Whilst some may question the decision to publish this rant on Anzac eve, I can think of no better time to question a dubious “tradition” – the inclusion of Britain’s flag as a dominant part of our own. In addition to the courage and determination of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, the day remembers one of the least glorious events of the many inglorious events experienced in the preservation of the British Empire – a military farce of epic proportions, a battle impossible to win because it was fought in the wrong place!
Fortunately, the failure didn’t matter much because the combatants, and the casualties, were predominantly non-British.
The photographs included have been chosen in an attempt to highlight “Australianness”.
RANT 6 – RULE BRITANNIA.
Britannia, rule the waves
And Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”
They would however, be only too happy to enslave others.
They would also, at no additional expense, rape, murder and pillage in the time-honoured imperialist tradition of nations such as France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Russia and the United States of America.
Wait, I’m being too harsh. Britain, as a nation, officially stopped its raping and pillaging when the Brits became civilised, some years ago, and the last time they killed anybody in a purely British war, was in the Falklands in 1982, when they only killed 649 Argentinian servicemen.
This action was perhaps fair enough, since Britain had acquired the islands from the Spanish and had “owned” them since 1811. The Spanish themselves had gained possession of the islands, after protracted disputes with England and France, as part of a package deal, which allowed Spain to steal the lands from the original inhabitants of what became known as South America.
Moreover, the Argentinians did start it.
The fact that the Falkland Islands are about 13 000 km from Britain, has led some to suggest that the Argentinians were right in suggesting that the islands should be a part of South America, rather than a remnant of the defunct British Empire. At the time, it did look a little like the Brits were trying to grasp the last crumbs of their crumbled empire, and that they were only too happy to kill in order to do so.
Hang on. What’s this rant actually about?
It’s actually about the Union Jack and it’s appearance on the Australian flag.
Along with the jingoistic song, adapted from a poem set to music in 1740, the chorus of which appears above, the Union jack represents much of what stinks about British history.
It’s the last of the many flags under which the Brits sought to conquer and possess most of the world. It represents a determination to dominate by any means, fair or foul, to establish the pre-eminence of the British race, to confirm its superiority over all other races.
In 1095, the Kingdom of England, a very different political, religious and cultural animal from today’s Great Britain, joined numerous allies in a religious war aimed at securing the Holy Land. This might have been an attempt to protect Christianity, but it might also serve as an early example of the English belief in the superiority of their beliefs.
It might be argued that today, more than 900 years later, it is the belief in the superiority of their beliefs, which sees the British at war again, this time in Iraq and Afghanistan. To argue the complexities of that proposal is beyond the scope of this rant, and probably beyond the capacity of its writer.
The important point is that a flag of England, or of Great Britain, has been flying in a war, multiple times in each of the last nine centuries. During its bloody history, Britain has been engaged in military action of some kind in 90 percent of the countries of the modern world.
The flag itself is representative of English domination, by force, of its neighbours, Scotland, Ireland and, in ancient times, Wales. The brutality of the English conquests of Scotland and Ireland is legendary. The inhuman treatment of the conquered Irish, by the English, has become the stuff of folklore, and ended only when the Republic of Ireland was established, following armed rebellion.
Today there are active movements in Scotland and Wales, to ensure complete separation from the (not really) United Kingdom, with Scottish votes for independence in recent referenda creeping closer and closer to the magic 50%.
So, why does the Union Jack continue to dominate the flag of Australia, an allegedly independent country since 1901?
Whenever the subject of a truly Australian flag is discussed, there are numerous justifications trotted out for the retention of this symbol of British imperialistic might:
- Well, it’s tradition. Yes it is. It was also tradition to wear a collar and tie at all times (except in bed or the shower), to go to church on Sundays (whether you were a believer or not), to stand up when “God Save the Queen” is played (even if the queen in question was the totally irrelevant monarch of a foreign land), to eat a baked dinner for Sunday lunch and to wear all-white when playing any form of cricket. Traditions change.
- Australian soldiers fought and died under our present flag. That’s true. Australian soldiers took part in British wars and American wars but, as far as I can tell, only fought to actually defend Australia when their homeland was threatened by the Japanese, and then only after a major disagreement with the Brits who wanted Australian soldiers to remain in Europe.
When Prime Minister John Curtin recalled Australian troops for the defence of Australia, pro-British Robert Menzies and British-born Billy Hughes accused Curtin of turning his back on Britain. Winston Churchill criticised Curtin’s view as ungrateful, impudent and indicative of “Australasian anxieties”. Franklin Roosevelt, US President, blasted the view as disloyal.
