Dont politicians make you puke?
The scramble to apologise for the iniquities of the slave trade last week was, predictably, led by King Kenute Livingstone who has moved on from trying to turn back the tide of climate change with hollow gestures and is now looking to turn back the anti – Labour tide and attract votes. I am sure King Kenutes hollow gesture will go down with the Black community leaders whose support he is courting but in reality it is just another shabby and cynical ploy in the New Labour catalogue of sleaze.
But can an apology for a wrong one has no part in, made to people who were not wronged mean anything at all?
We do not owe an apology to our black community because that is a generalisation which includes many people who came to Britain of their own free will, to make careers and give their families the real or perceived advantages of living in a wealthy western democracy. We owe an apology maybe to the families of Damilola Taylor and Anthony Walker who died because our shallow and self serving politicians were too busy spinning the truth to give their attention to mere details like the problems faced by minorities in inner cities.
We owe to all people who come to live in our nation having applied though the proper channels, respect for their humanity and equality in employment opportunity, education, welfare and matters of law. To those who enter illegally we owe respect for their humanity and dignity and to those brought here from Africa, the Far East and Eastern Europe whose status is no different to slaves we owe the protection of a nation that claims civilised values.
But as for the African slave trade, ended 200 years ago, well everybody knows it was a crime against humanity but there have been many crimes against humanity and who can realistically apologise for them all, and on whose behalf?
I know for a fact my ancestors were not directly involved. The Thorpe’s were gentleman farmers who lost their lands because they supported the wrong side when Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to seize the throne* and the Redefines were Yorkshire wool merchants.
There was a kind of slavery going on during the early part of the Industrial Revolution though, that both families would have been marginally involved in. It was a kind of slavery that saw thousands of poor British people dispossessed and forcibly evicted from their homes to live in degrading conditions and work at demeaning jobs for poverty line wages, denied the freedom to change employers or try to better themselves. This particular injustice was responsible for widespread misery and suffering and directly brought about the astronomical infant mortality rate in the industrial towns during the nineteenth century.
We do not hear of politicians falling over themselves to apologise to the descendants of the British peasantry for the wrongs perpetrated under The Enclosures Act. I wonder is this because there are no votes or photo – opportunities in it?
We should remember the victims of the slavers, we should remember the victims of the nineteenth century land – grabbers and of the great depression of the twentieth century. And we should respect their memory by ensuring that we never go there again, that we never allow financial interest cloaked in a robe of bogus morality to hijack our view of what is right or wrong. Which means we need to make a pretty sharp about turn right now.
*The Thorpes later regained prosperity by getting themselves involved in smuggling brandy, wine and tobacco on the North Yorkshire coast around Robin Hoods Bay – Im rather proud of that.