Thought for St George's Day
It would not have surprised Chesterton to see that the first mass challenge to oppression would come from the small business sector (Class Law Action) or that it would take a highly legalistic form.
Napoleon's "Nation of Shopkeepers" is alive and well, still hiding their emotions in their wallets and purses and pretending that their cause is only money.
It is easier for them to claim damages than for a still undemonstrative people to explain. It hides how deeply hurt and shocked they are to see their twin loves, of animals and countryside, trampled under foot.
But what Chesterton knew, and everyone from Napoleon to Galtieri was to discover, was an invisible line; a line that the transgressor cannot see until too late. The warning signs are all there, but these only the alert will notice.
When the English come to know their national day and fly their flag over their countryside something is afoot.
A people that grumble, rather than rebel, are stirring.
The English will, as always, put things right their way - late, without obvious passion and with little warning. Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.
...You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.
... We only know the last sad squires rode slowly towards the sea,
And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.
They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.
We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia's wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God's scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.