It seems clear that Australians could fight and die for the part of the flag emblazoned with the British imperialist symbol, but that they were not to be permitted to fight for the section which contains the Southern Cross.
- Our heritage is British. Absolutely and undeniably true. Were it not for the British invasion of the Great South Land and the wars fought against the hopelessly outgunned indigenous people, I would not be writing this today. I believe that three of my four grandparents were of British descent.
Although I abhor the incredible violence perpetrated by the Brits in their pursuit of imperialist power, I also acknowledge that many positive aspects of my life are attributable to my British ancestry. However, I don’t need a Union Jack to remind me of this history, especially the part which involves robbery, rape and attempted genocide. I’d prefer to live as an Australian, under the Southern Cross and with a flag which also represents the original inhabitants of our country.
There are as many valid reasons to remove the Union Jack from our flag as there are for its retention:
- For decades, present flag has been growing increasingly less relevant to, and increasingly unrepresentative of, our modern multicultural society. Presently, over 15 000 000 Australians were born here and our population includes immigrants from over 30 countries. In 2016, only about one-third of Australians acknowledged English descent, and that descent may extend back for two centuries – quite tenuous and hardly contemporary.
About two thirds of our present population has no link to England at all and the Union Jack may well be entirely meaningless to them.
- The Union Jack, as the pre-eminent symbol of British imperialism, is also the most searing reminder of the behaviour of the Brits as they dispossessed the original Australians of their land.
According to the Brits the land was ruled to be “terra nullius” – uninhabited. This would seem to indicate that either the Brits were totally blind (and therefore unable to see the Aboriginal people who had inhabited the land for over 40 000 years), or they were stupid ( and unable to distinguish the Aboriginal people from the other creatures visible in the landscape), or they were racist (and not prepared to accept that people of a different race were, in fact, people), or they just didn’t give a shit about the rights of anybody but themselves.
Expecting Aboriginal Australians to respect a flag dominated by a symbol of what became, almost, their cultural annihilation, is absurd in the extreme and represents one of the greatest, if not the greatest, impediments to true social reconciliation. Had the Japanese succeeded in invading Australia during World War Two, would non-Aboriginal people have been happy to recognise and serve a flag which displayed in a prominent position, the Rising Sun?
- The history of British intervention in Australian society since the invasion of 1788 has hardly been glorious. The attempted destruction of Aboriginal culture, the use of indigenous people as virtual slaves, the various massacres of Native people who were causing an inconvenience to British landholders (over 150 massacres during a period of 140 years have been documented, with hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people killed over all in the British wars against the original inhabitants of the Great south Land).
The British brought to these shores religious, political and legal institutions which have covered themselves in shame. The list can begin with the Stolen Generations, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, the forced removal of children from parents who were considered unsuitable by virtue of their age or economic circumstances, the active protection provided to paedophiles, the inculcation of British social values including the “class system”, the creation of an underclass of the impoverished, political corruption on a grand scale – need I say more?
- Whilst acknowledging the fact that, through their centuries’ old policy of stealing remote lands and torturing, raping, murdering or enslaving their inhabitants, the English exported some outstanding cultural features in art, music and literature and in science and engineering, too many of their exports were foisted upon people who neither needed nor wanted them.
These exports were enforced as a direct result of the British belief in their absolute superiority as a race. Their religion was the “one true religion”, albeit with several variations disputed within the belief structure, their political system was clearly the most suitable, since it supported the concepts of rule by the wealthy and subjugation of the poor, their military power was second to none, proof of the fact that “might is right” and that “he who has the biggest guns has the right to rule”, and their culture was superior to all others since it was ancient, and, above all, it was “British, by George!”.
Whilst some would suggest that the violence used as a means of ensuring a successful export programme, was necessary, others, even some Brits themselves, have described Britain’s imperialist drive as “evil”, “atrocious” and “brutal”. Recent publications list just a few of the sundry crimes against humanity, committed in the name of the British Empire:
- The Boer concentration camps, 1899 – 1902. Around a sixth of the Boer population – mainly women and children – were detained in camps, which were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease, with scant food rations.
Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.
Samuel Osborne – The Independent 2016
- The Amritsar massacre. When peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers.
The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.
Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.
Samuel Osborne – The Independent 2016
- The Partitioning of India. In 1947, Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and the newly created state of Pakistan over the course of a single lunch.
