Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Joy of British Imperialism

What a damning indictment of little britain this finding is:

"The British public are generally proud of their country's role in colonialism and the British Empire, according to a new poll. At its height in 1922 the British Empire governed a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area... YouGov found 44% were proud of Britain's history of colonialism while only 21% regretted that it happened. 23% held neither view... The British Empire is not widely taught in detail in British schools, with history lessons tending to focus on other areas." (British people are generally proud of their country's role in colonialism and the British Empire, poll finds, Jon Stone,, 19/1/16)

Trawling through the 320 comments which follow the report, it is safe to assume that the vast majority of little brits wouldn't even know the Balfour Declaration if it hit them in the face. Staggeringly, only one mentioned Palestine, Britain's worst ever colonial crime, and even then referred to it as 'Israel'.

Some examples of the abysmal ignorance of little brits on the subject of British colonialism in general, and the Middle East in particular, are as follows. The first borders on Trumpian parody:

"British Empire. Fantastic. Winners. Changed the world for the better. And made a fortune while doing it. No sitting idle on benefits for them. Technology, the law, exploration - the Brits were at the forefront. But nice to see so many comments from the heirs of so many losers. Obviously not exterminated. Clearly no genocide. To cap it all, the British were thoroughly nice too, freely handing back countries when the natives had gained some modicum of civility. Best Empire ever." (ScottishDanno)

As for the Middle East:

"The Middle East, to it's (sic) benefit would be seeing the rule of secular law right now rather than the vicious rule of religion." (PGwood)

Simple-minded PGwood is obviously blissfully unaware that his country was single-handedly responsible for transforming unsuspecting multi-sectarian Ottoman Palestine into the viciously mono-sectarian Jewish state of Israel.

The only response to PGwood, from NK, missed the opportunity to point this out, asking merely "Why would you want Britain to meddle in how people run their own countries? If reform is to take place there then let it happen from within. Look at the mess in Iraq and Syria right now because of British and US meddling."

PGwood, clearly oblivious to the fact that the Middle East isn't 'next door' to Britain, replied, apropos of nothing: "If your neighbour is throwing rocks at his wife, do you say something about it. or not?"

Coming closer to Britain's meddling in the Middle East, but nonetheless maddeningly vague, is this effort:

"Those getting all misty-eyed about colonialism would to well to reflect on its enduring legacy. No, not cricket and railway networks but the mess that is now the Middle East and North Africa and the human wave that is only starting to rebound on Europe. Empire is (sic) a very long embrace indeed." (lastflightout)

To which came this blame-it-all-on-the-French, blatantly racist reply:

"It didn't endure. It has no legacy. And actually, the Middle Eastern and African countries with most problems seem to have been French, not British. Regardless, when the civilised Europeans left, the natives returned to their brutal, savage and backward ways." (Brad_Humberside)

Which in turn elicited the following rejoinders: "Saudi Arabia? Israel? Yes? Would you like to have another go at defending British barbarism?" (Kay Parlay); "'civilised Europeans' - yes, so civilised they didn't know to wash their behinds after defecating, or wash their hands after that before eating." (adamcrossphoto)

But back to the "problems" of the Middle East. We've already had Brad_Humberside pointing the finger at the French, now we've got this genius blaming the Ottoman Empire:

"The middle east problems were as much caused by the collapse of Ottoman power (only partially nudged over the line by the British and French) and the ungainly carve up afterwards. Not the Empires finest moment maybe but you can only ever deal with the problems in front of you at the time." (RevCr)

Only partially NUDGED over the line!!!??? But let's focus on "the problems in front of you," shall we?

There was, in fact, no problem for the British and French to deal with in the Middle East during World War I or immediately thereafter. Rather, these two imperialist bovver boys created problems for the people of the Middle East:

Britain, for example, who had promised her Arab allies independence in the 1915 McMahon Treaty, betrayed them by agreeing to divide the Arab world between themselves and the French in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. It then went on to compound that treachery by supporting, in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, thus creating the Palestine problem where before there had been no such problem.


Grappler said...

As a pom, I agree with your view of British Imperialism and Colonialism, MERC, but we cannot entirely blame the people of that country. Their media, their education system, and their ruling elites do nothing to overcome the ignorance. On the contrary they promulgate a view of history that portrays (wrongly) the British Empire as a force for good in the world. The BBC, to the extent that it ever permitted an alternative view of history, and it did that sparingly, was "fixed" by the Blair government in the aftermath of the Hutton Enquiry. There are few real journalists left in the UK. I'd argue that it is no worse in this respect than Australia. On I/P I think it is slightly less constrained than Australia. Where are the Australian equivalents of Jeremy Corbyn and Gerald Kaufman? Bob Carr? But only after he left politics. I can't recall a leader of any of the major parties in Australia taking the view of Corbyn - while in office.

The average Brit would know nothing about Sykes-Picot or even the Balfour Declaration. I'm almost hoping that the celebration of the latter this year will be a big thing in the UK. At least, it will draw attention to it and some more curious people will read about the reality.

MERC said...

You're right. Corbyn's set a new standard here. Do you know if he's been vocal on Palestine since he became leader?

Grappler said...

Unfortunately he seems to have been got at. I don't have time to look now but the Labour Party in the UK has modified its stance on recognition of Palestine recently. Previously under Corbyn it made a commitment to recognition. This is all from memory - not that reliable.

MERC said...


MERC said...

Almost forgot. See my 19/5/17 post Corbyn Blinked.

Grappler said...

So maybe I read it here! Sorry, MERC.