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Meesa gonna kill you!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post-Imperial Guilt (or "What have the Romans ever done for us?")

"Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless." - Sinclair Lewis


Comments (mostly from the first 2 pages, anyway) on a Guardian op-ed exuding British post-imperial guilt:

1) I couldn't even read more than a third into the article. It's such a ridiculous premise. I'm in my mid-twenties, having been through the UK school and university system, and I was NEVER left with the impression that the British empire was a good or kind force. The negative effects of colonialism were bashed into me from about 8 years old. I really thought that this article, when it promised to 're-examine' the view of the British empire, was going to say something positive about it! You must have really awful views on the intellect of your readership.

2) "For much of its early history, the British ruled their empire through terror."

As opposed to those other empires that ruled by giving away free puppies and candy? Conquering nations take over and profit from the resources of the nations they have conquered. That's kind of the whole point FFS.....

3) I'm going to stick my neck out here and say Cameron's right to be proud of British history.

He knows as well as we all do that the actions taken centuries ago would not meet with approval by today's societies, but nevertheless, we still have a lot to be proud of.

The fact that we've spent much of the last 100 years giving back the land taken the century before says a lot about our ever evolving collective vision of moral standards and democracy.

4) Surely the correct stance towards "the Empire" is detached ennui?

There's nothing to gain from either fretting about or celebrating the acts of the long dead. I certainly don't think you can expect current Brits to feel responsible for crimes committed so far in the past, given we don't even have any control over crimes committed "in our name" in the present...

5) The world was, of course, a very different place a century or two ago. Applying current perspectives to almost anything from that age may result in the feeble-minded reaching for the human rights act and saying how nasty it all was. No shit, sherlock! The alternatives may not have been any less palatable, free or peaceful.

6) as a Briton who has traveled extensively I've never found much truth in people like you imaging (or even hoping) the British are especially hated.

White settlers, in the Americas, in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Rhodesia and Kenya, simply took over land that was not theirs.

Indeed. But whose was the land? Had the inhabitants of the lands so brutally occupied by Scots and Irishmen seeking fortune in sunnier climes sprung up out of the very soil or had they too ousted previous dwellers? How far back do we have to go to establish legitimacy?

8) The fact that the cover of this book shows a British solider being eaten alive by a tiger should tell you everything you need to know about the objectivity of its author.

9) This may sound crazy to people who can see only in black or white, but the British Empire also did some good things. Indeed, it did a multitude of bad things, but also brought some good.

It makes me think somewhat of "What did the Romans ever do for us?" sketch in the Life of Brian. We did some good, but perhaps did it in a very blunt and painful manner.

What I am trying to say is that you shouldn't simply say that THE EMPIRE AND EVERYONE IN IT WAS EVIL when that simply isn't the case. But you are preaching to Guardian readers and this is what they want to hear.

10) The past is a foreign country - we have no reason to feel pride or shame by anything that happened there, because we didn't do it.

For the vast majority of us, our ancestors didn't do it either - they were busy digging coal, weaving cotton, farming fields, and neither did they have any say in what happened as the empire was well advanced by the time universal suffrage came into force.

So lets stop trying to impose any emotion on ourselves - unless we're going to ask the French to apologise for 1066

11) Will Mr Gott's rant be published on paper produced from trees which in a previous life had provided shelter for innumerable creatures, ousted violently from their homes in order to further the financial gain of his paymasters?

12) I don't want to be made a prisoner of the past. We need the freedom to be able to define for ourselves a new future, preferably one that no longer defines this country in terms of who we wage war with.

13) [On the Falklands] The people in charge of Argentina are descended from European colonialists themselves.

I don't have much time for people who dig up history going back centuries. Blood-lines mix over time. How many British people have some Irish blood in their veins? There are enough things to argue about already without adding historic grievances.

14) [Argentina] wouldn't have a greater claim than the Falklanders, many of whom have been there for longer than many Argentine families have been in Argentina.

15) Seeing someone cite an event from 1764 I feel so ashamed that I have castrated myself with a snapped CD.

16) I think the idea of the 'Noble Savage' is a myth from the time of Empire. The native's I've come accross were very keen on mechanisation, fertilisers, cash crops, running water, electricity and all that. Nice change for the crippling, never ending, exhuasting, dangerous life of the subsistance farmer.

17) Now Westlife are a thing of the past, I trust the Irish too will be remembering with shame what they inflicted upon the world.

18) Aussies that come from Africa or Asia or Pacific frequently comment that paternalistic government from a Western Power was frequently and mainly better than what they have now.

19) To think that Alexander the Great was much better than Genghis Khan reflects a kind of implicit Eurocentrism (i.e. all human civilisation originated in ancient Greece...) and even racist "Yellow Peril" scaremongering.

20) Dear Mr Gott,

Thank you for such a succinct summary of your book. I can now save myself £25 and put it towards something that will cheer me up.

21) Strangely enough the Turks, by contrast, are very proud of the much more brutal Ottoman Empire. So why the difference in perspectives? How much more do the Brits have to be told to hate themselves so vehemently that they will entirely censure and condemn British culture to the wastebin?

Genghis Khan Statue Sought

"To Mongolians, the fierce 13th-century leader has long been considered the father of their country, a revered figure akin to George Washington in the United States...

"Writers and historians have described him as a bad person," said Gombosuren Ganzorig, a lawyer who emigrated from Mongolia to northern Virginia seven years ago. "But the perception of Genghis Khan for Mongolians is Great Khan. Everybody is proud of Genghis Khan"...

Genghis Khan is credited with a host of reforms and progressive actions, he said. Among other things, he was an early champion of religious tolerance and women's rights, allowing women to speak in public and express opinions. He also was an early supporter of diplomacy, offering protection to envoys from other lands.

"A lot of terrible things happened during the conquest era," Fitzhugh said. "They massacred whole cities sometimes, and those are the bloodthirsty stories you hear. But after things calmed down, it was a mammoth empire and it was ruled with a lot of precision and care""

Too bad we don't find balance everywhere...
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