After Cyril Radcliffe split the subcontinent along religious lines, uprooting over 10 million people, Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were forced to escape their homes as the situation quickly descended into violence.
Some estimates suggest up to one million people lost their lives in sectarian killings.
Samuel Osborne – The Independent 2016
- The Mau Mau Uprising. Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960), have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government.
Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as “Britain’s gulags” or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault.
Estimates of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.
Samuel Osborne – The Independent 2016
In the 1950s, the people of Kenya decided they wanted their nation back. Unfortunately, the people they wanted it back from just happened to be the same guys responsible for every other atrocity on this list. Fearing a countrywide rebellion, the British rounded up 1.5 million people and placed them in concentration camps. What happened in these camps will turn your stomach.
Under slogans like “labour and freedom” and other variations on ” Arbeit macht frei,” inmates were worked to death as slave labour filling in mass graves. Random executions were not-uncommon and the use of torture was widespread. Men were anally raped with knives. Women had their breasts mutilated and cut off. Eyes were gouged out and ears cut off and skin lacerated with coiled barbed wire. People were castrated with pliers then sodomized by guards. Interrogation involved stuffing a detainee’s mouth with mud and stamping on his throat until he passed out or died. Survivors were sometimes burned alive.
The official body count is under 2,000, but more reliable estimates place the total dead in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Most of them were civilians or children, detained on vague, trumped-up charges of aiding the rebels. And it was all for nothing. Kenya was declared independent in 1963. In using those camps, the British lost both their African outpost and their souls.
Morris M. – Listverse
- Aden’s Torture Centres. The Aden Emergency was a 1960s scramble to control the once-vital port of Aden in modern Yemen. Although the port had long been under British rule, a nationalist wave sweeping Yemen led to strikes, riots, and a general desire that the Brits leave as soon as possible. A desire the British decided to quell by opening torture centres.
Harsh and brutal, these centres housed the sort of horrors that would make Kim Jong-Un feel ill. Detainees were stripped naked and kept in refrigerated cells, encouraging frostbite and pneumonia. Guards would stub their cigarettes out on prisoner’s skin and beatings were common. But perhaps worst of all was the sexual humiliation. Locals who had been detained could expect to have their genitals crushed by guards’ hands, or to be forced to sit naked on a metal pole; their weight forcing it into their anus.
By 1966, an Amnesty report on these abuses had caused global outrage. Faced with international condemnation, the British apologized. They then kept right on using the torture centres for another full year.
Morris M. – Listverse
- The Chinese “Resettlement”. In 1950, the Empire had a problem. Armed Communist insurgents were trying to take over Malay and most of the population seemed willing to let them do so. Reasoning that their forces stood no chance against a hidden army that could call upon the peasants for supplies, the British hit upon an ingenious solution. Rather than fight, they’d simply imprison all the peasants.
Known as “New Villages,” the camps constructed to house Malay’s poor were heavily fortified and watched over by trigger-happy guards. Inmates were forced to do hard labour in return for scraps of food, and contact with the outside world—including family—was forbidden. Once in a village, you lost all right to freedom and privacy. At night, harsh floodlights flushed out the shadows to stop clandestine meetings. Expressing any political sentiment could get your rations docked.
But perhaps most uncomfortable of all was the racist nature of the camps. Of the 500,000 people detained during the decade-long Emergency, only a handful were anything other than ethnic Chinese. Outside the barbed wire walls, another half a million Chinese were meanwhile being deported, sent into exile, or forced from their homes. In short, it was a racist policy that harmed nearly a million people, all so the British could cut off supplies to a handful of rebels.
Morris M. – Listverse
- The Cyprus Internment. The big myth of the British Empire is that it nobly withdrew from its colonies when it realized the days of Imperialism were over. Yet one look at Cyprus proves the myth to be just a feel-good fairy tale. Between 1955 and 1959, the British responded to a Cyprus rebel bombing campaign by rounding up and torturing 3,000 ordinary Cypriots.
The victims of this internment campaign were often held for years without trial and violently abused for being “suspected” terrorists. Detainees received regular beatings, waterboarding, and summary executions. Children as young as 15 had burning hot peppers rubbed in their eyeballs, while others reported being flogged with whips embedded with shards of iron. Those found guilty of rebel sympathies were relocated to London, where a UK opposition party inspection found inmates with their arms broken and jagged scars running across their necks. In short, it was an appallingly sadistic policy, one that showed the British to be even lower than the terrorists they were meant to be fighting.
