A stiff upper lip

The British response to the covid pandemic has centred around a familiar mantra. Courage in the face of adversity. Perseverance through the tough times.

Keep calm and carry on

These are commendable traits that echo the collective war time effort that saw the British defeat the Nazis. This popular ideology has been politicised and weaponised over the years to justify Brexit. The nationalist sentiment runs high for the many Brits with a family wartime connection.

Sadly, though, it’s the same stiff upper lip that is responsible for some of the most appalling imperialist colonial atrocities of empire.

George Orwell, as an Imperial Policeman in Burma shot an elephant simply to ‘avoid looking a fool’. You can read about this episode in his book, ‘Shooting the Elephant‘.

The British Raj orchestrated the worst famine in human history simply for profit. The Bengal Famine starved more than 10 million people to death, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. One third of the population of Bengal died.

I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”                                                                                    -Winston Churchill

Hardly the words of a generous and empathetic nation. British rule in India was a ruthless economic machine.

John Fiske, in his book ‘The Unseen World‘, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorised Europe in the fourteenth century.

The fact that British rule imposed a series of severe and violent events on their Indian subjects should be noted for what it is – barbaric. The decimation of a population in pursuit of profit is beyond inhumane, it’s genocide.

This is British history. It is not taught in schools. It’s time for change.