Endless lines at gas stations. Desperate drivers fighting while pumps run out. Military deployed to distribute fuel throughout the country. And as a background, the pandemic is spreading, supermarkets and pharmacies remain unsupplied, while families are sinking into poverty because conservatives have decided that it would be necessary to begin to balance the public accounts imbalanced by the pandemic by cutting social programs.
The Great Britain of 2021, outside the European Union and suffering from all these ills as anticipated as they are shameful, has plenty of reasons to feel sorry for herself. As Irish intellectual Fintan O’Toole has explained in his book ‘A Heroic Failure’, the self-pity implicit in Brexit was something of a twisted
pleasure that leads to wanting to be alone. No matter that loneliness, like rice, has its point. In the case of the United Kingdom, this fondness for solitary paralysis would have been fueled by a mixture of instrumentalized outrage and grief-grief-grief for a terribly aggrieved national identity.
In fact, Brexit only made sense in the context of a nation that looks in the mirror and feels quite sorry. According to Fintan O’Toole, the key to Britain’s exercise in self-pity facing perhaps the gloomiest Christmass since World War II must be found at the intersection of two seemingly incompatible issues: a deep sense of grievance and a deep sense of superiority.
“The better we think of ourselves, the more sorry we feel for ourselves when we don’t get what we know we deserve,” O’Toole reasons to explain that identity supremacy that always seeks exceptionality in the face of rules of the game that oblige other mortals. For this reason, it is difficult to resist a book like ‘A Heroic Failure’ that begins with a devastating Turkish proverb: “An Englishman will burn his bed to catch a flea.” Even in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul it is known that national-populism never spares costs.