Tag Archives: UNESCO

BRITISH EMPIRE WAS A BLESSING

It has been suggested that citizens of the sixteen Commonwealth Realms be given their own “fast lane” at UK Points of Entry.   This will be good news for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the smaller realms.   If the idea is approved, it will be a first step toward restoring closer Commonwealth ties that ended when Britain joined the EU.

While Britain has been a member of the European Union, EU citizens were able to go through the fast lane, while the rest of us waited for up to two hours, slowly inching forward in the “Aliens” line.

Post-Brexit, it will certainly be in Britain’s best interests to enter into closer trade and defense ties with the countries that share Britain’s parliamentary system and all have the same Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II.   Other Commonwealth countries have opted for a republican form of government, recognizing the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth but not retaining her services as their own sovereign.

It will also mean that, for the first time, the United Kingdom is reversing five decades of history and turning its attention again to its former Empire.

The word “Empire” has been a pejorative for two generations.   Before World War One, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the British Empire around the world in territories that constituted the “empire upon which the sun never set.”   Over a quarter of the world’s people lived under the British flag.   Imperialism was in vogue and inspired millions of people to help develop other nations.

Today, people forget what a blessing the Empire was.  Let’s take a look at a few of those blessings.

1.  The Bible and religious freedom.

The fourteenth century philosopher and theologian, John Wycliffe, was the first man to translate all the scriptures into English.   His favorite verse was Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”   He struck the first blow for religious freedom and democracy by encouraging people to study for themselves and make up their own minds.

Two centuries later, the English Queen Elizabeth I, secured the Protestant Reformation by bravely sending her smaller fleet against the Spanish Armada.   England defeated the Spaniards, thereby thwarting an attempt by the pope to force the country back into the Catholic Church.

In the nineteenth century, the British and Foreign Bible Society, took the Bible into dozens of different countries.   The Wycliffe Bible Translation Society still exists, sending volunteers into poor and backward countries to develop a written language and then translate the Bible so that all may read it.

The most famous British missionary, David Livingstone, took the Bible with him into central Africa, to “bring light into darkness.”  He was also motivated by a desire to see the end of slavery, perpetrated by Arab slave traders, who were seizing black Africans as slaves.

2.  Britain was the first major country to abolish slavery.

Slavery was universal and had not been questioned until the eighteenth century.   It wasn’t just Africans who were taken as slaves.   One million white people were being held by Muslim slave traders at this time.   (“White Gold”, Giles Milton, 2004.)

In 1772, the Somerset decision by an English court, ruled that British people could not hold slaves, that all people in Britain were free. It took another 35 years before the slave trade was abolished and a further 27 years before slavery itself was ended throughout the British Empire.  (Denmark banned the slave trade in its territories a few years before Britain.)

One year after the abolition of the slave trade, the British government authorized the Royal Navy to stop ships on the high seas and free all the slaves.   Wikipedia has this to say about the West Africa Squadron:

“The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron (or Preventative Squadron) at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807.   The squadron’s task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa.   With a home base at Portsmouth, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Solebay and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Derwent. At the height of its operations, the squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and marines.

“Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.[“1]

Because of its role in fighting slavery, Britain was seen as a Liberator around the world.  Many tribes in Africa asked to be annexed into the British Empire, seeking protection from slave traders.  At one point, so many African tribes were asking to join the Empire that the British were overwhelmed. “The Dualla chiefs of the Cameroon repeatedly asked to be annexed, but the British either declined or took no notice at all.”  (Pax Britannica, James Morris, 1968, page 43)

In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Victorians were caught up in an enthusiastic desire to see slavery ended in Africa, and the Bible, Protestant Christianity, democracy and the rule of law introduced (“Africa and the Victorians,” Robinson and Gallagher, 1961)

Sadly, in the sixty years since the end of the British Empire, slavery is back in every single African country, according to UNESCO.   The former Ghanaian President, John Kufour, condemned slavery in Ghana a few years ago on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire; he also apologized for the role Ghana’s own chiefs had played in promoting slavery by selling their own people and members of other tribes.

