Editorial : Eau de colonialism - Saturday 9th April 2011

WAS it a slip of the tongue, a ‘semi-jocular aside’ (BBC) or a case of a British prime minister awkwardly coming clean about the world’s worst-kept secret? Whatever the truth, it seems modern-day fans of colonialism in Britain are up in arms against their prime minister, David Cameron, who dared suggest Britain’s colonial past was “responsible” for “so many of the world’s problems”. Mr Cameron’s comment came in response to a Pakistani student’s question about the role the UK could play in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Condemnation in Britain has been swift. The venerable Daily Telegraph deplored Mr Cameron’s statement, arguing that the prime minister “should not run down his own country”. But even tabloids with a more liberal bent have laid into the hapless Mr Cameron. The Daily Mirror haughtily suggested, “It is not the job of the British prime minister to go abroad and do Britain down.” The famous British stiff upper lip seems to be quivering with indignation.
Some of the outrage is almost comical. Writing on the BBC website, Nick Lloyd, a lecturer at King’s College London, has claimed, “The British Empire in India, known as the Raj, was the greatest experiment in paternalistic imperial government in history. By the time the British left India in 1947 they had given the subcontinent a number of priceless assets, including the English language ….” It would be hard to make up such stuff. Then again, perhaps we here in Pakistan should be grateful for the priceless gift of English because we can also read Seamus Milne of The Guardian: “[M]any of the world’s most intractable conflicts are in former British colonies or protectorates: from the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Cyprus and Sudan — with the reflex imperial resort to partition a recurrent theme.” The things we learn thanks to the English language! Of course, it would be absurd to pretend that 64 years into this country’s creation, our most intractable problems are completely the fault of outside powers. But outraged Britons ought to remember that a little reflection and confession doesn’t do much harm.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/09/eau-de-colonialism.html

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