Reading The Wind in the Willows has put me in the mind of reflecting upon the vast chasm dividing idyllic imaginations of English culture from present reality. The Englishman, with all his faults, is nowadays a rarity in England. It seems one must be Polish to be English nowadays, because the English are no longer English - just modern. Has England become a nation of Toads?
Naturally, there must be quite a large number of Badgers hidden throughout the English landscape, and perhaps there always will be. The inclination to jump to conclusions based on a surface evaluation (made at a distance at that) is likely the source of an illusory doubt on my part. So goes the rationalization of the optimistic heart. Yet a turbulent era seems to have dawned on English manners of late; an era all the more pronounced in its' tempestuous contours when one compares it to the lofty and cozy ideals of English life as seen in the company of Mole, Rat and Toad.
Toad, of course, is a foil not just for the vices of modernity, but more broadly of the English heart. Every nation has their Toads (or like creatures). Certainly I do not blame England for being particularly vicious - though reading Cat (no toad he!) can do that to you. Rather, it appears that Toad may no longer be the archetype of vice, but rather the synonym of an Englishman. Worst still, England may have come to the point where Toad is looked upon with nostalgia - a vicious character no doubt, but a specific kind of viciousness, tied always to the virtues just as Toad was tied to his friends, Rat and Mole. Toad's demise in the English identity does not signify the purification of the race - only its' utter demise.
This demise is not unique to England, it is characteristic of most of Western Europe. Whatever the Englishman was, he has transformed himself into an ultra-Toad, a revved up version, a wild Toad who has no need of his friends, who sacks Toad Hall even, who looks at all the comforts tied to aristocratic excess as old hat. The Englishman today is the Russian nihilist of the XIX century. Just as the Russian nihilist destroyed his country, so the modern Englishman is busy crushing his island.
The Muslim and the Pole are now in England to keep him company. Of the two, the Pole is at present more English than the Englishman. The Englishman is not even Anglican anymore, while the Pole is everything that is great about High Anglicanism - namely Catholic. The Englishman does not care to speak proper English anymore and works diligently to destroy his language. The Pole is the enthusiast of the English language and works diligently to learn its nuances. The Englishman does not distinguish between ladies and gentlemen anymore - the Pole is part of the great Slavic cultures which preserve real men and real women. Even the English Royal family, judged by how they present themselves to the public, are more common than Royal. We are left to admire their perseverance as an institution under the dictatorship of democracy, but at what cost!
The Muslim, on the other hand, is completely alien - yet generally possessed of those traits lacking in the Englishman's own culture: religion, honor, children. This bodes poorly for England. Perhaps it is the judgment of a Just God that for every bloody lash delivered upon the back of a colonial subject, England should now be consumed. Still, Wind in the Willows reminds us just what we may be losing in the process. Then again - perhaps these traits are not, after all, very English. Perhaps they belong to the noble type that can be found everywhere where Christian culture still lives.