The mighty Clash showing their reggae credentials with a strong social message.
I felt like I needed a dose of Phil’s social commentary.
Yes, it is great to be British. We do live in a country with a great many freedoms and a long history of fighting for social justice against the tyranny of an elite (The establishment – the kings, queens, aristocracy and wealthy).
This present state is the result of an ongoing struggle and compromise. Given half an inch the establishment are quite happy to claim a larger slice of the cake and control us.
It’s not as blatant as it used to be. They don’t send in the troops and kill people. These days they deploy propaganda through their media, fund their party (parties) and use lobbying, threats, bribes and blackmail to gain what they want through ballot box and parliament. Which is why the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. It is why tax loopholes are never sorted and things always work in their favour. It’s no accident.
So it is strange to see this surge in Nationalism in working people and pride in what Britain stood for – its glory as an empire. Except, of course, the working people never actually profited from the empire. It was the elite who planned it, led it and took the spoils. The common man was deployed as soldiers, cannon fodder, to overcome the natives so that they could be exploited by the elite. The common man worked in the factories on starvation wages and was exploited by the same elite who exploited the people in far-off lands. They lived in mansions. The rest of us lived in slums.
But still, we are British and proud.
Except, what is this Britishness? Are we British?
Who are the British?
Have we are British culture?
It depends when you put the pin in history I guess. We are often called Anglo Saxon but are we?
I’m British. My Grandmother was Irish, my Grandfather was Scottish, my other Grandfather was cockney and my other Grandmother was from Lancashire. You don’t get much more British than that!
But the original inhabitants of Britain weren’t Anglo-Saxon; they were probably Pict, Celt or Gaul. Tribes migrating in from central Europe who probably originated in India.
So the first British were Indo-European.
After that it’s a question of which era you want.
The Angles and Saxons came in from Germany and displaced and integrated with the Celts. So the culture was Germanic.
The Vikings came in and took over large swathes of Britain. So the prevailing culture was Scandinavian.
The Romans came and took over, integrating and controlling. So the prevailing culture was Italian.
The Normans conquered the country and the prevailing culture was French.
When the trade routes opened up and the Empire got in its stride a few hundred years ago there was an influx of Chinese, Arabs, Africans, Indians, Jews and people from all over.
Then there were the refugees – the Huguenots, the Jews, Armenians and lately the Arabs.
Then we had the people brought in for cheap labour – the Pakistanis, the Indians, Jamaicans and more recently the Eastern Europeans.
Sexual attraction is great isn’t it? We are ruled by biology. Hence the British have a rich mixture of genes, races, language and heritage. But purity? No, we haven’t any of that. We are a hybrid race compounded from many diverse sources. Our culture is hybrid. Our language is hybrid. We are so much richer because of it.
I recently had a DNA test for my heritage. It seems that I have a genetic background from Germany, France and Iberia. So I am not so much British as European.
So what is this nationalism? Why do we see working class people dressing up as crusaders and claiming so kind of superiority.
Seemingly they have chosen to stick the pin in a certain moment in our history and claim it as pure British. Weird huh? The fact that those knights who they are mimicking were the aristocracy – the wealthy elite who rode on horses, had tents and servants – while the army they were in charge of were on foot, slept rough and were a raggle-taggle. The whole bunch were a polyglot of races and nationalities conscripted for the wages and loot, and propelled by fanatical religious propaganda. Hardly what was being represented by this idealised version.
Makes me laugh.
Our patron saint – St George was Turkish
Our Royal Family is German (Prince Philip being Greek)
Our Prime Minister is Turkish
Our aristocracy is French, German and heaven knows what.
So what is this nationalism based on? This hatred of French and German? This xenophobia, racism and arrogance?
Who are the British?
What are the traditions that are intrinsically British? The ability to invade and conquer? Morris Dancing? Talking with a plum in the mouth? English food – fish and chips and bangers and mash? Christmas? Christianity?
We imported it all. It has evolved through time. There is no essence of Britishness.
