British Empire

I finished reading The Decline and Fall of the British Empire today. It is a depressing tale of racism, slaughter, oppression and misused power over the span of a few centuries. It was also eye-opening in that my grasp of history between the Reformation and WWII outside of America is vague. This book really sets the stage for seeing the origins of a lot of our current world situation, for example, the rise of India. I knew little to nothing of the mayhem that attended the partition of India and Pakistan. Full on ethnic slaughter and pogroms from Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus happened. From the book:

But Muslims and Hindus also perpetrated every outrage summed up in that grotesque modern euphemism, “ethnic cleansing.” They roasted babies on spits, impaled infants on lances, boiled children in cauldrons of oil. They raped, mutilated, abducted and killed women…They subjected men to frenzied cruelties, burning them alive in their houses, stabbing them in the streets, butchering them in hospitals, strangling them in refugee camps, torturing and forcibly converting them in desecrated temples, mosques and gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). They poisoned their enemies, drenched them in acid, blinded them by throwing chilli powder in their eyes.

On and on it goes. And that is simply the partition of one colony. The use of torture seemed normative from Rhodesia to Kenya and Nigeria. The treatment of Africans is particularly galling and inhuman. That a nation dedicated to high ideals sunk to such a low level when dealing with others is a testament to the reality of evil. In fact, this entire book is yet another reminder of the reality of original sin. Whenever tempted to believe the foolish platitudes of (small l) liberalism about man’s goodness, human decency and the brotherhood of man, you simply need to open up a history book and see how we really are. Lurking right beneath the surface of a peaceful social order is total chaos, hatred and blinding evil. Let’s hope that America pulls back and does not engage in even more foolishness in the next century, resulting in who knows what. But I doubt that we will stop ourselves, as our political class is as unable as the Brits were to pull back, fearing the label of coward.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/Decline-Fall-British-Empire/dp/0224062220

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