Saturday, 26 January 2019

Lies my teachers told me (2), or the cruelty of the British Empire

Of course they only taught us of the glories of the British Empire. 

Clive of India Cecil Rhodes and others were the heroes;  the British were utterly pure in the so-called Boer War, etc., etc., etc.  Oh the wonders of all that pink on world maps.  

It was all very seductive:  "Land of hope and glory, mother of the free .... God who made thee mighty, make the mightier yet".

"Mother of the free?"  - says who?  In truth the Empire was nothing short of disastrous for the indigenous peoples of North America, Africa, South Asia and Australia.

(Yes, yes, I know that the Ottoman, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, French and Belgian Empires were horrid. But we English school children were led to believe that our Empire, unlike the others,  was unimpeachably just, fair and enlightened)

Today (26th January 2019) happens to be AUSTRALIA DAY, a national holiday for some Australians, a celebration of the English "discovery" and colonisation of the continent.

But not for all.  How could something be discovered as "Terra Nullius" (** see below)  when the indigenous peoples had been there for 60,000 or more years.  Was their land "just for the taking"?

There is a lively and often bitter debate about this in Australia to this day.  There are those who assert that the day is not about the discovery  of Australia, but about the invasion of that land. by the English/British.

They believe that it should be commemorated as INVASION DAY, not AUSTRALIA DAY.

As one who is fiercely anti-colonialist I am with them!  Empire building and colonisation has wrought unimaginable disaster for many of the world's peoples. What ticks me off is that my teachers said that the British Empire had brought only unparalleled benefits.

In due course I will say more about the English colonisation of Wales and Scotland, and the Scots/English colonisation of Ireland.  

My thoughts today are focused on Australia because it is their Australia or Invasion commemoration day.

via my Australian friend Nicole E.


** P.S.  The dangerous myth of Terra Nullius

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