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The Empire Bites back

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In his extended rant of a book 'Empire' (and his series of the same name on BBC 1 tonight at 9pm, March 6, 2012 )  Jeremy Paxman castigates the manner in which the Brits in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries walked into countries and made themselves at home, while improving trade and exploiting the natural resources they found. But such is the way with empires.  Hindsight is a cracked prism through which to view our history.

 If you are in the driving seat at the time, you have the power, the influence and sufficient arrogance, which  always accompanies imperialism in every age, then in the 'interests' of your own country and yourself, you wade in and take whatever you can.  'Twas ever thus and always will be , humanity being what it is.  It seems to me to be a questionable approach to call 'shame upon us' for our rapacious ancestors. 

I have to remind myself when driving through Kenton  and Harrow, feeling disapproval at the demise of the 'English gardens' to shiny paving,  plastic bins and multiple cars, that we, the British did exactly the same in India.  We created Home Counties enclaves in the hill stations,  to sit out the hottest part of the season. We had bridge clubs, rose gardens, tennis and polo clubs all just for the Brits. I don't expect that the local Indians particularly liked that either.

However the UK is now reaping a kind of reward in the influx of talented, hard working, family oriented immigrants now settled here. They have changed our landscape in many ways. They bring big brains, the drive to succeed and new blood, which the UK is benefitting from already. It's reverse colonisation and it's a reward that we hardly deserve, given the suspicion often felt towards these 'foreigners' who are now mainly British born or new citizens of our country.

Take the long view.

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  1. magnus mehta ([email protected])

    yes take the long view - but its correct of Paxman to berate the behavior of the brits in 18th and 19th C... saying it's "just human nature" doesn't really cut it - at their best (i hope) humans are capable of behaving in a much more admirable manner, - it's more helpful to look at our behavior, berate ourselves and avoid the mistakes of the past.... Tony Blairs crusades spring to mind - but that is a different subject....

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