3.  British capital developed many nations.

The definitive books on British investment around the world are the two volume “British Imperialism” by Cain and Hopkins.  The books highlight “London’s role as the chief provider of economic services during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (back cover, volume one).   London remains the world’s number one financial center (New York has the world’s biggest stock exchange).   Not only did British capital develop every country in the Empire, it was also responsible for developing the United States, Argentina, Brazil,Chile, the Ottoman Empire and China.

Interestingly, one reason that members of the European Union are upset over Brexit, is that Britain has been a net contributor to the EU, helping to finance development in other member nations.  When the UK leaves, where is the money going to come from?

4.   Another blessing of British rule was its governmental system and the administration of its various colonies.

Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its constitutional monarchy is the most stable political system in the world.   It was successfully exported to all its colonies and dominions.  Sixteen of those countries have retained the same system since independence, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of majority black countries in the Caribbean.  Queen Elizabeth remains as Head of State in all of these countries.

38 other countries, former colonies of Great Britain, did not retain the Queen as Head of State but still look to her as the Head of the Commonwealth.  Many of these nations have suffered through coups and counter-coups and periods of military rule.  In many, corruption is rife and the people are worse off than they were when colonies.

Interestingly, it was recently suggested that the United States join the Commonwealth, as an Associate member.  The Royal Commonwealth Society is opening a branch in New York City.

5.   The free world’s first line of defense.

For two centuries Great Britain was the “policeman of the world.”  The country brought down Napoleon, after which she was the undisputed leader of the world.  A century later, with her dominions and colonies, she brought down the Kaiser.  In World War Two, the British Empire was the only power that was in the war from beginning to end.   With later help from the Soviet Union and the United States, the Empire defeated Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich that was the most racist regime in modern history.  The Empire’s forces also kept the peace on the North-West frontier of India, in what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan and in other trouble spots around the world.

America’s pre-eminent historian, James Truslow Adams, wrote his history of “The British Empire 1784-1939” in the year that World War Two started, 1939.   This is the final paragraph in his book:   “In this world crisis, we in America have a great stake.  We know that stability is impossible without respect for law and order, for the honesty of the written and spoken word.  Without liberty of thought, speech and press, progress is impossible.  What these things mean to the world of today and tomorrow has been amply demonstrated by the negation of them in certain great nations during the past few years.   Different peoples may have different ideals of government but for those who have been accustomed to freedom of person and of spirit, the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable.  Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression could rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed.”  (page 358)

The Empire has indeed been replaced by “the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression.”

It’s no wonder that, at the height of the Empire, during Queen Victoria’s reign and the first few years of the twentieth century, many people in Britain and its overseas territories, believed the Empire was a fulfillment of biblical promises made to Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel.  In Genesis, chapter 48, we read of howJoseph’s descendants were to become a great “multitude of nations” and a “great (single) nation,” the British Empire and Commonwealth and the United States.  They were to be a physical blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).  In the late Victorian period, believers published a weekly newspaper called “The Banner of Israel”  — they enthusiastically tracked the daily growth of the British Empire and the United States at the time.

This belief was widely held in the trenches of World War One.  It’s ironic that those same trenches shattered the religious convictions of many, who witnessed the carnage first-hand.

No empire was perfect.  Britain made mistakes.  Often listed by anti-imperialists is the Amritsar massacre of 1919.  This was not deliberate government policy, but rather the misjudgment of the commanding officer.  The 1943 Bengal famine is also often mentioned; overlooked is the fact that this was in the middle of World War II when other nations also experienced famine. Historical mistakes were made in Ireland, which caused problems to this day.

Imperialism had been in vogue before 1914; after two world wars, there was great disillusionment.   Additionally, the colonial powers had serious financial problems.  Decolonization followed.  It was the end of the European empires.

