The British Project was — and is — simply this: to make the world England. To profit from it and get rich on the military colonisation of other, weaker people, yes, that was its stimulus. But its philosophical motivation was to make the world England.
When I was at school, we had maps on the walls that showed a world covered in ‘pink bits’. Those, it was said, were ours. They had been ‘our’ Empire; now they were our ‘Commonwealth’. This was another way of saying that all of these countries were still ‘ours’ but we were nice chaps and we let the darkies play unsupervised these days. The whole concept was about as offensive as it gets.
So what was this ‘Empire’ that had turned so much of the planet a most unlikely salmon-pink?
The British Empire
The British Project was launched at the time of the Enlightenment, when Classical ideas were most fashionable. Rome — a barbarous and genocidal empire on one hand — was also the vehicle of Greek ideas. Those were and still are regarded, in many ways rightly, as the finest expression of human thought and aspiration imaginable. (Our teachers avoided mentioning that the Athenians, for example, were the most preposterous misogynists, or that Spartan men preferred boys to women, which might have explained a few things. One learns early that educators are not entirely trustworthy.)
Of course, the Greeks had an Empire too, thanks to Alexander, but it was significantly gentler than its successors. The Greeks did not go in for genocide and they appear to have been rather well-liked; the Ptolemies were accepted as true Egyptian Pharaohs.
The British Project had the conceited notion that it was akin to the Greek Alexandrian Empire. It was a means of civilising the uncivilised. Of bringing better ideas to the ignorant. And in a way, it did do that; after all, Britain gave India its bureaucracy. But its velvet glove always concealed an iron fist.
The truth is that the British Empire was much more like Rome’s. Take what you can, convert the natives and if they won’t come quietly, kill them.
The British Project, of which the Empire was but one artefact, sought to turn the whole world into a clone of England. Everyone would speak English; they would all doff their caps to the English sahibs and mem-sahibs; they would never argue with an Englishman. And they would all eat their bananas with a knife and fork.
What was the justification for this? It was that being English is the best thing possible. It was the highest expression of human culture. This was self-evident; how could it be argued with? Except of course, it was argued with, principally by the French, who thought much the same thing about themselves and were engaged in a French Project designed to make the world France.
When I was still in primary school, the news was filled with the face of a man called Ian Smith, who was the Prime Minister of ‘Rhodesia’ (Zimbabwe.) Smith had done the unthinkable. He had said that Rhodesia would declare independence from the Empire whether the British liked it or not. My God, the outrage was so thick it positively leaked from the television.
Nobody gave a damn about the condition of the Africans — whose country, lest we forget, it actually was; no, not at all. The rage was because Smith was defying Britain. He was defying England. He was wrong — oh, he was wrong all right, he was a dyed-in-the-wool racist. But that wasn’t why the British media loathed him. They hated him because he was holding two fingers up to England and saying ‘You can go and fuck yourselves, Queen, country and Empire.’
And that would never do, would it?
Now look at the demographic of last Thursday’s vote in England. Overwhelmingly, people aged over 60 voted to leave the EU. That is, English people over 60. English people, therefore, older than I am, who grew up believing what they were told in school: that the sun never set on England’s Empire. That it was the finest expression of civilisation that had ever been. That being colonised by the sahibs and mem-sahibs was positively an honour.
Non-English people of all descriptions had to gasp in awe at the passing of that most luminary of humanity; an English gentleman. The natives had to kneel before him, as his shining light of cultural purity washed over them. They had to accept the trinkets he gave them in return for their servitude. The individuals upon whom the English conferred their limitless largesse had to be thankful they were not tied to the wheel of a gun and trailed before the massed ranks of other natives until they were smashed into a literal pulp of bone and meat. (You didn’t know what ‘breaking on the wheel’ was? I hope you are suitably sickened.)
And the natives could not say one word against it — otherwise, Amritsar. In 1919 Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was charged with calming riots in that city, which had begun when Imperial authorities had arrested several nationalist leaders. Dyer’s tactic was to line up his troops and open fire into the crowds. 379 people were killed and over 1000 were wounded. Dyer was later censured, but he still enjoyed huge support in the media and in public, for his actions.
That was what the British Empire really was; a place where the people had to accept English supremacy or die.
The fact is — and the demographics prove it — that a huge number of people who voted ‘Leave’ last Thursday, were brought up believing in the British Project — make the world England. These people are, underneath their skin, profound racists. They hate everyone and everything that is not English.
It is not however, just the aged, who have this sad condition.
Young people are infected too
I remember, a couple of years ago, waiting for my daughter at Lyon St-Exupery Airport. Outside the terminal was a woman with a tribe of children. She was clearly not a wealthy person, nor was she educated. I’d say she was around thirty. In the few minutes that I observed her — in stealth mode, appearing French — she must have used the words ‘England’ or ‘English’ a dozen times, and every time she did so, she raised her voice. ‘Come on children, we’ll soon be back in ENGLAND.’
I wondered about that for a long time. Clearly, she was insecure. She was struggling with unruly children. Her body-language made it obvious that she felt intimidated, though by what I had no idea. How did yelling ‘ENGLAND’ at the top of her voice help?
Now I know. Last Thursday, I learned. What intimidates English people is ‘foreigners’. And the mantra, the talismanic magic word that keeps an Englishperson safe while surrounded by all these terrifying foreigners, is ‘ENGLAND’, shouted at the top of one’s voice.
That was what we saw on Thursday. A collective cry of ‘ENGLAND! Save us from the foreigners!’
The Empire died 50 years ago and the UK has been a part of the EU for 40; but the rot of English supremacy is still there, corrupting a nation’s soul. The myth of the all-powerful white sahib and his gracious mem-sahib to whom the world must bend the knee. The comfort of Queen and Country, and a world made England; the promise of the British Project.
Well, it’s done. England is a laughing-stock. Today, it tears itself apart politically, as an Opposition, that should have come together in the face of a crisis, instead stages a bungled palace coup while the government itself has no leader. Like a child smashing up the doctor’s surgery because she has a cold, the English have shamed themselves.
There were, and are, good arguments against the EU as presently constituted. Many of us think it should be a looser confederation, with far less centralised power. The Euro has been a disaster for many of its members and they should pull out of it now. But the UK is not in the Euro. It never was. And when the English voted as they did, they were not voting for a rational critique of the EU, or to transform it into something better; they were the collective Alf Garnett screaming ‘Bloody wogs!’
Now I know not all English people are shits. But you need to look at yourselves. You need to recognise that the horrible clinging-on to the badges of Englishism from Enid Blyton to Harry Potter, from the Queen to Big Ben, are not signs of your greatness, but of your sickness.
You have never even been able to accept your Britishness, although you expect your partners to; you will always be ENGLISH, yet you are offended when I tell you I am Scottish, not British. Your home will always be ENGLAND and not the United Kingdom; and you most certainly never could be a European. I mean they don’t even speak ENGLISH there.
We know all that now. The polite mask is off. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
For the Scots, there remains only one credible course of action: to sever the ties with England at once and re-establish our nation as proud to be European.