Will Britain Learn?
It has taken yet another negative event in society for the masses to take heed and protest against the wrongs of the past to correct the present.
The death of George Floyd has sparked fury internationally, but will it really help to offer any significant change? And is it primarily a Black Lives Matter scenario or do All Lives Matter?
It is imperative to make a change, but change has to come without violence and thuggery. With emotions at boiling point, the extremists are stepping in to control the agenda and cause mayhem. Change by fear is not the way forward.
It is difficult to know where to draw the line and how to move forward. Churchill, for example, is a British wartime hero who saved the country from the Nazis. He is a national icon. Yet the same individual was responsible for diverting food aid during the Bengal famine leading to the deaths of three million people. His statue in central London is boarded up from attacks by vandals.
Peace minded people would not want his statue desecrated. It is more about truth and history being told from all sides and be part of the educational curriculum. In other words, people need to be told about Churchill’s darkest hour as well as his finest hour. Half-truths are discriminatory and incendiary to future peace. We are seeing the costs on the streets of Europe and America on a regular basis.
Despite the British Empire imposing rule over India for two centuries, Indians gave up their lives in both the World Wars. Over 160,000 Indian soldiers were killed. Indian leaders believed that it was for the greater good of freedom worldwide. Britain was perceived as a lesser evil than the German alliance presiding in Europe. Yes, there was an additional motive, that Britain will see sense and offer India its independence. But freedom never came, and yet more promises were broken.
In the two centuries, Britain spent in India, it drained the equivalent of $45 trillion according to academic Utsa Patnaik. It hampered the country’s ability to come out of poverty. War reparations or any kind of reparations are on the table, but largely for the academic minds than serious political discourse linked to the Treasury.
In the present context, what really hurts communities, is that very little of the true history is mentioned in the school’s curriculum. Even children from the Asian diaspora do not know that their ancestors fought during the World Wars. Hollywood still makes it out as an all-white affair. Millions of Commonwealth soldiers gave up their lives – for what? It took the WW1 Centenary commemorations for some of this information to surface. But now that the commemorations are over, has the history been re-written or is it merely waiting for the next disaster or commemoration to resurface?
The pattern continues. Even in the present context, it took a celebrity to fight for the rights of Gurkha soldiers in receiving the right of abode. Joanna Lumley fought vigorously in persuading the government to overturn its policies in 2009 and allow the gallant soldiers to stay in Britain after their service. Without her help many veterans would have had little hope in settling in Britain and their cause would still have been batted around by the politicians with no signs of an amicable resolution.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, ethnic minorities face yet another calamity. A disproportionate number of them are dying from the virus than their white counterparts. The Government is yet to figure out this conundrum. It is even more of a mystery when as the numbers of deaths in Asian and African countries are relatively low.
Whilst we cannot blame the current political systems of the sins of the past, it is crucial that it is the people in power today who can help to bring about profound change to correct the mistakes of the past. When will politicians learn that truth is the best option and most people are peace-loving wanting a system of fairness and justice where we can all benefit.