Thursday, August 15, 2019

Little England

What a disaster.
Hoyle was really responding to the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, who regularly denounced Hoyle as a secular atheist on radio and had written his own science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, a decade before. The villain of Lewis’s book was a sinister institute called NICE, which Satanic aliens wanted to impose contraception, lesbianism, secularism and surrealist art on an unsuspecting Britain. Lewis wanted to preserve old Britain against the filthy tide of modernity.

Hoyle riposted with a novel where rational and benevolently ruthless aliens used an organization called ICE to pull the priest ridden republic next door into the technological age. His satirical portrait of Ireland told British readers that the world was being transformed around them, and that even their most backwards seeming neighbor would outstrip them if they didn’t embrace modernity.

The irony of history is that Hoyle’s parody is now the truth. Today’s Ireland has its highways and its contraceptives. The referendum for marriage equality passed in a landslide, and the Taoiseach is a gay man. Ireland’s voters have embraced modernity with enthusiasm and a barely tolerable degree of self-congratulation. Irish Catholic reactionaries are a tiny, bitter minority.


Now it is Britain that has fallen back into the nightmare of history. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson models himself on Winston Churchill, while Jacob Rees-Mogg, that ungodly hybrid of Bertie Wooster and Roderick Spode, pines openly for the Victorian era. Pro-Brexit conservatives want to reverse the last few several decades, and return to a better era for Britain. They think of the Republic of Ireland as a joke or a historical mistake. They cannot understand why it is still committed to Europe and indeed now standing in Britain’s way, by refusing to capitulate on the “backstop.”