I seem to be getting a spot of push-back on my previous post about generalization - which is fine; readers responses are the educative part of blogging.
Here's a generalization none of you will object to: What makes the English so spectacularly important and beneficial to the story of man is their invention of modern democracy. It took them the better part of a millennium to do it, the initial idea came from elsewhere, and there were lots of wrong turns along the way. But they did it, and as a result of their doing it, they were prepared as a society to stand alone against the Nazis; they also inculcated the concept and practice in many corners of the world, even if their colonial project was also shot through with cynicism, cruelty, and general bad faith.
Here's a little thought experiment to demonstrate the idea. There's a hung parliament in the UK this week, and another one in Iraq, but there's not much similarity, is there. Now, try to imagine any moment in the past 300 years where the situation could have been reversed, with the Iraqis muddling past a fleeting awkward moment and the Brits hovering above massive catastrophe. Preposterous idea, isn't it: that's the power of generalization.
Were it not for the English, the world would be a vastly bleaker place. None of which contradicts the generalizations about the English and the Jews. The fundamental decency which enabled the development of democracy, nurtured it and drew sustenance from it, caused even the antisemitism of the English to be significantly more benign that that of other societies, at least in the past four centuries. This, even as this antisemitism sat deep in the roots of English culture, and high in the upper reaches of English society. Jew-hatred in England is not peripheral to the story, not an afterthought. Of course it's not the whole story - it never is - but it's an integral part of it. Perhaps a minor integral part, if you insist.
I recognize that talking this way is frowned upon in our Zeitgeist. People are people, they're complicated, and attributing group characteristics to them has the whiff of all sorts of unpleasant connotations. I know. But I insist, and won't back down. Everything I've learned and observed in the past 30 years reinforces my conviction that our society and its past powerfully impact on who we are and where we'll go. This is not meant to be deterministic, but it's not trivial, either.
Finally, to respond to Rob's comments about the person of Anthony Julius: that he has made a fine living in the UK, and in spite of the Jew hatred there, he's not about to leave. It seems to me that strengthens my point, rather than weaken it. Alongside the animosity against Jews, the UK has long offered the Jews the possibility of unlimited growth and success; it also holds out the hope that those Jews will be able to make their society better, to weaken the demons and limit their force. Try saying the same thing about Russia; and once you've done that, say it with a straight face about any Muslim society.