British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has lately been waxing lyrical to the English House of Commons about how ALL the blame for Zimbabwe’s violence and social upheaval can be pinned on Robert Mugabe. It’s all a home-grown problem, she pontificates grandly to anyone who'll listen (especially the local media just before the election).
Sure, quite true if you take the short term view so beloved of 30-second media grabs. It sounds all logical, morally justifiable, and exactly what voters might expect a blue-blood Tory conservative to preach. The few Tory MPs who are still awake chime the obligatory "hear hear" (even if they didn't hear), then all waddle off home to their walled estates in Suffolk to have a cup of Indian-grown tea to celebrate the peerage they just bought from Blair.
But it's NOT so true when you investigate the historical longer term picture. The current problems of political violence and Mugabe's genocidal vandalism are providing England a convenient alibi from the fact that it was Britain which colonised and first de-stabalised the region in the late 19th century. 'Twas them Poms wot started the ball rolling, mate. That is certainly not for a moment to deny Mugabe's inhuman barbarism:
England's Cecil Rhodes "obtained" mining rights from local chiefs in 1888, but, not satisfied with that, simply proclaimed the region as a “British sphere of influence” (=colony). That remained the case until the last british Prime Minister (the racist Ian Smith) was replaced in 1980, along with his ghastly Apartheid regime by the early 1990s. Mugabe won, not by merit but because Rhodesians wanted anything but Smith.
Today’s problems are partly the aftermath of colonisation and the botched de-colonisation. Margaret Beckett is now opportunely distancing England from its sordid colonial past. She understands her history, but isn't telling. She knows that the more Mugabe misbehaves, the less guilty England looks by comparison as time goes by.
Europe and America have excelled in suddenly withdrawing from colonies once they've sucked enough blood from them. Into the vacuums rush a variety of opportunists, as (of course) can only be expected. Does Margaret Beckett REALLY care who rushes in? Hardly. England's Aid budget to Zimbabwe is miniscule. Actions speak louder than words. What more evidence do you need? Oh, but what a magnificent opportunity to pontificate on how Evil the Native is, how unrefined and cruel …SO unlike we superior races. This strife’s all their fault. They're black ...you understand?
“Even if our invasion of the Soudan has done nothing else, it has at any rate left the Arab something to puzzle his fuzzy head over, for the legend
PEARS SOAP IS THE BEST
inscribed in huge white characters on the rock which marks the fathest point of our advance towards Berber, will tax all the wits of the Dervishes of the Desert to translate”. – Phil Robinson, War Correspondent (in the Soudan) of the Daily Telegraph in London, 1884.
Likewise, the postcard below tells its own story of cultural disinterest and religious disrespect. It was more like "let's make these people more like us so they too can become workers and consumers feeding into our commercial system".
Browse some of FunkyPix2's earlier articles involving aspects of colonialism:
Why is the USA so bothered about a country like Somalia?
Announcing the end of the american century.
My point in ranting about Colonialism is not so much to weep for the past, but to increase awareness of ongoing exploitation of poorer countries. We should recognise our selfish habits for what they really are, and cease euphemising. We're still Colonialists, re-packaged, until we take action to stop. A good start is to vote against FTAs.