In the style of an Anonymous British Speech Against British Imperialism, circa 1910. This was written for a class in which two groups debated for or against imperialism as an economic or social model in British history. Having been stuck with the "boring" side of the anti-imperialists, I decided to try being even more hawkish, conservative and right wing with many of my anti-imperialist arguments than the pro-imperialist side, while also covering my bases with a good helping of bleeding heart. Also I wrote my side's argument in the form of a speech which might have been read at the time, as a 19th century historian in training, I have become progressively better at replicating the purple language of 19th & Fin de Siecle/Eduardian prose, just on account of reading so damn much of it...Oh well.
Britannia Britannia, Where is Britannia? What is Britannia? With the issue at hand, the two are
inseparable. Britain is a nation to be sure, and a proud one. Britain is also an island, home to a great
people. There are qualities which make England great of course, it is not inherent. These qualities of
justice, decency, freedom, I could assail you with more potent descriptors, list them off in the manner of a Noel Coward comedy number in fact, yet I will leave it to your imaginations to furnish what I have omitted in this regard.
But there are those who are unable to properly distinguish between the properties which make Britain Britain, and those which make Britain great. These wayward thinkers hold with the idea that Britain exists wherever English culture, custom, song and behaviour exist. yet I assure you that Britain exists only in the British Isles. With so small a territory to call home, this mistake does have a certain appeal, for wherever British culture sprouts can be counted as more territory added to Britain.
This misconception has led to the scourge of imperialism, which though it may sometimes have good
intentions, it is often merely the enterprise of the vain,the glory seeking, the traitors of England, and the poisoners of mankind. Every great nation has its idiosyncracies of tongue, tradition, and manner, but the qualities which make a country great are unflinching in the eye of such diversity.
There is hence no need to construct cheap copies of the British way of life around the world. For those traits which lend greatness are liquid and unguent, able to penetrate the nooks and cranniesof any society, form around any shape or structure furnished by the civilizations of men. If we wish to help elevate savage nations to that of civilization, and perhaps one day greatness, we must proceed with caution. Britain is that greatest of lights which lights the way through the night of barbarism, squalor,
and oppression. Yet those whom we threaten with that fire must surely turn and flee into the darkness.
How can we hope to teach the ignorant, when we ourselves forget the lesson?
But for those whose minds, or perhaps souls, lack the virtues of justice, compassion, and honour, I must cite some more pragmatic proof that the imperialists are indeed leading Britain down a stony road.
Imperialists often believe that without the foreign markets and raw materials furnished by colonies, the
British economy would shrivel and run dry. This fallacy is of course based on the simple observation
that the might of British industry produces more than the home islands can consume, and false conclusion that no new opportunities for investment remain in the British Isles and so must be sought elsewhere.
The pursuit of this spencer-esque model of a fight for survival is as destructive as it is foolish. If we pursue the cause of new markets for existing products, we will be stuck selling the same products, and so become technologically stagnant, unable to innovate due to the inability of the colonial infrastructures to utilize more sophisticated items. One need only look to Germany to see this. The united German Empire has exceeded the levels of economic production of Britain, and though the population is higher in Germany, the ratios of production to persons remains similar to that of England. Germany has few colonies of importance, and so much of its markets are its home territory, or else other advanced nations.
German capital is largely re-invested into German lands, into new products, education, welfare,
research, and armaments. Germany is the most technologically advanced nation on the continent, and
perhaps the world.It educates and employs vast numbers of scientists, develops new cutting edge
products and technologies, and constantly improves its infrastructure to keep abreast of the latest
Britain meanwhile, squanders its capital in colonies, building up the most basic infrastructure, in India for example, the condition of public education exceeds that of the home islands. And nor is it only British wealth is which consumed in colonial escapades. Our people too, are
squandered, both in deaths, and lives wasted on a fruitless crusade. Bismark wisely stated of colonial
pursuits that they were
“Not worth the good bones of one Pomeranian grenadier.”
Our freedom of action in foreign affairs has also been diminished, as we bind ourselves to the defense of our colonial possessions. Our relations with Russia
with the Fashoda Crisis
, Germany and Holland
during the Boer War
in the Mediterranean
sphere have all suffered as a result of our Imperial obligations. We lose our allies
and anger our enemies
. When we should be strengthening ourselves at home to oppose the ambitions of Imperial Germany
, we fall farther behind that Wagnerian
shriekhole with each passing day, in population, technology, health and education of the people, and pure military force. I have heard the phrase sending guns abroad when we need butter at home, and while I agree with this, I must emphasize that we also need guns at home.
It must be apparent at this time that British economic and political power do not gain but rather are
damaged by imperialism. There remain however, even more lunatic convictions which the imperialist bears. I will address the most salient of these, which is the absurd notion that imperialism must be pursued as a humanitarian effort, to assuage the barbarism and want of those nations less fortunate.
While it may be true that a number of wide eyed idealists believe in this strange justification, this plainly euphemistic set of slogans is to my eyes, clearly the work of weasels. Much like the economic imperative for imperialism, the humanitarian motive is likewise illusory, and counterproductive.
One may hear endlessly of the white man's burden, but surely, to borrow from giants, the black man's burden is presently heavier still.
If we accept the basis of democracy and the free market, that freedom will result in the greatest happiness as people act in their best interests, then we must also accept, that in an imperialist configuration, the subjected peoples will be unable to do this. Men hate nothing more
perhaps, than to be compelled by force to some action, even if in their best interests. This is
understandable, it is a question of pride and honour, not to mention sovereignty, that so many conquered
peoples reject their conquerers, even when those conquerers are benevolent, which the British
frequently are not. This prevents any person with a spine from accepting their foreign rulers as a matter of principle.
While we bang our heads against the wall attempting to force people to accept our imposition, we waste valuable time, money, and ruin any goodwill between peoples. To defer to the old adage, we continue to pay for fish rather
than teaching others how to work the pole. A prime case of a nation left relatively free of imperial
domination is that of Japan. It has been able to modernize, adapt, and learn of its own accord, becoming the strongest, most advanced nation outside of Europe, aside from the United States. Unless we are to
reject the ideals of freedom, we must allow others the same chance to act in their own interests which
we grant ourselves, to do otherwise would be to reduce Britain from being great, to merely powerful.
British rule will eventually end in the world at large, but the choice must be made as to how. Should it
end with death, hatred, and eventual evacuation by the British, leaving the former colony to fall back
into savagery, or worse, socialism? Or should the British leave with treaties of trade and friendship?
I would think it wiser, in humanitarian, political, military, and economic terms to make strong allies
rather than weak enemies. Let Britain not enter into history as yet another ignored lesson, a crumbling,
ashen edifice testifying to the fate of those who follow the siren call of power