A few days ago, in expressing my doubts about David Brooks’ claim that America’s cultural DNA ensures we will never operate our economy along European lines, I pointed to the transformation of England’s economic system that occurred in the last century. After putting up the post, I recalled a comparison I read years ago between the funerals of Princess Diana (1997) and WInston Churchill (1965). The author, I believe, was Peter Hitchens — Christopher’s brother.
In Churchill’s case, Londoners paid their respects in the morning to the man who had guided them through their darkest hour, and then went about their business. Many of the men hopped trains to the soccer venues where their their favorite teams were playing. The big grounds of the day were packed that afternoon.
Diana’s funeral, by contrast, brought the nation to a halt. All sporting events were cancelled (no Premier League soccer matches had been scheduled for that day). The head of the Scottish soccer federation came under strong pressure to resign because he was too slow to cancel Scotland’s World Cup qualifying match against Belarus in Aberdeen. The national sob-fest went on for days. The stiff upper lip was nowhere in evidence, at least among the younger generations.
One need not share Peter Hitchens’ affection for High Toryism to take the point — England’s cultural DNA was no obstacle to the massive changes that occurred in the 32 years between the two funerals. Similarly, our cultural DNA is probably not a guarantee against massive changes, including the Europeanization of our economy.