Feel free to ignore this, I just wanted somewhere to babble and this seemed as good a place as any. If it makes any grammatical sense at all I will be amazed.
In case you missed it, it’s the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in England. This has caused lots of debate; one of the main ones is about whether we should say sorry and pay compensation for the slave trade. I have been watching this with interest especially every time it gets compared to the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.
I was initially tempted to point a finger at the British and complain bitterly at us for becoming a nation of apologists – For what? For being the first country to actually abolish slavery? For being the good guys here? For having a country where people could at that time stand up in Parliament and say “Look, this isn’t right, we need to do something about it”. The more I think about it though, the more I admire the British for the general opinion that we shouldn’t apologise. Historically we see something is wrong, we fix it and then we move on. Want some examples here? We killed over half a million native Aborigines in Australia in about 120 years; we killed 300,000 of the ethnic Kikuyu in Kenya and tortured hundreds of thousands more; we caused the near extinction of most of the tribes of Native Americans in the US and Canada. In the late 1800’s British policy in India caused the death of between 12 and 29 MILLION Indians and not content with that, we did pretty much the same thing again in Bengal during WW2 killing another 3-5 million. We mustn’t forget of course that 200 million blacks died as a result of the slave trade though not all of those were caused by the British – Just most of them.
Trust me, when it comes to Genocide, the Germans are utter amateurs.
The late half of the last century seems to be obsessed with guilt for history and I am tempted to put forward a theory that most of the hassles we have at the moment in the world are caused by this. Israel is getting away (very literally) with murder simply because nobody dares to say anything against them for fear of being accused of being anti-Semitic. In writing this, I will be accused of being anti-Semitic and a closet Nazi. I am not, I have no issues with Jews at all but I have huge issues with the Israeli home policy. Incidentally, why would I be accused of being a Nazi? The Jews have been massacred many times by many people… In 1270 King Edward the 1st decided that Jews were a threat to England and ordered that all Jews wear a yellow star to identify them in public. After imprisoning or executing all the Jewish heads of household the Jews were finally banished from England from 1290 until 1655 when Cromwell let them back. Sound familiar? As God’s chosen ones, the Jewish people were told to “not fit in” so they are used to persecution from all over the place. It’s not an accident that Israeli Politics labels anyone who doesn’t agree with them these days as a Nazi though.
Central Europe doesn’t seem to be able to let the Jewish Holocaust go. Germany seems to be racked in complete guilt even now about the whole thing. Why? As far as most Germans involved in WW2 were concerned, they were provoked and cleverly manipulated and led into a war in which they sometimes fought brilliantly but eventually lost. The British were very quick to forgive the Germans, I have never seen a single serviceman who has had a grudge against the Germans; the war ended, the Jewish Holocaust was exposed and the world as a whole, including the German people, was repulsed and shocked. It’s over, the people who were responsible for it were rounded up and arrested and tried and hanged or imprisoned. Brits don’t blame modern Germans for all the deaths we suffered, all the cities we lost and the fact the Empire was finally bankrupt and destroyed. Hell I will be silently happy the day that a German has the balls to suggest, without arrogance or guilt, that if Hitler hadn’t stopped his forces at France and decided not to invade England at that time, they’d have occupied us and we’d not have been fighting the rest of the war from England. It’d be an interesting argument, but Germans aren’t allowed to have any historical pride in their own armed forces, most of whom weren’t Nazis at all. It’s weird because after World War 1, German Soldiers did keep that pride, they wore their WW1 Iron Crosses for many years after, some Jews were saved because they had won Iron Crosses in WW1 – The huge majority of German combatants weren’t Nazis, they were just soldiers, like most of the rest of the poor sods killed in combat during that war.
The fact they lost and the fact the Jewish Holocaust came into the open and dragged a whole heap of guilt into Europe and America was the difference here. There seems to be an assumption that the UK and the US were all nice to the Jews at that time. The British had a good reason not to be. Even during WW2, Jews were still fighting the British in Palestine – but the US? The St Louis, a ship with 950 Jewish refugees was turned away from America in 1939 by the Roosevelt government and sent back to Europe. European countries took them in but most then died in the camps anyway when their new countries were occupied. Henry Ford and many prominent Americans were quite openly and publicly anti-Semitic by the start of WW2. The Red Cross admits now that it knew about the Holocaust but didn’t disclose it so that it could maintain its neutrality. There is no black and white here, just a lot of grey but still, Germany seems to get all of the blame.
I am not sure whether to blame Germany for this continued guilt. As a country under permanent “occupation” for the last half century or more maybe it’s been hard to forget the past but one day someone has to draw a line under it all and Germany needs to move on. The Finns, Italians and Hungarians don’t seem to have problems. Do most people under 30 or 40 even know what side they were on in WW2? If it helps, I don’t have a clue what side they were on in WW1. Whilst this guilt exists, it’s impossible to look at the Israel situation without it getting in the way. The Arabs don’t have much concept of this Euroguilt and I would guess they just don’t understand why Western Europe and the US always seem to cringe every time Israel starts to yell. How many years will this carry on for? How many more walls will they build, towns they will bomb, human rights they will jackboot all over before someone has the balls to tell them to stop?
Recently the Germans announced that they would use their presidency of the EU to attempt to criminalise the use of the Swastika within Europe. This is amazing on two levels, firstly in that 50 years on they still seem to want to atone for something and add more and more fleas to their hair-shirt stock and secondly that once more Germany, under the banner of the Swastika, is trying to impose their will on millions of other people. European Hindu groups have used the Swastika as a religious symbol for about 5,000 years and it’s a popular symbol in many religions. It’s fair to say that this decision was taken through stupidity or naivety rather than malice and thankfully, they have now decided it was an ill thought out plan and cancelled it but still – Aaargh!
Back to the original subject of compensation for slavery; there have also been many supposedly clever people saying “Why don’t the Vikings apologise for invading us 900 years ago?” – Apart from anything this annoys me because for a start it was more than 900 years ago and secondly the major Viking invasion was as a result of us, the English, committing genocide on the orders of King Ethelred and killing all the Danes in England on November the 13th, 1002. We’ve forgotten that particular holocaust on our part; thankfully; but it’s another one to add to the already long list of British Genocides.