Commonwealth day, colonialism, and imperialism

So, what does Commonwealth Day mean to anyone British? If you even know when it is (helpful hint – today).

Is Commonwealth Day a remnant of colonialism? Doubt it. Doesn’t seem like anything in particular at all.

Back in school, half a century or so ago, OK I exaggerate but it sounds good, we studied Muir’s Historical Atlas. The British Empire was coloured in red and seemed to cover half the world.

I was brought up with the notion that the British Empire was A Good Thing. And that loss of colonies was A Bad Thing.

It was a very long time before I learned that empires and colonisation didn’t always involve Good Things.

That, it involved killing local people. Making the ones who weren’t killed, change their culture, their religion, their way of life, everything they had ever known, to fit in with the liberating oppressors.

The last few hundred years saw a race to grab as much of the world as possible. By and large, by the following western european countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK.

What’s happened since then??

Most of us glorious colonising countries have ceded independence to our thralls. In the case of the UK we have a Commonwealth. Interestingly we used to have an Empire Day, established by Canadians in 1898, and then instituted in the UK in 1904.

Empire Day became Commonwealth Day in 1958 to reflect the changed relationship between the UK and former colonies, empirical subjects, whatever you wish.

The UK gets a lot of stick for its colonisation. When I was in Australia it seemed like there was a huge anti-UK campaign going on, everywhere seemed to be proclaiming its Australian origins and dislike/hatred of the UK.

More recently on forums, Americans seem to enjoy bashing Brits for colonising America. (Why we did is beyond me, but there we go).

Now this is seriously rich. Because the whole point of this post is about modern-day colonialisation.

It’s no longer about grabbing land. It’s about money-grabbing and asset-grabbing.

Modern-day colonial powers no longer take over a country and put in infrastructure. They go in, shoot the shit out of everyone, destroy the local environment and take what they want. Or, they do it a different way.

Some years ago, I decide to boycott Japan. Apart from the fact that I totally disagreed with their whaling policy, I didn’t agree with the way they flooded the market with their electronic goods.

Now Japan has lost ground to China, same issue, different country in the lead, still flooding the market with cheap goods. Who cares where their product is manufactured, or in which sweatshop? Economic colonialisation anyone?

But America is a different matter again.

1) America likes to invoke protectionist laws so that people can’t import goods into the US or make money on-line by taking money from American citizens. (qv the anti-gaming legislation that I have written about before)

2) America has the right to invade anywhere in the world. How many countries has the USA invaded since the second world war? Approximately 45 according to Tony Benn. What is that if it is not colonialism? Or imperialism?

3) New-style colonialism is about asset-stripping. Invade a country under the guise of liberation from a tyrannical oppressor. Create chaos in the local population, take the rights to the oil and piss right off.

Great stuff America. Even the Brits stayed long enough to pretend to do something useful.

Colonialisation exists. If you look for it. It’s in a different guise, but just as wicked. Don’t support it.

That ‘liberating war’ is another form of colonialism. Just go on in and beat the natives about the head.

Oh! did I mention corporate wankers bankers? You know the ones. Put the world economy into reverse, saw a shit load of people on the street, and still took home their bonus?

People, our oppressors just change their spots. And some of us don’t even realise it.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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7 Responses to Commonwealth day, colonialism, and imperialism

  1. An angry post today? I didn’t know it was Commonwealth Day. I suppose for the UK the legacy of Empire is that the taxpayer continues to fund huge overseas aid programmes to ungrateful former members of the club.


  2. Blu says:

    I think you are letting the British colonialists off a bit lightly here. In Ireland for example they rigged the independence vote so that they could create Northern Ireland even though the majority of people voting wanted independence and it was never a county by county thing. Between 1960 and 2000 Britain paid a heavy price for that decision. The division of India into India, East and West Pakistan created a world flashpoint, as indeed did the creation of the state of Israel in what was Palestine, with little regard for the Palestinian people; do both seem to be extremely bad decisions.

    As for the commonwealth day speech, could they just mean that the 2nd Monday in March falls during school term time across the commonwealth, so school children are more aware of it as they get to have a day off ?


  3. I’m no apologist for British colonialism, happy to write lots more posts on that one.

    My point here was merely a simple contrast between the traditional view of European colonialists invading other countries, killing the natives, sticking up a flag and forcing people to change their religion, and the current world politics which involves, invading other countries, killing the natives, … oh, wait but that isn’t colonialism?

    And then there is the rather more subtle, although equally as damaging, economic control exerted by different super-powers.

    But to go back to the Brits. Tasmania? India? North America? We managed to kill as many of the locals as we felt appropriate, including going hunting them for weekend sport. I don’t think any other European colonial powers were any different.

    To answer your specifics. I understood the Irish problem started well before the 1960s for example, the Easter Rising in 1916.

    I always learned that Henry VIII started the Irish problem but that’s probably just down to the fact that constitutionally he was the first English King of Ireland. Certainly my limited knowledge of Irish history would say the real troubles began in the early twentieth century.

    Don’t know about the vote, although I have heard many anecdotal tales about NI – who hasn’t?

    The creation of Israel and Pakistan were indeed strange decisions, but products of a political process rather than the ‘colonialisation’ I was referring to where I meant invasion of countries and slaughter of local people.

    I failed to understood the whole Palestine/Israel/West Bank/Gaza Strip problem until I read one of John Pilger’s books. Not that I do now, but certainly I have a slightly better understanding of the horrific situation that is normal life for people who live there.

    Commonwealth speech? Either all children are at school that day, or all are off school. Are children at school in the UK today? Yes. Are they at school in Gib? No. How many schoolchildren in the UK do you know who are aware of Commonwealth Day? It is an error in the speech, simple as that.


    • Blu says:

      I think my point was that colonising people is the easy bit, you just have to have bigger and better weapons, its how you cease to be the colonial power thats more important.

      I am currently struck by the hypocrisy of the British, decrying the activities of the Syrian government when they did things just as bad in Ireland only 100 years ago.


      • Fair enough comment. I don’t think ceasing to be a colonial power was a thing of the past, it was more trying not to let go until it became too much of a drag, – you can go back to the Roman Empire for that one.

        Leaving somewhere intact, and as a new state is totally different. Afghanistan anyone? Walking away from occupation and doing it well is a new concept and is something that hasn’t yet been successfully achieved.

        One of the endearing British traits is hypocrisy, wouldn’t you say?


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