Posted on March 7th, 2017
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
You don’t really expect intellectual rigour from a prominent Brexiteer, and they certainly don’t appear to bother about facts, as evidenced by their Leave campaign, but Liam Fox’s assertion that the UK is one of the few EU countries which doesn’t need to bury its 20th Century history is either totally deluded or betrays an astonishing ignorance of his own country’s past.
Every country has things it can be proud of, and the UK is especially prominent when it comes to social improvements like the NHS, scientific inventions and philosophical treatises, but it has more than its fair share of dark and dirty deeds which are nothing to be proud of at all. That anyone can claim otherwise betrays a mind-boggling attempt to re-write the past in order to bolster some fanciful notion of former greatness. The British Empire, like most empires, was gained through violence and cultural suppression, and its final decades were marred by a great number of atrocities.
Many people have taken to Twitter to counter Liam Fox’s absurd claim, but Twitter’s limit of 140 characters simply isn’t enough to enumerate even a reasonably short list of the crimes against humanity carried out in the name of Britishness.
Presumably, Liam Fox hasn’t heard of events such as the Boer War concentration camps; the suppression of the Mau Mau; the killings and torture carried out in places like Aden, Iraq, Cyprus, Malaysia and others; the Amritsar massacre; the Bengal famine; and the depopulation of the Chagos Islands.
That list is not exclusive, but it’s a pretty horrendous roll call as it stands. And we haven’t even got onto events closer to home, like Bloody Sunday and other alleged State-sponsored murders in Northern Ireland; the treatment of the Suffragettes; the slums in which many Britons lived in the early 20th Century; the fact that the Government refused to issue air raid warnings during World War 1 because they didn’t want people to have an excuse not to go to work, a decision which resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
But all of these are in the past, so what does it matter? Other countries have carried out atrocities, haven’t they?
Yes, but the important thing here is that people need to be aware that the British Establishment often seeks to whitewash its past so that it can promote a vision of British greatness. Liam Fox’s bizarre claim is only the latest example of this revisionist view of the past. It allows the pro-Brexit campaigners to appeal to a nostalgic view of a Britain which never existed, so that they can wave the flag and feel proud of a country which lives mostly in their own imaginations.
Like many countries, Britain has a past which includes some dreadful acts of violence. The fact that Liam Fox suggests such things should be buried is in itself a shameful attitude. We can’t change what was done, but we surely need to recognise and acknowledge the faults of the past and try to atone for them by adopting more humanitarian policies from now on. Simply claiming that such things never happened can only lead to us repeating the mistakes of the past.