On the matter of statues, and the general subject of our being kept blissfully unaware of our own often shameful history: I did know that the British had pretty much invented concentration camps in the Boer Wars (not that I found that out until many years after leaving school) but until today I was certainly not aware that we were still at it, and on a huge scale, as late as the 1950s, just a few short years after the horrors of the Nazis' camps had been revealed to a shocked world. (Not out-and-out death camps in our case, but concentration camps nonetheless.)
Prompted by Johnson's ever-creepier mendacity, George Monbiot writes in today's Guardian:Boris Johnson says we shouldn't edit our past. But Britain has been lying about it for decades
It seems we imprisoned over a million Kenyans and treated them appallingly, including subjecting them to horrific torture and murder, and have spent decades doing our best to cover it all up. It's quite a shocking read but it's clear that it's just the tiniest tip of a huge imperial iceberg.
In the final paragraph Monbiot makes a very powerful point:
Lying about history, censoring and editing is what the political establishment does. The histories promoted by successive governments, especially those involving the UK’s relationship with other nations, are one long chain of lies. Because we are lied to, we cannot move on. Maturity, either in a person or in a nation, could be defined as being honest about ourselves. We urgently need to grow up.
This is the problem. We're supposed to be a "mature democracy" but the attitude of so many Brits is shockingly immature, planted firmly and seemingly immovably in a supposedly glorious imperial past. I think it's time we all confronted reality.
It's like when you're young and perhaps your dad seems a god-like creature who can do no wrong. Then as you get older you learn more about him and start to see all his faults and realise that he isn't so great after all, but he's still your dad and you love him to bits anyway. It's as if we've all been stuck in a permanent pre-adolescence where "Dad" is still the absolute bee's knees because we never get to learn of all the faults. It wouldn't mean we'd all stop being patriotic overnight if we knew of all the horrors perpetrated in our ancestors' name, but it would mean that we'd have a more nuanced and mature relatonship with our own country, and the world at large.
I can't help but notice how the Germans are far more mature as a people than we are. Is that because they were forced to confront their own country's history in a way that we never were, I wonder?