As I explained in my last blog post, the UK government has retained an imperialist mind-set, which may partly explain our insistence on intervening in the Middle East. I also briefly pointed out that a recent poll, showed that nearly half of the UK population have positive attitudes towards the British Empire. Understandably, such mind-sets have been regarded as unacceptable by many people on the left. However, if we are to change this it is important to remember why such mind-sets exit and in what ways our education systems seek to promote these ideas. Importantly, I cannot reiterate enough that this is not a conspiracy theory, but simply that certain attitudes and ideologies exist within the heart of our statist system, and that these ideas must be dismantled.
The ‘white man’s burden’The general view surrounding pro imperialist attitudes is the idea that we were delivering opportunity and safety to cultures deemed to be savage. It is a view which tends to view imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes, who significantly limited African voting rights and laid out the foundation of the apartheid system, as great entrepreneurs. As a result these ideas have been used as the backbone to current ideas about race and immigration. To a less significant extent it has even influenced the ideology of far right groups such as the BNP and UKIP.
This may explain why the ruling classes so subtly attempt to influence peoples understanding of history, and why it is often framed as cold scientific fact. In 2014, a review in the Economist of Edward Baptists book on slavery and capitalism, accused Baptist of being biased against white people, due to the fact that Baptist largely used black testimony. This is highly revealing about how our culture see Black testimony as less reliable than that of white people. Historian Jenni Cobb rightfully backed this idea up by pointing out that you can still go to plantations in America which tend to divide ideas about slavery into categories of the ‘Cruel’ or ‘righteous’ slave owner. It seems that the only solution to this would be to get slavery sceptic’s, to check facts before they finally admit they are wrong.
Of course, there are reasons these preconceptions exist. Due to the large scale ghettoization of black people that occurred as a result of policy after the Second World War, white people have been very unwilling to listen to the concerns of black people about things such as policing, and take what they say on board. Despite this, twice many white Americans as black Americans think that black people are treated fairly. Furthermore, studies have found that 75 per cent, of white Americans have no black American friends. Surely if black people were given the same opportunities as whites, people would not persist with the imperialist, us vs. them mentality that is so pervasive in western society.
Gove’s rancid education legacyIn being possibly the worst education minister we have ever had in recent memory, during his time in the role Michael Gove implemented a number of changes seemingly aimed at restoring the Prussian model of education on which our schools were built. After starting one to many arguments with teachers, resulting in large strikes, David Cameron reluctantly removed him from his role as education secretary, only to compensate Gove with the job of looking after our justice system, upon the Tory’s re - election. However, in looking at how education promotes the imperialist mind-set, it is worth looking at Gove’s legacy.
During his time as education sectary Gove attempted to implement a new school curriculum which supposedly aimed to ‘celebrate the distinguished role of Britain in the history of the world’ and portray Britain as a ‘beacon of liberty’. These comments attracted criticism from leading academics who accused Gove of pocking aspects of the past pleasing to him, and warning about the dangers of nationalist based teaching. They have got a good point to make, how Michael Gove can just blatantly cherry-pick aspects of history to represent Britain as a nation that have always upheld liberty is absurd. Part of education, comes with learning to criticise and critically examine vents that happen around us, and mindlessly slapping new rules on schooling will not stop that.
Despite the fact that Gove’s education reforms are ideologically motivated, much more important in explaining imperialist mind-sets such as the ones shown by the yougov poll, is the Medias influence on our everyday lives. Through popular forms of media such as television and newspapers, conventional narratives about Britain’s past are constantly repeated. The right wing press constantly pay homage to what they see as our great empire, while book stores promote history books by leading male conservative writers.
Much of our media is owned and influenced by large multinational companies. One of Britain’s largest publisher’s penguin, is owned by the Pearson Company. The same company that own the edexcel exam board. Furthermore the same company also owned the financial times and the economist. Although the days of press barons, infiltrating the press and ordering journalists to support Hitler may be behind us, there is no denying that large companies still do have large influence over not only the press but publishing, schools and television. This further shows the influence of imperialist mind-sets in our lives.
So what are the alternatives to ideologically motivated education and media reforms? Well, as pointed out earlier there are historians who seek to expose the darker aspects of media and empire, it is important that through alternative media and education that these historians get the recognition that they deserve. Furthermore, it is equally important to democratise all education establishments, giving students the right to decide not only what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. As I have said before, the ideas and values of imperialism are out of date and incompatible with the ideas of democracy, and if we are to truly bring an end to corruption we must get rid of the ideology that underlines it.