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IS DONALD TRUMP A FASCIST?

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I would be amused if it wasn’t so serious.

The venerable (!) New York Times carried a front-page news story on Sunday that had “Trump” and “fascism” in the title.

Fascism is defined as follows:  an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.

Donald Trump has many faults, but he can hardly be called a “fascist.”

Fascist countries in World War II included Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia and Japan, all of which invaded other countries or practiced genocide, or both.   I can’t see that happening under Mr. Trump.

The US constitution has been in effect for over 200 years.  Except for a major hiccup known as the Civil War, it’s worked quite well.   The checks and balances in place have been quite effective.   It will be hard for a President Trump (or a second Clinton) to rule in an authoritarian manner, no matter how authoritarian the candidate might sound now.

The NYT should be careful what it writes (that would require a change in editorial policy in itself!) and not be frightening people.

Other media outlets in the last few days have chosen to use words like “Trump” and “violence” in the same sentence, when covering Trump rallies.   But, please note, the violence is caused by those opposed to Trump.   TV coverage shows most have been immigrants who fear he will send them all back to their country of origin.

Instead of throwing gasoline onto the fire, why can’t our TV news programs and the New York Times, show where the Republican presidential candidate is wrong.   They could actually do this in an intelligent debate.   Admittedly, less people would be inclined to watch, so ratings would suffer, which is what it’s all about.

But Mr. Trump needs to be pinned down on foreign policy, especially. His understanding of international relations could result in the US losing its allies, in which case the President of the United States would no longer be “the Leader of the Free World.”   His proposals on trade could actually make things a lot worse.   A history lesson on the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act would be a good place to start.

There are some good reasons not to vote for Donald Trump; just as there are good reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton.   The moniker (no pun intended):   “crooked Hillary” is not without merit.    Check out the book “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer:   “The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” (2015).

Neither candidate would have made it under a parliamentary system.

If there are good reasons not to vote for either Trump or Hillary, then perhaps it’s time not to vote at all!

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Alex Haley’s novel “Roots” was turned into a highly successful 1977 TV mini-series.   A new version is showing on The History Channel this week.

The original series did not improve race relations.

Supposedly, Haley traced his ancestry back to The Gambia.

Some years later, research by a historian proved that Haley could not have done that.   In fact, his book was not a novel based on fact, but, simply, just a novel.   Of course, when this was revealed it was on page 17 of the New York Times!

So far, we have not been told that the new series is also fiction and that Haley could not trace his genealogy back very far.

Whether it only makes racial tensions worse remains to be seen.

The slavery depicted in “Roots” was horrible.   So is the slavery of today.   According to UNESCO a few years ago, slavery is now back in every single African nation.   When will one of our television companies make a series on that?

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Race relations are set to deteriorate further in South Africa after the country’s parliament passed a Land Reform bill that will enable the president to effectively confiscate white-owned farmland to promote equality.

“South Africa has passed a bill criticized by some opposition parties and farming groups that allows the compulsory purchase of land in the public interest.

The bill, approved by parliament on Thursday, will enable the state to pay for land at a value determined by a government adjudicator and then expropriate it for the “public interest,” ending the willing-buyer/willing-seller approach to land reform.”  (Al-Jazeera, 27th May.)

This may seem progressive in western countries, but it’s actually a big regressive step backwards.

White South African farmers have been highly productive commercial farmers.   That is, they farm on a massive scale.   Black African farmers, by contrast, are subsistence farmers.   They just grow enough for their own families.   It’s a cultural difference.

When President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe confiscated white farmland almost twenty years ago, food production in the country plummeted and the nation’s economy was shattered.   Within a few years, the country was bankrupt and its money worthless.

It will take a while for South Africa to reach that point, but it will come.

The difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa is that the former was helped by South Africa’s agricultural produce during its man-made famine.   South Africa has no such neighbor.   Its people will starve.