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Intransigence

As Johnson claims the UK-US relationship is "indestructible", it is worth taking a moment to consider how many American films have characters with Irish pasts. Irish pasts. It is worth taking another moment to consider how many Americans think they have Irish heritage and connections, including the current President. It is also worth considering that America may be more partial to an independent Ireland without the British having anything to do with it...given that America went through that process themselves. That was the previous time that there was an insurrection attempt at the Capitol, only unlike Trump's delusions, the insurrectionists won and kicked the Brits out.

It seems to me to be quite clear that if it came down to America having to make a choice between Ireland and Britain... well... Britain might have a special relationship with America, but so does Ireland, and I think theirs is stronger.
Besides, if Johnson said the US-UK relationship is "indestructible", I've had the misfortune of knowing Johnson long enough to know that that's Boris speak for "it's all in tatters and they won't stop talking about bloody Ireland".

 

Too much fury in the usual excuses for journalism, the French President is sticking his neck out and saying that "oi, bastards, you agreed a whole lot of important stuff last year, bloody well stick to it you disrespectful bunch of untrustworthy charlatans."
Well, he didn't say it in those exact words (and if he had, it just would have sounded so much better in French) but he got about as close as was politically possible. And he can do that because he's French and everybody knows that the English hate the French.
Hell, if Macron had come out in support of Brexit, we all know that the red tops would be like "Get out of our politics you interfering Frog!" followed by "Wait, what?". It's just the nature of things.

Le Monde ran an article about how the UK's new immigration rules are bullying EU citizens. The Express began a lot of blather with this:

Some drivel from the Express.
A screenshot of some drivel from the Express.

I'm suspecting that few people in Europe actually care that much about Britain's new immigration rules. After all, the European countries now apply third-party immigration rules to Brits. It's a sad consequence of what has happened.
They're probably more concerned about the outright bullying, bullshit, and liberal misinterpretation of the rules by Britain's Border Force. All seemingly egged on in their quest to pick on as many hapless people as possible by the Home Office who, even when the nonsense and contradictions on the official websites (and the Border Force's lack of adherence to most of the rules) are pointed out, reply that it's all perfectly clear and normal, and there's nothing unusual happening.

You don't even need to speak French. Just Google for "theguardian border force" and you'll get enough stories that if you are British and not a Brexiteer, will utterly shame you.

You'll also find a brilliant story about how they tried that crap in Glasgow and Glasgow wasn't having any of it. Proud of you, Glasgow! ☺

 

Predictably, the British government is accusing the EU of "intransigence" because they (the EU) don't want to renegotiate a protocol that everybody agreed on just a little while back, now that the Tories have finally realised that there is utterly no way to work the protocol and have Brexit.
But, then, there's utterly no way to have the two parts of Ireland as they currently are and have Brexit. Not that many of the Brexiteers or the English voters cared even slightly about this until it was rammed into their faces.
We should not be surprised, mind you. This government are the ones that horrified anybody with a functioning brain by taking the idea of a no-deal crash out from rhetoric to "scare them furriners" to an actual potential option. The current Withdrawal Agreement is not particularly good, but then perhaps if May and Johnson and the various so-called negotiators had been concentrating on making an actual accord with the EU rather than playing to the peanut gallery (the European Research Group and the red tops), we might have a much better and more useful agreement.

Though, on the other hand, maybe not, given that the current arrangement allows Bitchy Patel to live out her Stalinesque fantasies...

 

The world is not black and white

The defaced statue of the now-disgraced Edward Colston is on display as a museum exhibition. The problem with all of this is that the world is not simply black and white. Colston was a philanthropist who, certainly, made a lot of many from the trading of slaves (the Royal African Company - set up by the royal family, in case the name wasn't a clue). He invested money in schools, houses for the poor, hospitals, and so on, in and around Bristol.
The statue to him was erected in 1895, which was in the Victorian era. Victorians liked erecting statues, but reality was often a fair bit harsher. It is the time of Dickens, when there were workhouses which included children. The idea of the workhouse was to try to deal with the issue of pauperism (a growing problem thanks to the Industrial Revolution) but they essentially became self-contained prisons keeping the poor and the vulnerable out of sight. With a populace perfectly willing to inflict immeasurable cruelty and social savagery upon its own citizens, it should not be a surprise that nobody much cared how Colston got his money. And nobody did, until about the '90s when attitudes had changed enough for people to think that it was "not quite right", and another thirty years went by until his statue was forcibly removed.

Workhouses, by the way, were "officially" closed it 1930, but it wasn't until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the corrupt Poor Laws and workhouse history finally came to an end.

It's worth considering that in the case of Colston's slave trade, perhaps to him it was merely a logistics problem. This number of units on this number of ships from here to there by such and such a date. That does not make it right, certainly. But before you think of a rebuttal to post in the comments below, ask yourself why your piece of meat in the supermarket comes in a little blue or white plastic box with a sort-of panty liner gizmo inside and all nicely wrapped in cling film. Is it, perhaps, to make your chosen piece of lamb seem like a commodity? The panty-liner sucks up all of the excess blood, and the blue or white container gives an appearance of sterility. By doing this, you can morally and psychologically distance yourself from the harsh reality of a living animal born, raised (probably in horrible conditions), and then slaughtered. Shall we discuss the terror that the animal will have felt? Or what it will have felt like to have it's throat slit and left to bleed out? It would be more humane to fire a bolt into it's brain to make it quick. And then, the dead corpse would have its skin removed and it would be sawn into sections. Some of these sections would go to a local butcher who will carefully (or sometimes not so carefully) remove the muscular tissue, with or without bone depending upon the cut, clean things up a little, and then package the muscle of the dead creature into a tidy little plastic box so you can purchase the piece of meat that is most appealing to you without having to give any thought to where that piece of meat actually came from. Indeed, with wicking up excess blood, you don't even really need to associate "a nice piece of lamb" with "chopped up piece of dead animal" at all.
When you're not directly involved, it's so much simpler to turn a blind eye to the horribleness. Maybe it was the same with Colston? Who knows.