Morris M. – Listverse
- Famines In India. Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while it was under the control of the British Empire, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain as famine raged in India.
In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal.
Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”
Samuel Osborne – The Independent 2016
In 1943, a deadly famine swept the Bengal region of modern East India and Bangladesh. Between one and three million people died in a tragedy that was completely preventable. At the time, the extent of suffering was put down to an incompetent British government too busy dealing with a war to look after its empire properly. But in 2010 a new book came out claiming the lack of famine relief was deliberate and that the deaths of those millions had been intentionally engineered by one man: Winston Churchill.
According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London pushed up the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most-chillingly of all, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.
If all this is true—and documents support it—then Winston Churchill, the British war hero who stood up to the Nazis, may well have starved to death as many innocent people as Stalin did in the Ukrainian genocide. Could the man who held out against Hitler really be capable of such an atrocity? Judging by the rest of this list, it wouldn’t be surprising.
Morris M. – Listverse
- Crushing The Iraqi revolution. In 1920, the newly-formed nation of Iraq was tiring of British rule. Charged with guiding the new state towards independence, the Empire had instead installed puppet leaders, turning the place into a de facto colony. Fed up with their imperial overlords, the Iraqis turned to revolution, only for the British to unleash wave after wave of atrocities against them.
First the RAF conducted night-time bombing raids on civilian targets. Then they deployed chemical weapons against the fighters, gassing whole groups of them. But the real horrors came in the aftermath, when the victorious British decided to use collective punishment against the offending tribes.
From that point on, any tribe that caused a fuss would have one of its villages randomly annihilated. Specific orders were given to exterminate every living thing within its walls, from animals to rebels to children. Other villages were subject to random searches. If the British found a single weapon, they would burn the place to the ground, destroy the crops, poison wells, and kill livestock. They’d sometimes target weddings to terrorize the population. In short, the British deliberately targeted civilians in a campaign that lasted the better part of half a decade, all because a few Iraqis had dared to ask for their country back.
Morris M. – Listverse
- Exacerbating The Irish Famine. If you want to see why large parts of Ireland still despise anything remotely British, look no further than the Irish Famine. What started out as an ordinary if brutal famine soon became something more like genocide when London sent the psychopathic Charles Trevelyan to oversee relief work.
A proud Christian who believed the famine was God’s way of punishing the “lazy” Irish, Trevelyan was also a fierce devotee of Adam Smith. How fierce? Well, he passionately felt that government should never, ever interfere with market forces, to the extent that he refused to hand out food to the starving Irish. Instead, he instituted a public works program that forced dying people into hard labour building pointless roads so they could afford to buy grain. The only problem was he refused to control the price of grain, with the result that it skyrocketed beyond what the road builders could afford. Trevelyan thought this would encourage cheap imports. Instead it led to a million people starving to death.
To cap it all off, Trevelyan also launched a PR blitz in Britain that encouraged people to blame the Irish for their own poverty. Suddenly Irish emigrants looking for work found themselves unemployable and subject to violence, even as their friends and families starved to death back home. Because fate laughs in the face of justice, Trevelyan was later officially honoured for his “relief work.”
Morris M. – Listverse
In the Australian edition of The Guardian, 24 April 2012, George Monbiot highlights the major problem faced by those who would hold the British to account. I have stolen huge slabs of his excellent article and reproduced them below:
There is one thing you can say for the Holocaust deniers: at least they know what they are denying. In order to sustain the lies they tell, they must engage in strenuous falsification. To dismiss Britain’s colonial atrocities, no such effort is required. Most people appear to be unaware that anything needs to be denied.
The story of benign imperialism, whose overriding purpose was not to seize land, labour and commodities but to teach the natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping, is a myth that has been carefully propagated by the rightwing press. But it draws its power from a remarkable national ability to airbrush and disregard our past.
Last week’s revelations, that the British government systematically destroyed the documents detailing mistreatment of its colonial subjects, and that the Foreign Office then lied about a secret cache of files containing lesser revelations, is by any standards a big story. But it was either ignored or consigned to a footnote by most of the British press. I was unable to find any mention of the secret archive on the Telegraph’s website. The Mail’s only coverage, as far as I can determine, was an opinion piece by a historian called Lawrence James, who used the occasion to insist that any deficiencies in the management of the colonies were the work of “a sprinkling of misfits, incompetents and bullies”, while everyone else was “dedicated, loyal and disciplined”.
