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HEART OF DARKNESS

Aristocratic privilege and Anglo-white cultural hegemony are among the basic assumptions of British ruling-class ideology. It’s a world-view more successful at colonizing hearts and minds across the world than any military empire, and though the locus of global Anglosphere hegemony has shifted to the United States, the core assumptions are baked into American society too.

British wealth and privilege remains hand-in-glove with America, and while the United Kingdom moves through its Weltpolitik the smaller population, economically and military junior, its cultural reach and its lineage elites have barely missed a beat in the transition from 20th-century empire to 21st-century post industrial nexus of world capital.

London, beating heart of haute Britannia, has been the quintessence of wealth and good taste for hundreds of years. Grand stucco mansions, sumptuous parks and pristine streets, boutique shopping, playground of bloodlines and ambitious beauty. London casts its net over the profits of an entire world, laundering, legitimising, locking safely away the spoils of piracy today as it has for half a millennia, attracting ultra high net worth to the English capital in greater numbers and from more points of origin than anywhere else.

Kensington and Chelsea, Knightsbridge, St James’s, Mayfair, Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, St John’s Wood, Hampstead: a continuous Manhattan-sized arc of the most beautiful, privileged metro neighbourhoods on the planet. And then there’s the dense historical centre of London: Westminster, hub of politics, parliament and royal parks and the City – an uber-wealthy square mile, hub of the commerce and finance, its medieval ports of entry symbolically guarded by thirteen dragons that mark the boundaries of its Magna Carta incorporation.

The City is a perpetual engine of capital plunder and, for centuries, of finance, banking, commodity imperialism; the hub of liquidity for international trade, half the world’s $4 trillion daily foreign exchange, 95% of global tax haven money laundering. It is the bastion of generational wealth and privilege, for the English first and foremost, but also for transnational Europeans and Americans, for upper class Russians, post-Soviet gangsters, Anglophone enablers, for ‘civilised’ Indian entrepreneurs and rajas, Arab oil sheik-aristocracy, African nobles and warlords, Latin dictators, Chinese nouveau riche.

On the other hand, the London conurbation is one of the most successfully multi-ethnic melting pots in the ‘Western World’. Over 250 languages are spoken in London, making the English capital the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Unlike hyper-concentrations of wealth like Dubai or Delhi, there isn’t an impervious ethnic ghettoization in London. Instead, this diversity is a point of city pride.

More than a mere corollary of capital, multi-ethnic Britain is a result of what scholar Paul Gilroy calls England’s ‘convivial’ culture: the normal everyday decency of ordinary people – no matter the colour or creed – that for the most part lives in generous harmony despite the enormous pressure of all too familiar evils: divisive politics and generations of power abusing its privilege to exploit those ordinary, decent people.

A HOUSE DIVIDING AGAINST ITSELF

It has been observed before, by those who think about such things, that Britain is a nation of startling paradoxes. As with most high population countries. no single storyline can encompass its contradictions.

Consider the following: England is the modern progenitor of imperialist racism, the force majeure exporter of capitalism and contract law to every continent. English trading companies backed by a highly effective military systematically plundered vassal (protectorate) states while, back home, mostly ignorant but privileged directors got rich, safe to express contempt for both poor, uneducated foreign working class “savages” and poor, precariat home-grown working class “peasants”.

At the same time, the United Kingdom is home to many of the world’s greatest research universities, including a quarter of all Nobel laureates. Its cutting edge education has nurtured generation after generation of ground-breaking scientists, academics and iconic genre-defining artists. The impact of individual British ingenuity is undeniable: Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Dickens, Turing, Hume, Dirac, Keynes, Lennon, Orwell. The canon is remarkable by any standards; especially as the British Isles make up only 0.16% of the planet’s land and less than 1% of the world’s population.

