I am not guilty of imperialism, I have never had an opportunity to express support for the concept, I was born far too late to share any responsibility for what happened. The only issue of colonies and empire that has come up in my adult lifetime has been the Falklands War. In this story it is easy to see who the imperialists are, the Argentinians who would like to see their nation grow by tacking on some islands three hundred miles off their coast – and they don’t give a fuck for the needs, views and aspirations of the people living there. There has never been an indigenous community on the islands, there were a handful of Spanish speakers on the islands in the early nineteenth century but they didn’t stay long or make much of an impact and they were replaced by settlers from Britain who have made it their home continuously since Queen Victoria was a teenager. They are more British than the British and they want to stay that way. So what possible justification is there to accede to the Argentinians’ territorial claim? Islands off the coast don’t automatically belong to the mainland – Japan is not part of China or Korea, Jamaica and Cuba don’t belong to Florida and Cyprus doesn’t belong to Turkey. And of course, all those islands are closer to the mainland shores than the Falklands are to Argentina. Islands belong to the islanders or to the country that the islanders want to be a part of and protected by. It is a simple rule, self-determination. Nothing in the principle of self-determination ranks countries by whether or not they have been judged to have had an imperialist past nor whether the population of islands is too small, or too Anglo-Saxon, to have their voice heard. Britain doesn’t want the Falkland Islands, the Falkland Islanders want to be British because they are British. If anybody thinks the war had anything to do with oil or Antarctica they are just being too cynical and missing the most important factor of all. There is such a thing as right and wrong. And that is far more important than the supposed long-term prospects of the territory – since when do politicians fight wars for the sake of future tax revenue more than thirty-five years into an uncertain future? Your cynicism isn’t big, and it isn’t clever. This was a matter of honour and doing the right thing.
Trampling on the islanders was wrong, ignoring that would not have been right, or British. It would probably have been cheaper to buy every Falkland Islander a farm in Scotland twice the size of the one they gave up, but that is not the British way, and it would have rewarded military aggression. Third rate military aggression. We could take them. So by jingo we did.
I have been studying my family history and I can say that to the best of my knowledge the closest I come to having a shocking imperial past is one of my maternal grandfather’s father’s mother-in-law’s brothers who was a Sergeant Major who served for a few months in Afghanistan and brought up several children while living in Bengal. He wasn’t a direct ancestor and he doesn’t seem to have done anything despicable and became a rural sanitary inspector after he retired. I constantly get accused of having supported and profited from imperialism and that somehow having my tax money spent on housing Somali immigrants and the third wives of unemployed inbred Pakistanis living in northern mill towns is some kind of cosmic karma. This is nonsense. I don’t blame modern day Germans for electing Hitler. Blaming me for nineteenth-century imperialism is as irrational as blaming Mel Brooks and Goldie Hawn for killing Jesus.
The past does not justify bad behaviour in the present. Genocide is wrong. Moving in to a ghetto area in a foreign country and living the way you used to live at home is wrong. I wouldn’t go to live in Spain and complain that the locals spoke Spanish and went to bullfights and threw donkeys off church towers. I would not do it and I deplore those of my countrymen who have done it. It is wrong. I also deplore immigrants to my country who don’t speak the language and don’t respect the culture of the country they have decided to live in. We did not invite anybody here to come and change our country. If you find alcohol and exposed flesh so heinous go and live in another country. In my country women are free to walk around exposing large amounts of flesh if they choose to and while you are free to have and express your opinions about it if you try and stop them doing it you are crossing the line and declaring yourself an enemy of freedom.
My country, Britain or England alone, I’m easy, must regain some self-confidence and self-respect. It is madness to cover ourselves in sackcloth and ashes and wallow in guilt for perceived sins of the past. The past is over and cannot be changed by anything we do now. Allowing our country to be over-run by Muslims is not making amends for past crimes, the Muslim migrants who have come here over the last sixty years are not the displaced and disadvantaged. It is not cosmic karma. Throwing away our culture is not doing anybody any favours, allowing the development of competing cultures within our borders is giving up on our heritage. The PC brigade may not see anything to be proud of in our culture but it is not theirs to give away. Our culture belongs to those who love it, not to those who despise it and feel ashamed of it.