Who Are My People?

It is perhaps a strange thing that we take an active, loving interest in the life of our people… and that I consider my people to be my people, even those of different social backgrounds to myself. “Who are your people?” my people often ask. Today, serious questions are asked of the deviants who profess an active and loving interest in their people, but the healthy norm of indifference raises no eyebrows.

We’re oddities in the age of individualism. The idea of even being a people has been melted down and we now swim as individuals in the very non-descript soup of consumer capitalism. I think this de-peoplisation is one of the saddest and most vindictive processes of empire as we experience it here.

It seems absurd to me that I should have to explain or justify a love of my people, so instead I’ll shout into the hollow void of the current order, and demand an explanation from it. “What is the meaning of this virtue of indifference?” (It never answers me. It hopes I’ll imagine that it doesn’t exist, but I can hear it breathing). Anyway, I think the empire’s reasons for de-peoplising are obvious enough for us to observe without its help. It knows that the people who are in love with their people are the trouble makers. They’re a people possessed… a people with a vision. They tear down and they build up. They insist on change. A loveless populace are a more predictable and malleable stuff for the powers to work with.

The Army of the Broken Hearted is a re-peoplising movement. We tell the people their shared story, and their shared story reveals their identity as a people. Then, those two elements empower the people to alter the course of the story, and every empire knows that that is something that the people must never be allowed to do*.

My own unwelcome brand of patriotism was forced upon me by an irresistible grace. Until 2002 I had been the staunchest believer in that doctrine of total indifference to such things. I think G K Chesterton will describe the spirit behind it all best:

Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing – say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. For decoration is not given to hide horrible things: but to decorate things already adorable. A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck. If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say this is mere fantasy. I answer that it is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilisation and you will find them knotted around some sacred stone, or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

(From Orthodoxy, p66, 2001)


*This, we contend, is the revolutionary power of repentance – and it is the doom of the empire…


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