The worst of British ambition has led to genocide and violent exploitation of hundreds of vulnerable populations home and abroad. The best of British respect for humanism is the basis for rule of law, trial by jury, universal rights, sanctity of individual and so on. These are two distinct traditions, cohabiting the same society and, for almost a thousand years, though power and wealth has ebbed and flowed, neither side has managed to eradicate the other. As the United Kingdom becomes less influential globally, however, the cruel ambition of the exploiter caste is forced to turn its avarice inward and a self-cannibalising internecine is becoming an existential threat to the country’s long-term future.

POST-IMPERIAL PERFIDIOUS ALBION

Britain shifted from imperialist plunder to pioneering ‘Anglo-globalisation’ in the mid 20th-century, with no internecine, no change in political power dynamics, and indeed England has no history of chattel slavery in the homeland. Its abolitionist movement was the driving force behind ending slavery abroad, far greater than any other European colonial power. And yet, Britain was for a century the world’s most effective slave trader and – even today – a swathe of its population is distinctly reactionary suburban citizens constantly bemoaning immigration, lamenting peoples’ right to move freely without a hint of irony.

There was widespread revulsion towards and enormous organisation against apartheid by ‘radical’ multiethnic groups in Britain against racist regimes like whites-only South Africa, even as parts of the British government, many long-standing British corporations and major global banks actively supported ruling castes in ethno-states like Israel, South Africa, Saudi Arabia.

The paradox in the collective identity of the 70 million plus citizens of Great Britain and Northern Land can be confusing, as an aggregate. Is it evil or good, inhuman or humanitarian, civilised or barbarous? The truth is: both. Consider the individual scale. The dichotomy quickly becomes definitive: Fascist versus Fabian, Pankhurst versus Moseley, Orwell versus Churchill, Jeremy Corbyn versus David Cameron, Extinction Rebellion versus the Rotary Club, Socialist Workers versus British Legionnaires.

Until Tony Blair’s New Labour government of the late 1990s, the strength of Britain’s brutal reactionary imperialists and its altruist libertarian social democrats could be distilled into equal measures. Most of the latter, if polled in 2000, might have cautiously remarked the good guys were gradually “winning” the fight for the nation’s future heart and soul.

CASTLES IN THE SKY

Progressive ideology had not yet become part of the political landscape because it was taken as a simple article of faith.

The evils of bigotry, racism, prejudice, isolationism, unadulterated capitalist greed: surely these were so obvious, nearly everyone was on the same page? Hadn’t the Labour landslide shown this? Wasn’t Europe – as a whole – building towards transnational free movement of people with universal human rights, a changed landscape maturing into the 21st-century having rejected forever centuries of idiotic wars home and abroad? Wasn’t the United Kingdom one of the key signatories, defining force and central participant in this fundamentally optimistic project?

We had thought these questions settled.

We had assumed the questions were settled by having reached – as a society – clear, natural consensus on the objective principles of human society: equality, liberty, fraternity. We had thought bigots were an anachronism, on the way out.

We were wrong.

AN UNITED KINGDOM YIN-YANG

Britain has two competing traditions – one rooted in ideas of freedom, equality and democracy, and another that sees these words as mere rhetoric to be trotted out at will and violated whenever it serves the Machiavellian purposes of power preservation; and its use in exploitation.

This is how the UK can have the largest of the demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq and yet still have a government that entirely ignored its population on an issue with such globe-shifting implications.

NOTES – POINTS TO INCLUDE – CONTENT TO BE WRITTEN UP

  • diagnosis of the liberty disintegration in the UK
  • cowardice of the middle classes
  • scapegoating and mobilization of the evil tradition hungry for power
  • failure of the social democracy neoliberals
  • pernicious class system and urban/rural divide
  • Boris Johnson cartoon character Empire and White Bumbling Sociopathy
  • Detachment from real history, dismissal of real culture, confluence of hate: from the sociopath right wanting to reinvent an imperial past and the craven left wanting to destroy disassociate the evil past without care for the great past – death of the author, murder of the author, postmodernism a craven left toolkit, post-imperialism for the avaricious degraded right – convergence of cunts!

