Saturday, June 12, 2021

Jeffcotism (6)

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

And then we turn to the Houses of Parliament. The House of Commons. The people who govern us. The actual British Conservative party.

It was widely reported in the press that MP called Christipher Pincher had suggested that Kier Starmer,  centrist anti-Corbynite, had gone mad, and that he had further described him as a POW, prisoner of woke. I naturally decided I had better find out the context.

It was debate about statues. 

God almighty when I first came to Bristol I had no idea that one piece of fucking street furniture would send out such ripples. 

An MP called Gareth Bacon was in apocalyptic mood.

"Britain is under attack—not in a physical sense, but in a philosophical, ideological and historical sense. Our heritage is under direct assault. There are those who seek to call the very sense of what it is to be British today into question. Attempts are being made to rewrite our history, indoctrinate our children with anti-British propaganda and impose an alternative worldview."

And yes, this philosophical, ideological and historical force assaulting our heritage is popularly known as Woke.

So. Woke is an anti-British world view that "calls the very sense of what it means to be British today" into question.

We need to be very sure that we know what Britain means; what it means to be British; and what pro-British propaganda would look like. If we can get to that, we might finally have solved the mystery of what it means to be Woke.

"In woke eyes, the British empire is no longer seen as a modernising, civilising force that spread trade, wealth and the rule of law around the globe. Instead, it is viewed as a racist, colonialist, oppressive force than invaded sovereign foreign countries, plundered them and enslaved people en masse."


According to Conservative MPs in the House of Commons the idea of Britain and Britishness is that the British empire was an unmitigated good. The Woke Perspective, which is going to destroy the very idea of Britishness and what it means to be British is that the British Empire plundered and enslaved its subject nations and that that this was a bad thing.

Colonialism good = British. 

Colonialism bad = Woke.

Empire brought wealth and trade to the fuzzywuzzies = British. 

Empire enslaved people, sold them, used them as live stock, whipped them, drowned them = Woke.

Britishness is to believe in the White Man's Burden. 

Finding the whole idea sanctimonious and nauseating is Woke.

Britishness is literally about White Supremacy: about the good that we, the white people, generously did to you, various shades of brown people.

Of course, there can be nuance in the study of history. 

Of course that can sometimes get lost in the race for O levels and SATS. 

The old joke was that GCSE had reduced English history to Hitler and Henry -- the Tudors and the Second World War. I have some slight sympathy with the complaint that "according to the Woke perspective" Britain is seen only through the lens of Empire; and the Empire is seen only through the lens of slavery.

Although I can't help thinking of the old joke about the Welshman. "I am in the church choir every Sunday: do they call me Jones the singer? I make delicious bread five days a week; do they call me Jones the Baker? I play for the rugby first team most Saturdays; do they call me Jones the Sportsman. But just once they catch me with a sheep..."

I don't think that Germany is reducible to the Third Reich; I certainly don't think Germany is reducible to the Holocaust. But I can say "other things happened in Germany too" partly because the Germans have admitted that the Holocaust was a Bad Thing. They don't say "killing six million Jews would be politically incorrect by today's standards, but you can't judge the 1930s by the standards of today."

We are tilting at the shadows of windmills. If it were true that children were taught that Shakespeare was not a good poet and Jane Austen was not a good novelist and Darwin was not a good scientist and Christopher Wren was not a good architect because slavery, this would be a little one-sided. But if that were the case (which it isn't) there would be no need to appeal to the fiction of Wokery. We could point to particular flaws in particular text books; and bring in historians and schools inspectors to correct them.

Yes, there was a time when the cleverest people in the world thought that the world was flat. Yes, we should challenge taboos and not follow fashion. God knows, a proper historical account of Empire would involve nuance. The missionaries honestly thought that when they tore down the idols and forced the natives to wear trousers they were doing God's work. We enslaved people, but we built bridges. Hitler made the trains run on time.

But this is white man's burden talk. What it means to be British involves that we, white people, had to take law and order and wealth to you, black people. It is white supremacy written in forty foot high letters of fire. The British empire was a good thing because we, Europeans, know better than you, Africans and Asians.

The committed Jeffcotian never argues that his opponent is in the wrong. There would be no point in doing that. If the opponent is in the wrong, or might be in the wrong, you would refute him by his own arguments. The patron saint of the Jeffcotians is St Jude. He is only ever invoked on the side of hopeless causes. Slavery was good; the British Empire was okay; it's fine to be racist; it's bad to be gay; it's okay to insult minorities, trans folk shouldn't be allowed to get changed in swimming pools. The Jeffcotian argues that the hopeless cause is an hegemony; that a near universal lobby has stifled debate; and that this stifling of debate, not the racism, the sexism, or the homophobia is the real threat.

And because the hegemonic establishment is the real threat, the final Jeffcotian manoeuvre is so subtle, so elegant, so much a work of genius.

Woke is the evil because it will not allow dissent. 

Critical Race Theory is the real evil because it cancels and silences people. 

So we must enact legislation to prohibit Woke texts; to prevent Race Critical Studies being taught in colleges; to tell the the BBC that in order to continue to exist it must promote British Values. (British Values are that the Empire was an unmitigated good. Doctor Who and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue can only be allowed to exist if they actively promote the White Man's Burden.) 

The word Orwellian has done a lot of work lately. But this is literally Orwellian. The creatures are looking from pig to man and from man to pig; but it is already impossible to say which was which is which. 

[note for unfinished final section]

1 comment:

Sophie Jane said...

By chance, I came across this piece by Sara Ahmed that seems usefully relevant - a different angle that helps clarify what’s going on, perhaps:

“We learn something about the nature of power and privilege from those who experience the restrictions necessary for equality as restrictions on their freedom. We learn something about the nature of power and privilege that some people experience equality as theft.”

“Imagine this: you say, I will not have that debate, I will not make my existence a debate, and you are told, stop being a sensitive snow-flake, too easily offended, stop censoring others. Imagine being accused of harming those who wish to have that debate because you refuse the terms of that debate.”