All cultures need a serviceable national story. But Brexit Britain, birthed in still-steaming divisions, does not have one
We are entering a second dark age. But the light that flickers on the screens of our iPhones, from a five-second clip of a dog sliding on some ice, is blinding us to the encroaching blackness.
Our civilisation teeters at the abyss. We are 8th-century Lindisfarne monks, spotting black Viking sails on the horizon and hurrying to hide our illuminated manuscripts, before shaving our hair into tonsures to look less desirable to frustrated seafarers.
But barbarians come in many guises. Having farmed out the act of examining children to independent companies, plans are now in place to stop offering A-levels in art history and archaeology to a relatively small customer base, or schoolchildren, as they used to be called.
The canary in the mine of British cultural life just expired. But who were these so-called “canaries” anyway, with their elitist lungs, presuming to warn of us of supposedly dangerous gas?
Where will tomorrow’s archaeologists come from? Who will carry out all the investigations needed as trophy infrastructure projects pulverise our buried history, destroying it for ever?
Brexit Britain doesn’t care. Historians and archaeologists are just more “experts”, slowing down our thrilling progress towards the cliff, with their cumbersome facts and obstructive understanding.
Surely some ideas are inherently valuable in and of themselves. There could be no clearer example of the extent to which we have lost our way than the abandonment of art history and archaeology. Unless perhaps the new education secretary, Justine Greening, were to go on a long symbolic quest to seek the mythical holy grail and, having found the talismanic object, ancient vessel of incalculable wisdom and understanding, shat in it.