That's a bit of a side argument, I suppose, to my main observation, which concerns a recent proliferation - yet again(it seems to come around every year) - of people complaining about historical wrongs inflicted upon them by The British Empire - although frequently this is defined at a more local level as England bullying the other parts of the UK. It does, however, seem to be a global issue; who was shafted the worst by the Brits... Now don't go believing that we're talking about recent events here. Oh no. Frequently, we (I'm talking in this instance as a British person) find ourselves at the sharp end of overseas outrage concerning the actions of ancestral Brits (although, since my family has been working class for the last two hundred years, I seriously doubt that any of my ancestors had a hand in important and/or outrageous decision-making) hundreds of years ago. Outrage, indignation and calls for apologies and recrimination seem to arrive like showers of rain in an English summer - in other words: frequently.
Recently - at least on my TV and computer - there seems to have been an uplift in the Irish outrage for the brutality of British rule over the centuries. On a regular basis, the Scots have a moan and a whine, and say some rather inflammatory things about the evil English and their historical treatment of their ancestors (because they were an unruly lot, 'we' duffed 'em up, basically). The Welsh seem to be permanently miffed at being attached to a larger, more populous, more prosperous part of the UK. Further afield, Indian politicians enjoy taking a shot at reminding everyone of 1947 (when the bloodbath of partition seems to have been entirely the fault of the Brits, rather than of the people committing the atrocities), Australians take great delight in publicly maligning the old country and recalling the alleged barbarism of the penal colonies, and once in a while an African head of state will let loose a diatribe against a Britain which in truth no longer exists.
Leaving aside the relative merits of any claims of barbarism, cruelty and general bad treatment, I can't help wondering whether it's time - and I suppose I'm talking about non-English people here - to stop the bloody whining. If an injustice was committed in the recent past - for example recent enough that the people actually responsible are still alive to be brought to account - then go ahead and make some noise, by all means. If, however - and this is at the heart of most of the complaining about Britain/England - the damage (real or imagined) lies at the feet of those long dead, what is the point of prolonging the agony? Psychologically, is it really healthy to perpetuate old hatreds?
I, for example, bear no grudge against William Wallace for the defeats he inflicted upon English forces before he eventually turned into Mel Gibson (surely a fate worse than death?). Why would I worry about that? As someone with 50% Irish genes, I consider the potato famine to be a historical event, and nothing more. There is nobody left to blame for the land-owning policies of that age which compounded that particular disaster, so why bear a grudge against a blameless nation? Why would I want hatred to form part of my national identity?
I was born in the sixties, when the world was still coloured in shades of grey and memories of the second World War were still quite fresh in my parents' memories. It was still a real thing. My father's family had their house blown up by German bombs. Members of my family were involved in that war, which proved to be the most savage in history. Should I bear ill will towards the nations of Germany, Italy and Japan? Because I don't. I think it's bizarre that the UK bankrupted itself to wage a war against a hugely powerful enemy alliance, only to watch those countries, after their defeat, be reconstructed and rejuvenated to become two of the most powerful economies on the planet while my country suffered decades of austerity. but i don't blame the people of those countries for that. I don't blame anyone. It's over, it's history and that's all there is to it. Sometimes - in fact frequently - it seems that some people cannot understand that such matters are best left as historical fact.
Let's get a bit silly to make the point. How far should we take old grudges, if it is really considered to be a relevant way to live? Obviously, I should have a real downer on the Germans and Japanese, but:
- Should I still be pissed off with the French (William the Conqueror)?
- Are the Angles or the Saxons more worthy of my hatred for overcoming the survivors of the Roman occupation?
- While we're at it, what about those bloody Romans? What DID they ever do for us?
- The Celts? Who did they push out of the way?
- Do I have a bone to pick (with a beautifully crafted stone tool, of course) with Homo Sapiens for that whole nasty business between them and the Neanderthal boys and girls?
Yes of course it's silly, and that's my basic point. Maintaining historical hate and ancestral grudges is a fool's game. All the people involved are dead. It's time, i think, to stop living in the past, and long past time to start worrying about an uncertain future.