also, their civil servants are a permanent improvement on democracy, according to him.

True, the author does believe that the English have buried their humanity in repression and ritual, learned for the most part in English public schools, which were created to teach nothing but empty formalisms to future officers. The fact that he admires a military empire run by civil servants instead of having the country of impulsive farmers he'd rather see is a contradiction which seems to challenge the intellect of this particular bright spark. But, hey, he also says briefly that anarchy and Tolstoianism are the only ways to live. Typical of a burgher to hang out uniformly, trying to look right from every side.

Asides about language as evidence of English humanity: exactly one example provided, the phrase "swing a dead cat", a phrase which seems strange to this man who was once harangued by some repressed animal rights lover when he pushed a cat out of the way.

Asides about the genuine character of real Englishmen: exactly two examples, farmers telling sex anecdotes in a round, then letting him drink from the same glass where they put their lips. He really begins to sound like a creepy little Dutchman, and one wonders which side of the fagging tradition he appreciates in English public schools. I won't even mention that he publishes his book in a Dutchman's rhetorical enemy, Germany.

Overall, the English and every pertinent nationality knew perfectly well that it was time to party after WWI and honestly, what's more martial and repressive in its bearing than time spent in the military itself? He seems to have come late to the 1920s party. Nor does he anticipate political upheaval of the 30s and 40s; at most he says that Churchill would be a fascist and that neither Ireland nor women would accomplish much with the vote.

What's honestly the most troubling are his concluding pages suggesting that all truth, being subjective, is just an art, just so many forms to be played with. Aside from being the nature of burgher cowardice, it sounds highly reminiscent of certain postmodern schools taught badly.