Query: You grew up in an England that had become a minor power--a little England--but that remained, in important ways, wealthy and vibrant, at least for those who made their livings in finance and the few other sectors in which England remained competitive. Yet you surely heard from members of your parents' and grandparents' generations about the pleasures and burdens of life in England when the UK remained Number One Country.
Which is to be preferred? If Paul Johnson is right--if America is indeed entering a period of irreversible decline--would our diminishing role in the world really prove all that bad?
Peter Robinson asked me some questions. What they boil down to, I think, is: "Is America ready to play Norma Desmond?"
And the answer is a definite "No."
The thing you have to remember is that, despite our many similarities, there are also certain irreconcilable differences between our two fair nations. One has to do with our attitude towards failure.
Here in Britain, we tend to fetishize it; celebrate it, even. We feel almost as proud of our heroic defeats (The Charge of the Light Brigade, Dunkirk, Scott of the Antarctic) as we are of our numerous victories (most of them over the French, though, of course, we never like to remind of this). This has served us well in the 50 or so years since we lost all but a few tiny corners of our Empire. We don't mind how fallen we are now because, like Satan in Paradise Lost we remain all too conscious of the place we came from - and still feel in our hearts (and heads) that that's where we deserve to be and kind of still are ...
In the US, you have phrases like "Only losers quit; only quitters lose." This is why you beat us at every sport going. (Apart from golf: tee hee hee). It's why you did the bulk of the fighting for us in Northwest Europe and the Pacific in the Second World War.
Failure just doesn't suit you, America - and it's one of the reasons I so love you. So don't even THINK about accepting your decline. Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Though I agree that the recent presidential election result may have felt like the final nail in the coffin).
Oh - and if you still need reminding who you are and what you stand for, relish for a moment the greatest four minutes in the history of television. (Made by Americans for Americans, natch)