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Time to Grow up

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5 Jan 2018


Time for the 'elite' to grow up

At school and university, young British ‘elite’ are trained to regard patriotism and empire as dirty words: relics of old-fashioned colonialism. The EU, by way of contrast, is pitched as a rational and benign alternative.

 This long-standing agenda has governed the lives of many politicians and ‘celebrities’. Filmmaker Ken Loach, for example, turned down an OBE saying:

“It's all the things I think are despicable: patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the name of British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest.”

 In similar vein, explaining why he turned down a CBE, novelist JG Ballard said:

“A lot of these medals are orders of the British Empire, which is a bit ludicrous. The dreams of empire were only swept away relatively recently, in the 60s. It goes with the whole system of hereditary privilege and rank, which should be swept away.”

 The problem was, and is, that young minds are not instructed to review their beliefs regularly to see if they match reality.

 But there are signs that the current orthodoxy on Britain’s colonial past is changing. Despite the vogue for attacking any and all relics of Britain’s colonial past - especially by university students and Marxist lecturers – Professor Nigel Biggar said it was also time to acknowledge the good that British rule brought.

The Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford said that British colonialism was all too often seen as a wholly oppressive evil but it often brought political order and the rule of law to lands where previously there had been none.

He said: “Political order might seem like an unexciting value but without it nothing good can flourish.

That’s why indigenous peoples sometimes chose to move into territories governed by colonial regimes rather than away from them.

Thus millions of Chinese took refuge in British Hong Kong during the early years of communist rule in Beijing and especially the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution.

What gave colonial rule popular legitimacy was not democratic elections but its provision of the goods of security and the rule of law.”


Prof. Biggar, whose research has covered everything from human rights to the ethics of nationalism, pointed to the way US political scientist Bruce Gilley was treated after suggesting it might be time to question the favoured orthodoxy that had given western colonialism a bad name.


Bruce Gilley’s argument was that European colonial rule, while harsh, did not introduce atrocities per se. Atrocities had been conducted by the indigenous peoples both before colonialism and after – in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe oversaw the massacre of 20,000 Ndebele people in the 1980s – decades after independence.


Bruce Gilley pointed to the building of coherent political communities, reliable state institutions and housing which allowed communities to flourish.


And he quoted Nigerian writer and anti-colonialist Chinua Achebe who said: “Here is a piece of heresy – the British governed their colony of Nigeria with considerable care.


“There was a very highly competent cadre of government officials imbued with a high level of knowledge of how to run a country. British colonies were more or less expertly run.”

He added that while British justice might have been fierce it could not be bought or sold and said: “Now all that has changed.”


Prof. Biggar said if the British continued to hate themselves over colonialism they risked turning in on themselves and refusing to engage with the world even in the face of obvious evil.


He added: “If we believe what strident anti-colonialists tell us – namely that our imperial past was one long unbroken litany of oppression, exploitation and self deception – then our guilt will make us vulnerable to wilful manipulation, and it will confirm the belief that the best way we can serve the world is by leaving it well alone.”


Writing in The Times, Prof. Biggar went on to say the British could take pride in the Royal Navy’s century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade and added: “Bruce Gilley’s case for colonialism calls for us British to moderate our post-imperial guilt.”


Biggar and Gilley are not alone in defending, even praising, some aspects of our imperial past.  A survey last year showed Britons were broadly proud of the nation’s history of colonialism. YouGov found 44 per cent were proud of Britain's history of colonialism, with only 21 per cent regretting it happened and 23 per cent holding neither view.

Lacking an appreciation of the reality of colonialism, the ‘elite’ remain fervent opponents of Brexit while praising the benefits and virtues of the EU. They fail to see that their beloved EU is becoming (has become?) the very thing they denounce – an evil empire.

 Even long before the 2017 Referendum, Jose Barroso, former President of the European Commission said of the EU:  

"We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind. I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire. What we have is the first non-imperial empire." he added confusingly.

 Did the ‘elite’ miss this declaration? Or did it just not match their youthful beliefs and was ignored? Or are they beginning to accept that not all imperialism is bad – as long as it’s practised by the EU?

 Whatever their brainwashing has achieved, it’s time for them to recognise that the EU has become an undemocratic empire with its own flag, national anthem, centralised bureaucracy and drive to expand its borders. It’s also behaving like an old-fashioned Central Power with its desire to punish the UK for daring to leave and plotting to prevent Eastern European countries democratising their legal systems. The ‘elite’ now need to rethink their fundamental beliefs and allegiances.

It is, of course, hard to discard the beliefs of childhood, but it is a necessary part of growing up. 


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