The British government’s suppression of evidence was scarcely necessary. Even when the documentation of great crimes is abundant, it is not denied but simply ignored. In an article for the Daily Mail in 2010, for example, the historian Dominic Sandbrook announced that “Britain’s empire stands out as a beacon of tolerance, decency and the rule of law … Nor did Britain countenance anything like the dreadful tortures committed in French Algeria.” Could he really have been unaware of the history he is disavowing?
Caroline Elkins, a professor at Harvard, spent nearly 10 years compiling the evidence contained in her book Britain’s Gulag: the Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. She started her research with the belief that the British account of the suppression of the Kikuyu’s Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s was largely accurate. Then she discovered that most of the documentation had been destroyed. She worked through the remaining archives, and conducted 600 hours of interviews with Kikuyu survivors – rebels and loyalists – and British guards, settlers and officials. Her book is fully and thoroughly documented. It won the Pulitzer prize. But as far as Sandbrook, James and other imperial apologists are concerned, it might as well never have been written.
………. Elkins provides a wealth of evidence to show that the horrors of the camps were endorsed at the highest levels. The governor of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, regularly intervened to prevent the perpetrators from being brought to justice. The colonial secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, repeatedly lied to the House of Commons. This is a vast, systematic crime for which there has been no reckoning.
No matter. Even those who acknowledge that something happened write as if Elkins and her work did not exist. In the Telegraph, Daniel Hannan maintains that just eleven people were beaten to death. Apart from that, “1,090 terrorists were hanged and as many as 71,000 detained without due process”.
……….. Hannan’s is one of the most blatant examples of revisionism I have ever encountered.
……. Lawrence James concedes that “harsh measures” were sometimes used, ……..Both men maintain that the British government acted to stop any abuses as soon as they were revealed.
What I find remarkable is not that they write such things, but that these distortions go almost unchallenged………. the myth of the civilising mission remains untroubled by the evidence.
- A fully referenced version of this article can be found at www.monbiot.com
As Australians, our record of treatment of the original Australians doesn’t bear close scrutiny. Even in the late 18th and early to middle 19th centuries, we could just about “out-British” the British when it came to racial persecution and cultural annihilation. Sadly, change has been very slow in coming, and racism is still rampant among some modern “Australians”.
It is to be hoped that, with each new generation, the pace of change will accelerate. I believe that our best hope for a more equitable society lies in the fact that we are becoming gradually more Australian and less British.
Even as recently as the 1950’s, Australians were basically second-rate Brits. Even our elite, the wealthy, the privileged, the “crème de la dung heap”, did nothing more, in developing their social behaviours, than ape Britishness. Dominated by the Christian churches, conservative politicians, big business and the patrician class, our society had yet to assume the Australianess which is now more obvious.
I suggest that it was not until the late 60’s and early 70’s, with the advent of the Vietnam War, the absence of Menzies and the rise of the Australian film industry, that were we able to show the true Australian character, which had been embryonic in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The political and social swing of the seventies, away from a colonist mindset and towards a true national identity, should have brought with it a move to republicanism and, as a matter of course, a truly Australian flag, one which is not stained by the instantly recognised symbol of Britain and its obscene imperial record.
However, in Australia we are afflicted in equal measure by apathy and denial. Anglophiles, happily swimming in that great Egyptian river, strenuously deny the evidence of British imperialist atrocities, whilst too many regular Australians are too busy getting on with their lives in this incredibly lucky country, to give a shit about a piece of coloured cloth and the message which it sends, about Australia, to the world.
* * * *
This rant could never be accused of being “balanced”. I’d never intended it to be. I’m not interested in finding excuses for the violent and disgusting excesses of British behaviour, as they sought to dominate the world. I’m simply trying to show that the Union Jack, a symbol of all that is evil about the British Empire, has no place on our Australian flag.
The pathetic apologists who try to justify the vile actions of the Brits as “consistent with the social mores of the time”, and therefore “acceptable for the period”, are most likely intransigent Brits who would happily die for the Mother Country, and who will deny forever, the fact that the Brits could rival Adolph Hitler’s Nazis for the crown of “Most Demented and Despicable Imperialists of All Time”.
It’s a scientifically verifiable fact that there is absolutely no point in trying to present a view which opposes theirs, because they simply can’t understand what you are saying.
In short, I don’t bother trying to persuade those who have shit for brains, hence the absence of “balance”