Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain
England's favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling's 'If' , says that triumph and disaster are the same thing. It also enjoins the English to 'lose, and start again at your beginnings/ And never breathe a word about your loss.' Most modern English heroics are screw-ups, retreats or disasters: the charge of the Light Brigade, the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage, 'Scott of the Antarctic', Gordon of Khartoum, the flight from Dunkirk. The parallels with Brexit are obvious, but the problem is that the cult of heroic failure was developed precisely in an empire that could afford to play up its failures because it was so successful. Its pathos becomes bathos in a post-imperial world. Failure is no longer heroic it is just failure.