 

In France, there is a similar discussion regarding the President commemorating at Napoleon's tomb. In modern times, it's a controversial subject given that he has been described as a megalomaniac, a tyrant, a despot, or a complete nutjob who ignored treaties he didn't like and wrought a misery across most of Europe. He was the first to plunder conquered territories (a lot of things ended up in Musée du Louvre), as well as one of the first to engage in mass propaganda (both tricks copied later on by Hitler).
He also dealt a heavy blow to France, seventeen years of wars, millions dead, France bankrupt and overseas colonies lost. He has been said to have easily set European economic life back an entire generation as a result for his desire to start wars to bolster his military record, including provoking and then attacking allies. If that wasn't bad enough, he had over three thousand prisoners of war executed, after they had been promised mercy if they surrendered (the massacre at Jaffa). Along the way he proclaimed himself "Emperor", though somehow that seems like the least of everybody's problems...

On the other hand, he was fairly enlightened and brought to Europe the Napoleonic Code, which brought an end to feudal laws and introduced a centralised law. It's not the first such idea, the Germans did it about fifty years earlier, but his system was the first that was written and intended to be used across much of Europe, implemented in countries conquered during the Napoleonic Wars, of which a lot of the code remains in modern law of many countries.
It introduced concepts like you could only be guilty of breaking a law that has been published, you cannot be tried for something that is now illegal if the law didn't exist when you did whatever it was, judges were prohibited from refusing justice because of insufficiencies of the law (thus they had to interpret the law). The law specifically concerned itself with "true crimes" and not crimes created by superstition. Blasphemy, witchcraft, homosexuality, and so on were swiftly decriminalised as a result of this. It brought in the concept of property rights, religious tolerance, and equality before the law. It wasn't perfect, it appears that one was guilty until proven otherwise, and woman had fewer rights than children. These were mostly issues contemporary with when the code was written, though in the case of women he certainly didn't make things better.
A lot of Europe's modern legal systems evolved from the concepts of the Napoleonic Code. As well as that, he centralised government (and brought a stable government after the turmoil of the French Revolution). He built public roads, introduced state-supported secondary education, created the Bank of France and a unified French currency, and introduced meritocracy - that is people were promoted (in the military and government) based upon their abilities, not who their daddy is. He also sorted out a long standing issue between the people and the church (stemming from the Revolution) and set Catholocism as the official religion of France.

Whether he was an ambitious architect of a future unified Europe, or a lunatic tyrant with delusions of glory, has been a debate that's been going on since before he died. It's still going on today. Which is why the consternation at Macron going to his tomb.

 

The thing is, these people need to be remembered because their history and the things that they did helped bring us to where we are now. That doesn't mean whitewash all the bad bits and only talk about the good they did, and that doesn't mean whitewash all the good bits and only talk about how evil they were.

There are no such things as superheroes or supervillains. These people, like us, were flawed. They were not "good" nor were they "evil". They were a bit of both. Whatever their excuses, reasons, and delusions they did some good stuff and they did some horrible stuff and our telling of history today must provide a balanced narrative that discusses both. Moreso if it refrains from judgement and leaves it to you to decide whether the person was overall "good" or "bad".

 

Even Hitler did some good things. He sorted out the horrible mess that was the German economy, he created jobs to give people pride (quite a powerful tool), he was a strong advocate for educating children, including physical fitness and many competitions (and medals). This extended to work where people, who now had jobs, had rights to (government-) paid holidays. He tried to make Germany self-sufficient. He created motorways so people could get about easily. He even, way ahead of its time, ran anti-smoking campaigns. Speaking of campaigns, he set up the world's first public television station (FPN), and held the Olympics. That whole Olympic torch relay thing started in the 1936 Olympic games, albeit mostly as a form of propaganda.
So, Hitler did some good things (possibly unsustainable due to Keynesian overspending) but there's that little issue of the war and the toll it took on Europe especially so soon after the so-called "war to end all wars" (WW1), and the six million Jews and the five million non-Jews that were considered undesirable and dealt with in a way that we can only hope never ever gets repeated in human history. Granted, while that's about half of Stalin's death count, and a fraction of Chairman Mao's... there's a point where the numbers stop being important, as if the "sick evil bastard" meter goes "ping!" and that person can only be considered irredeemably bad.

I point out the good things Hitler did to highlight the fact that, like Colston, like Napolean, people (even those we'd nowadays consider to be the very definition of evil) are capable of doing good things. History needs to discuss both sides. And people need to understand that the world is not black and white, just very many shades of grey.

 

Though, I will grant you, Hitler might be a bit of a hard sell... he gave people jobs, educated children, and murdered eleven million citizens simply because of who they were.
Yeah... top bloke...

 

 

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David Pilling, 17th June 2021, 23:21
There's a YouTube video about the South of Ireland in WW2, and the comments are full of US citizens saying they never knew it was neutral. Seemingly invasion by the UK, Germany or the USA were all possibilities. 
 
As to the current UK history problems. Can't rationalise away European complicity by giving examples of Europeans being bad to one another. Nor do some rights make up for one overwhelming wrong. 

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