History is mainly the story of the rich and powerful elite and the exploitation of everybody else. Is that what nationalists hanker after? Do they really imagine themselves as the Lords of the Manor and not see themselves as the scum of the earth?
I’ll take pride in the Britishness of fighting against the elite for justice, freedom and greater equality. That seems worthy to me!! Do you think for a second that the exploitation has stopped?
The more you look at it the sillier it becomes!!
Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Swing Riots
Named after the infamous Captain Swing who was said to have organised them, the Swing Riots were a more militant attack against mechanisation in the early nineteenth century.
The advent of mechanisation, such as the threshing machines, had reduced the need for labour. Because of the surplus of labour the bosses had seized the opportunity to reduce wages down to subsistence levels. People were starving and desperate with poor wages and unemployment and no welfare.
Unlike the peaceful Tolpuddle martyrs who came a few years later the workers of Kent organised in a more militant manner, threatened the landowners, burnt barns and threshing machines and demanded a fair wage. The riots spread through Kent and the South of England.
Eventually the landowners relented and raised wages.
But two thousand arrests were made with 252 sentenced to be hung. Of these only 19 were hung. Over a thousand were imprisoned or deported to Australia.
It is worth remembering that fair wages are the product of much blood. Our rights and freedoms were not given freely; they were fought for and paid for with lives.
Terrorism – Parallel to the Southern American terror of the Ku Klux Klan depowered by the Civil Rights Movement.
The aim of the terrorists is to impose their narrow view on the population, create fear and vent their hatred.
Back in the 1960s the black population of the Southern parts of the United States were subjugated through terror. There were beatings, shootings and killing.
At night men in robes and hoods would ride through a community and place a burning cross in front of any house that had someone who was getting uppity. It was a chilling warning. If unheeded fire-bombing, shooting and murder would result.
The people were terrified.
But after a while brave members of the community began to raise their heads and demand justice. Many of these were shot or lynched. More came along to take up the cause until there were too many marching for the terror to work anymore.
I salute the bravery of those early black activists and the white activists who came down from the North to support them.
Here’s to Martin Luther King, Medgar Evans, Michael Schwerner, James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman and all the hundreds of others who died in that struggle.
The virulent racists of the South were defeated just as the hate-filled Islamic jihadists will be.
Heroes of our age – Martin Luther King – We’re all equal; all one species.
As short a time ago as the 1960s segregation held sway in the United States. Whites were considered superior and supremacist groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, were widely supported. They might have been forced to do away with slavery through losing the Civil War but the notion still prevailed – They viewed the Black Race as inferior and were determined to keep them down. The idea of equality was repugnant. It is a Racist ideology that persists to this day and results in the situations that are occurring in US cities where black lives are considered cheap and blacks are being shot by police.
We’ve still got a way to go.
In the 1960s segregation was apartheid. Blacks had different buses, water taps, cinemas, music, housing and even concerts were segregated. To be black was to be second class. They were actively prevented from voting.
Martin Luther King was a Baptist Minister and Humanitarian. Born in 1929 he lead the Civil Rights Movement (SCLC) and fought for equal rights and the vote. He fought for desegregation – the rights for schools, jobs, transport and utilities to be shared by all. He inspired mass protest and based his tactics on those of Mahatma Ghandi.
There were sit-ins, marches, bus boycotts and protest. Protestors were beaten up, murdered, harassed, threatened, abused and arrested. They remained non-violent and defiant.
In 1963 Martin Luther King called for a march on Washington. A million white and black people, side by side, marched on the Capital and were roused by the incredible oratory of Martin’s as he delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
He was an incredibly brave man. The FBI and CIA did their best to discredit him. He received death threats. On the march between Selma and Montgomery in 1964 he was expecting a bullet with every step. He marched regardless.
He was condemned by black radicals such as Malcolm X of ‘The Nation of Islam’ and members of the Black Panthers for being non-violent. They believed the only way to get equality was to fight for it and demand it. They were wrong.
