green_man_2010 (green_man_2010) wrote in talk_politics,

A bit of British history.

Among the many reports of vandalism that took place in violent anti government demonstrations, one notable statue seems to have escaped.

There is a large bronze, by the Victorian sculptor Thorneycroft, of Bouddica, queen of the Ineni. The Victorians raised this statue to this Celtic queen as a demonstration of their approval of her anti - imperialism. Which was a bit rich, considering.

See, when the Romans came to Britain and attacked the tribes to the south of them, Bouddicca's hubby made himself an ally of Rome. It seemed a smart move that would guarantee Iceni independence. a treaty was made, and the Iceni king willed half his kingdom to Ceasar on his death, his wife to keep the remainer.

Sadly, the Romans were never great ones for keeping treaties if it didn't suit. They seized all her land and flogged Bouddica herself. At this the Iceni (and several nearby tribes) rose in revolt, and this rebellion almost lost the province of Britannia to Roman rule.

The Statue bears the inscription "regions Ceasar never knew thy posterity shall sway".
And someone should have added "LOL", perhaps in Latin. Because it was not the Celts , or the even the Saxons, but the Norman French were the ones who took over Britain and carved out what we would now call 'the British Empire'.

There is a brilliant clip from a Monty Python movie where John Cleese, playing the head of the Popular Judean Front, asks his audience " What have the Romans ever done for us?" . And several of the audience answer. "Alright" he replies "but apart from the aquaducts, the nice straight roads, the public baths, the rule of law and order and the vineyards - what have the Romans ever done for us ?"

The serious fact is though, that all the glories of Roman civilisation were built on slavery.
One wonders how it was that when Hannibal defeated the Romans in battle in Italy itself, they their subject races did not rise in revolt as the Iceni did. but I digress.

It is argued that the British Empire was built on trade not conquest, at least it was in the books I read at school. But those books did not go much into the Opium Wars. Now it might have been true that India was won from the French who attacked us first, the problem was that when the britsh went to china, the chinese did not want anything that Britain had to sell.

So, the Brits of the day craftily set about toppling the legitimate Chinese government, putting a puppet regime in place and then importing Opium into China. Basically, all empires were run for the benefit of the people ruling, not the people they ruled - Rome and Britain were not exceptions.

The French, being lovely, freedom loving people, gave the Americans a lot of help in winning their freedom from the awful British ruling class who taxed them so much without any representation. It would be interesting to speculate how history might have developed had King George and his government had been more reasonable.

Even so, the french government, without any Empire to worry them, still managed to get into New Zealand during peacetime and sink a civilian ship in a harbour of a soveriegn nation. And they did that in my lifetime.Governments can be nasty things , it seems. Go google "Rainbow Warrior"
if you want the details. That was the name of the ship they sank. The French government denied any involvement in these people's actions , of course, but put tremedous diplomatic pressure on the New Zealand government to have the captured French sabotuers sent back to France to serve the rest of their sentences.

Governments, it seems, as well as Empires, get run for the benefit of those who run them, too.
But what of the USA, the land of the free, the 'leader of the free world'?
JFK was popular as a US president, in Europe if nowhere else. However, back in the 60s, so I'm told, an interesting episode took place in Jamaica. A socialist government took power, but the America firms that virtually ran the island's ecomony conspired to put up prices in an attempt to stop the government's social reforms. sadly , they succeeded. That's what I was told, by an old Jamaican guy I work with.

A more credible source, perhaps, is John Pilger, who did a documentary on Indonesia, showing how British warships assisted a militarty coup in that country, which lead to American firms like Nike being allowed to operate in land where unions were banned and workers were denied basic rights like political representation. this was profitable for all concernrd - except the workers. Perhaps we can't trust governments at all - especially ones that put up statues that praise justice and freedom.
Tags: history, uk
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