Every time I watch a movie or read a book about history I fall ever more disgusted by the legacy of my people. This awareness also makes me more frustrated with the enforced and ridiculous isolation we are creating for ourselves in these modern times.
We are so proud of ourselves, we Brits, more specifically, we English. We, the great conquerors of the world. Even now there are countries beholden to us. Even now we feel we have a right to dictate to others how they should run their country, how they should live their lives. We continue to be condescending to those who choose to live differently to us, whose values and priorities do not reflect our own relentless greed.
We continue to do deals under tables and behind closed doors that keep corruption a reality and undermine the healthy growth of those we have oppressed; in fear that they grow bigger and stronger than us, in fear that they might seek the retribution they so rightly deserve.
This greed, this need to have everything, to be the owner, the all powerful and mighty. Believing we have a right to take something because we want it, because we think it should be ours. Even the belief that we can govern better and that others can’t be trusted to govern themselves (which we use to entrench ourselves where we don’t belong) is always rooted in some element of them having something we want: land, oil, gold, manpower, food, energy.
These days we take pride in being the country people look up to, even if we were the ones who put them on their knees. Today we talk about ‘making Britain great again’ believing that because our ancestors chose to rule the world it gives us some right to that same ‘glory’. We hold on so tight to this blind righteous belief in ourselves and our ancestors that we forget (or perhaps we purposefully block out) that the legacy we have been passed is one that any other country would feel deep shame for.
Without shame it is easy to forget, to move on and to repeat your mistakes. History is written by the victors, or the historians, both were usually white men in ivory towers who didn’t notice or didn’t care to notice or record the wanton destruction, only the victory, only the ‘glory’.
Seriously, what right did they have? Those conquerors of old? Those Kings and Queens, and government officials, using every day people to pillage, kill, rape and oppress people and land across the world? What right did they have to decide they were better, they were more important, they were smarter or more developed? To decide they had the right to impose their brand as they pleased.
And when their own people got in their way, why not just ship them off to the other side of the world, so they can bother someone else. Even there the conquering spirit prevailed, causing death, mountains of bones and generations of psychological and cultural problems.
Even the stories that bring to light our history of destruction and gluttony are tainted by the gross appreciation we have for ourselves. Using rose tinted glasses misdeeds are painted with gilded frustration and careful blindness.
While it is true to say that others have done damage, the Romans, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Americans, it is only fair that we learn to recognise the impact we have had and try to reduce the consequences, though it must always be too little and too late.
I believe that we must own this legacy of callous greed, that we must dig into the reality that we have no right to be proud of ourselves for ending African slavery (for example), how can you be proud of something you purposefully made into a thriving business, your own wealth in exchange for death of people and culture? What kind of a deal was that!
We must recognise the damage we have caused. Recognise that the damage continues to ripple across the planet impacting lives every day. Stop believing that we are better alone, and recognise that one of our only saving graces has been the people who have chosen to come to our country, to build their lives here despite our obnoxious condescension of them and who have helped improve the level of our expectations of ourselves.
It is as if we forgave ourselves of everything, simply because we suffered during the World Wars, and we defeated Hitler. One bad man does not right the many bad men and women we have thrown into the world.
Every time we have changed it has been because we were forced to do, never wanting to accept we might be in the wrong. The change has been forced through by people we bullied and degraded because we thought we knew best, and let’s be clear, because we didn’t want to lose ground or money. Everything we are proud about in our country was achieved by those we first bullied and hated and have rarely fully recognised or appreciated since.
It is time to stop thinking that the way to a better future is to tout our ‘glory’, to strengthen our walls and to reduce our empathy. Britain must accept that on our own we are nothing but an ancient bully screaming ‘it’s not fair’ into an ever growing void. Without interlopers we revert back to a proud-to-a-fault nation with shrinking creativity and a haul of baby-booming granddads who won’t let go of the reins for fear the kids will revolt and take their precious money.
The white man MUST ‘go gentle into that good night’, he must recognise that for the thousands of years he has ruled, he has focused too much on inflicting himself on others, and not enough on listening and learning from those who do not look like him. He must let go of the mantle and learn that by doing so he is also freeing himself from the monstrous responsibility of fixing the world.
Let someone else have a shot. We out here, behind your walls, are not screaming and shouting to rip you apart (although you would quite deserve it!) we are trying to set you free. Free to love, free to feel, free to sit and shoot the breeze. We are trying to set us all free. There are other ways to exist, success for our planet does not come in the colour of gold, or the dark slick of oil, it comes in the tapestry of skin colour and grey mush of our brains. You have forgotten, let go and we will catch you, let go and maybe the world and everyone on it will have a chance to thrive.