Martin Luther King diversified his protest to fight for an end to poverty and to oppose the Vietnam War. He saw it all part of the same struggle.
In 1968 he was assassinated. A cowardly sniper shot him on his balcony at the motel he was staying in in Memphis.
I visited that balcony, stood on that spot and was grateful that we had people as brave, fearless, intelligent and outspoken. Without such people we would be oppressed and still in the Dark Ages. They gave us light and hope for a world of real equality.
Where are our leaders now?
Richie Havens – The Klan – lyrics about the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan.
In this day and age it is easy to think of terrorism as something perpetrated by religious fanatics, brainwashed and packed off with their bombs to blow up innocent people in trains, planes, mosques and buses. That is not always the case.
The Ku Klux Klan were a terrorist organisation with the sole intent of maintaining White Supremacy by instigating terror in the Southern Black population.
They used hoods, burning crosses, pseudo-Christian rhetoric and gibberish and weren’t above threats, beatings, shootings, arson and lynching to make a point. They ruled through terror.
It took a brave man to stand up to the Klan. Their reach was long, forgiveness none and retribution vicious.
Where evil lives it is up to all good people to stand up and oppose it!
The countryside was cold and still
There were three crosses upon the hill
Each one wore a burning hood
To hide its rotten heart of wood
And I cried
Father I hear the iron sound
Hoofbeats on the frozen ground
Down from the hills the riders came
Lord, it was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
And hear the snarling of their lips
And I cried
Mother I feel a stabbing pain
Blood flows down like a summer rain
Each one wore a mask of white
To hide his cruel face from sight
and each one sucked a hungery breath
Out of the empty lungs of death
And I cried
Sister raise my bloody head
It’s so lonesome to be dead
He who rides with the Klan
He is a devil and not a man
For underneath that white disguise
I have looked into his eyes
Brother, stand with me
it’s not easy to be free
Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Peterloo Massacre.
You can only have real democracy when you have transparency, fair representation and a vote for every man and woman. That was far from the case two hundred years ago.
Women were denied the vote. Only landowners could vote. Some towns with only a handful of voters were electing two MPs. Two towns electing two MPs each had only 1 eligible voter. Half of the MPs in the House were elected by a mere 154 votes. Cities with hundreds of thousands were grossly underrepresented.
The economic and employment situation in the North was dire and people felt they had no recourse to justice. They had no vote and no representation.
At St. Peter’s field near Manchester between 60,000 and 80,000 gathered to hold a peaceful public meeting and protest. The establishment was rattled. They thought it might develop into a riot, ferment general unrest and lead to a revolution. They banned it. But the protesters still met.
The cavalry were called to charge. People were trampled and slashed with sabres. The crowd was eventually dispersed. They left 11 to 15 dead and over 600 to 700 badly injured – 168 of which were women. The first to be killed was a baby knocked out of his mother’s arms by a charging cavalryman. Witnesses claimed the cavalrymen slashed out indiscriminately at anyone they could. The area was sodden with blood.
It became known as the Peterloo massacre in ironic contrast to the recent battle of Waterloo.
It led to renewed impetus for justice and the Chartist Movement who fought for the right to vote.
Freedoms and rights are not freely given. They are paid for with lives and blood and can so easily be stripped away again.
In 19th century Britain it was illegal to organise in order to gain better working conditions and pay. In the 1830s the industrial revolution had created a surplus of workers which had resulted to wages being lowered to starvation level.
In Tolpuddle, a small village in Dorset, a group of farm labourers formed a collective to argue for fair pay. They refused to work for the reduced rates.
Six of them were arrested and charged with organising. They were sentenced to seven years deportation to Australia.
There was a public outcry, a petition signed by 800,000 and a march on London.
It was the first successful protest.
The sentences were commuted. All but one (with a previous criminal record) were released.
It is right to remember that our rights and freedoms come at a price. Our unions had to be fought for. The establishment gives neither wealth nor power freely and just as readily takes it back given a chance.