i've been listening to bits and pieces from barack obama's visit to england. and i have to say it's been making me extremely angry. most of it has been two imperial powers gloating on the hold they have over the rest of the world. the language is arrogant and based on some pretty large misconceptions.
just as an example, in the queen's speech at the formal dinner, ms windsor expressed her thanks for america stepping in twice last century to "save the free & democratic world". let us think about the context of those two events, namely world wars I & II. at the time the americans stepped in (& i include both wars here), britain might have been free and democratic but its colonies most definitely were not.
this was a country that was happy to be a coloniser, happy to deny indigenous peoples the right to govern their own lands and to benefit their own natural & human resources. many of these colonies have faced extreme poverty as result of colonisation, some of the indigenous peoples have become minorities in their own lands with extremely poor statistics in terms of income, health & life expectancy. no-one in britain, let alone the unelected monarch, has the right to describe that country at the time of the world wars as free & democratic. it's an outright lie, and if i'd had any respect for the royal family before, i'd certainly have lost it all now. of course i can't possibly have any respect for an institution that played a key role in the process of colonisation across the world anyway, so yeah.
mr obama continued the performance today with his speech to the english parliament. here's the text, you can read it for yourself. if you don't want to wade through the whole thing, here's a taste:
And yet, as this rapid change has taken place, it's become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed.
That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now. It was the United States and the United Kingdom and our democratic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive. And even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just.
yes, i know that he's there to suck up to britain & the british public, to strengthen the alliance & be all diplomatic. even so, it's hard to read the speech & not feel angry at what has been missed out. the countries invaded and occupied, the numbers killed or dispossessed, the actions taken to promote strategic interests rather than any high-minded values of the kinds he speaks about. no recognition of the aspirations that have been suppressed, the nations that have been split arbitrarily and torn apart (refer, the indian subcontinent, africa, the middle east ie most of the world).
ok, i'm going to have to stop, or i'll go on all night. i am so totally over "empire". which is why i should definitely be queen of nz. goodness me, if y'all will put up with that lot, you should be equally happy to fund me.