“If it wasn’t for us white Caucasians sorting them out they would still be swinging through the trees”
No. Don’t worry this is not my view nor I am going off on one. It was a tweet made on Chuka Umunna’s twitter after he made some very ‘conservative’ comments recently.
I am not a very great fan of the Shadow Secretary of State for BIS. I think he is hollow and opportunistic and seems to have no conception of what Labour did and more particularly did not do in the 13 years of economic destruction between 1997 and 2010. However he is a clever bloke and comes from many generations of clever people.
The trouble with the tree swinging analogy is not that an absolute extremist believes it. Such people can be isolated and dealt with. The wider problem is that such sentiments lurk in the back of the minds of many people in this country because of the way history is taught and the belief that our version of civilisation is better than anyone else’s.
Apparently we Europeans discovered Australia and New Zealand and North America and the Caribbean. There was no-one there before we got there. That may be true in the case of some of the smaller Caribbean islands but is not true of anywhere else. The fact is that in almost every part of the world people lived in a highly civilised way and in most cases had done so for thousands of years before we rescued them from their isolation!
But they did lead very different lives from us. Native Americans were still being depicted in films in my youth as ruthless redskin savages. The Maoris were treated with some respect but the aboriginal tribes of Australia were decimated by contact with European ways and European diseases.
I learnt my lesson in this regard when I lived in Turkey. Not far from the provincial city where I lived were three abandoned cities about 2,000 years old. One, Blondus, was set up by people who left the army of Alexander the Great. I can vividly remember going to sit in a stone built theatre which would hold 2,000+ people built at a time when in our Country there were no theatres, no written language and people lived in hovels. 2,000 years ago the three major libraries of the World were in Greece/Turkey.
But at least in the minds of Europeans we can see the after effects in the Mediterranean and Middle East area right through to Egypt and the tombs and pyramids.
In other parts of the World civilisation developed differently from here – but civilisation it was. Native Americans lived in highly developed tribes. They had a way of life which was sustainable and in which people could normally live their nomadic lives in peace because of agreements with other tribes. They had no need of fences or ownership of land because they didn’t feel that they needed to won it. Rather they saw themselves as the custodians or guardians of the land. They didn’t erect buildings both because they were mobile and because across most of their range tepees were sufficient. They didn’t write things because writing as distinct to advanced languages arose from the needs of governing bureaucracies created to own and store.
Of course there were wars and disputes. Slaving could not have been developed without wars between different civilisations in West Africa. There will always have been some squabbles as people fought for resources for them and theirs. If you look at world history, however, the region to develop ‘civilisation’ last was Western Europe.
Today many look at the world through glasses tinged with the red of Empire – an Empire on which the sun never set. Both the creation, maintenance and even the ‘disposal’ of that Empire still casts a heavy shadow on places like Africa and even our own city of Liverpool.
In parts of Africa we have created Countries which really have no relevance. Whilst not in any way excusing the genocide in Rwanda 20+ years ago the fact is that two different groups of people who had co-existed for centuries were shoe horned into one country. Wherever you see a straight line on a map you know that it has been created by Western politicians dividing up the spoils of empires to their own advantage often creating deep divisions which linger to this day.
Last week I hosted a Conference for Councillors and Mayors from all over the World. We took them to some fine buildings but we should remember that three of those buildings, the Albert Dock, Town Hall and St George’s Hall were built with the profits from Empire which flowed in turn from the profits of slavery. Large parts of the Anglican Cathedral were paid for by a company that traded meat throughout the world and avoided paying tax in all of them.
I am not asking us to forget our past – indeed we did much good as well as much bad over the centuries as we swaggered through the World but let us always remember that it is the winner that writes the history books. The ‘fact’ that we brought civilisation to the World stems not from the reality of what we found or what we did but on the fact that in many places we destroyed a civilisation to create an inappropriate version of our own and then wrote about it.
Particularly be aware of having a go at Africans. My friends we are all of African descent! The archaeology and the fossils have given us strong evidence that many thousands of years ago all humanity was represented by a very small tribe of some 200+ people. DNA research shows us how the descendants of those few travelled in successive waves by boat and foot to the whole world. They show how changes were made to the human body to react to local geography and especially to local climates.
All of African Descent eh? Shouldn’t that make the racists think!!