RACE DYNAMICS

Sadly one of the enduring legacies of British colonialism is the export of the kinds of racism engaged in by the wealthy and the powerful in all the Anglophone countries – such as the theft of entire regions’ resources under a thinly veiled update of ‘the white man’s burden’ (basically ‘the savages can’t govern themselves’), or profiteering from unjust legal and prison systems.

Apologists nonetheless spend their entire academic careers explaining away, downplaying and essentially cheering for the mass-murdering white-supremacist piracy of the British Empire, which starved millions to death in India, enslaved and tortured millions more in countless locations and often used its power to crush, not enhance, popular democracy and economic development in its non-white colonies, especially when doing so suited larger aims. Poor people racism today, bad. Rich people racism in the recent past, complicated.

This is partly because, despite much seeming and some very real progress, public discourse about racism is still as childish and supine as it ever was. Where we do discuss race in public, we have been trained to see racism – if we see it at all – as an issue of interpersonal morality. Good people are not racist, only bad people are. This neat binary is a great way of avoiding any real discussion at all. But without the structural violence of unequal treatment before the law and in education, and a history of racial exploitation by states, simple acts of personal prejudice would have significantly less meaning.

Severe class inequalities persist, and while it’s probably unrealistic to expect a society with which everyone can be satisfied, by European standards the British class system is still particularly pernicious. It’s not that racism has disappeared from the UK since the 1980s, but without a doubt the resistance of black and Asian communities produced very significant reforms that have changed the way “BAME” millennials experience and understand ‘race’.

Police brutality continues, but today the instances are rare (an improvement) and extremely violent (a deterioration). No more bodies tattooed with scars from fighting the National Front (NF), Teddy Boys and Skinheads; but a generation of newly emboldened bigots and racist violence may be on the rise again post-Brexit.

The vast majority of people persecuted by the patrician exploitation have been white and local, i.e. poor people persecuted in the home country to enrich the upper classes. It may turn out in the long run the working class gets the worst of it, as a captive audience, than the plundered black and brown ethnicities slowly recovering control of their own destinies in their own independent territories.

Ironically, ideas of racial hierarchy and the attendant philosophy of innate white superiority were not invented by poor people, but by rich people in part as a surrogate for religion, as a means to control the violence of the precariat class so it serves the ends of patrician power.

Ethnic bigotry has been around for millennia and probably affects every known human community to some degree, but the invention, or at least codification, of ‘race’ was an eighteenth and nineteenth century pan-Euro-American project, in which British intellectuals serving the interests of power played a central role. Britain also had a pioneering role in making white supremacy a temporary political reality via its racialised global empire and America has blithely carried on the family tradition.

BACKWARDS

Despite the fact that Britain imprisons its population at double the rate the Germans do and 30–40 per cent higher than the French, the Metropolitan Police chief calling for tougher sentences for ‘teenage thugs’ and for a return of mass stop and search. Britain’s prison population has already grown 82 per cent in three decades with 50 per cent more women in prison than in the 1990s, and there is no corresponding rise in serious crime to explain any of this. If tougher sentences alone worked to reduce crime, the USA would surely be crime free by now? With 10 per cent of Britain’s prisons now privatised and many more using prison labour, such seemingly illogical right-wing virtue signalling from the head of London’s police starts to look like ‘vested interests’ and to signal tumultuous times ahead. Black Brits are seven times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts. Poor people of all ethnicities will make up most of the rest.

Other recent globe-shifting events in the Anglo-American empire – the recorded execution of Black Americans by the police, including women, children and the elderly; the election as US President of a man openly endorsed by Nazis, the KKK and white supremacist groups and his failure to condemn them even after they murder people; the same man’s condemnation of the peaceful protest of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes; the ethnocentric and racist strains to the Brexit campaign rhetoric; the unjust deportations of Commonwealth migrants; the handling of and reporting on ‘the migrant crisis’ (without reference to Nato’s destruction of Libya, of course) – make it pretty clear to any honest observer that the idea and practice of racism is not going anywhere anytime soon.