Thursday, October 06, 2016

The F*ing British Empire

Four decades of life since the early teenage anger against the murderous thugs who (mis)ruled the old country has dampened my anger and disgust only a tad.  If I believed in hell, I could at least curse those white supremacists to the darkest chambers of hell!

My anger over the colonial white supremacists gets regularly stoked with news reports and analyses of the white supremacists empire and its actions.  Or, it will be better if I rephrased it as whatever historical records that the empire and its loyalists did not destroy.  Yep, after all the rape and plunder was done, the empire on its way out made sure to also destroy the historical records.
The Colonial Office devised a system known as “Operation Legacy” that worked on the principle of parallel registries. Reliable civil servants, which in the government’s eyes meant only those who were “British subjects of European descent”, were given charge of identifying and collecting all “sensitive” documents and passing them up the bureaucratic chain. This meant that when the moment of independence came, if not before, they could either be destroyed on site or removed (“migrated” became the official term) to the UK. As to the so-called “Legacy” files that the colony’s new government would inherit, it was important that they gave an impression of completeness, either by creating false documents to replace those that had been weeded out or by making sure there was no reference to them in the files that remained.
So, they burned the papers.  And more.
According to official instruction, the waste left by bonfires “should be reduced to ash and the ashes broken up”. If burning was thought to be too difficult or unsuitable, then the sea offered an alternative. Officials in Kenya were told that documents could be “packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free waters at maximum practicable distance from the coast”.
We don't have to wonder why:
Operation Legacy was intended to ensure that “the British way of doing things” would be remembered with “fondness and respect” – that the conduct of its imperial retreat would be seen as exemplary.
What a sophisticated PR campaign, eh!  They plundered and raped, and then the rapists and plunderers wanted to be "remembered with “fondness and respect.""  I think I am going to puke!

Of course, it is not as if life in the old country was all wonderful before the White Supremacist Raj was established.  Far from that.  For starters, the caste system as it was practiced then--including by my ancestors--along with horrific customs like sati, made sure that life for an overwhelming majority was nasty and hellish.  But, that does not make the White Supremacist Raj any nobler.

Which is also why I worry over the possibility of young boys and men in countries around the world who could be angry at my adopted country.  I have no idea how the female mind works in these contexts, but we have rich historical evidence of angry young men causing destruction to life and property--after all, not all angry young men are also committed to nonviolence as a few of us are.  But, the presidential candidate of the party that is mostly supported only by whites seems all out to create more angry young men all around the world :(

I can't wait for the end of supremacy of any kind.


Ramesh said...

Sure, the British did a lot of horrible things during the Raj. They did a little good too. The best they that can be said about them is that they were better than the Spanish, Belgians, French ..... But that's not much to write home about.

Forget your election. Its not as relevant as you lot think it is. You are just going to have more years of gridlock whoever "wins". Far more fascinating to read the tea leaves on what's happening in China. Or whether Merkel will win next year - now that's an election to follow.

Sriram Khé said...

Do not put the history away so fast, my friend. Pause enough to acknowledge it. Denounce clearly the colonization. Shine the light enough on the white supremacy that messed up the lives of millions forever ...

"Forget your election" is not something that we--you included--can afford to. The xenophobic, misogynistic, maniacal Trump's odds of winning are not good. Yes. But:
1. One can't be lax until it is all really over.
2. The nasty underbelly that Trump has exposed will not go away after his defeat. I am convinced that the nasty white supremacy will be more openly vitriolic.

I think it is time for Merkel to gracefully step away from the stage. If she does not, I suspect that it will be like how Thatcher was finally booted out by her own people. Maybe that is an advantage with the two-term limit for our Presidents. Even if it an aaaaaaawesome President, two terms and out is a great idea.

Yes, the Chinese politics under Xi worry me. I feel like once again I am not able to understand what the game is that the Party is playing now.

Anne in Salem said...

As will not surprise you, when I was in school, I learned nothing of this sort of history. World history was highly Europe-centric except for a few chapters on certain civilizations that excelled on other continents. In college it was, and probably still is, simple never to take a history class that touches on India in any way. I would imagine most Americans would read this and say, "huh?" because all we know of India is Ghandi, curry/naan, and what we saw in the movie. Not to say that British misdeeds are ignored, but barely anything about the Raj, including that term, is common knowledge.

I agree with one point of Ramesh's. You seem to discount everything the British did as horrible, discriminatory, racist and evil. There has to be something positive from that time, and the positives should not be ignored completely, no matter how awful the negatives. The positives don't compensate for the negatives necessarily, but they deserve recognition as well.

Sriram Khé said...

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ..." applies to the White Supremacist Raj too ;)

I don't refer to all the British then as white supremacists. But, the Raj was very much built on that notion. One of the "positives" that even people in India refer to as an example is the railway network. But that was not built out of any goodness of the heart--it was merely to make the extraction/plunder easier. On the other hand, the rail network that the Travancore Kingdom (where my grandmothers were raised) built was to help the movement of people and goods for the benefit of the people in the kingdom.

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