The British Empire ceased to exist in any meaningful or significant sense by the 1980s. Nonetheless it has remained an obsession for commentators on the Left who continue to propagate a skewed version of its history. It is shameful that the same tedious cliches, untruths and oversimplifications of a vast and complicated enterprise are still trotted out and believed.
However it is noticeable who these commentators are, they are the same wealthy and privileged people that George Orwell warned us about at the height of the Second World War. Fortunately no-one took any notice of the sniggering left wing intellectuals and the British nation was saved from tyranny.
Orwell had a unique insight into the psyche of a nation and also its place in the wider world. He knew his own people instinctively but he also acquired an immense amount of wisdom as a child of the British Empire. He was born in Motihari, India in 1903 where his British father worked as a civil servant. His ancestors were believed to have been landlords of Jamaican plantations. When he left school he joined the Imperial Police and was sent to Burma. His novel “Burmese Days” was a fictionalised account of the experience.
His experience as a servant of the British Empire informed his later views. He empathised with those who were oppressed and subjugated. In 1936 he spent time with working class communities in the North of England and detailed the bleak realities of their lives in his celebrated 1937 book “The Road to Wigan Pier”. However by this time he was unwell and when the War broke out two years later he was deemed too unfit to serve in the Forces.
He continued to champion the British working classes who traditionally bore the brunt of every conflict in history. It is a source of great ignominy that in 1940 there were sections of the British Left who desired a German victory in order to sneer at ordinary British patriots. In the September of that year the Luftwaffe began a campaign of aerial bombardment, now known as the “Blitz”. In nine months 54,420 tons of bombs were dropped over England. 40,000 civilians died, 86,000 people were seriously injured and two million homes were destroyed or damaged.
Britain retaliated with the bombings of Dresden and other German cities, but a revenge attack came in 1944 with the arrival of the V2 rocket. Most of London was already traumatised and the ear splitting noise of these rockets was terrifying. Between June 1944 and May 1945 8,398 Londoners were killed by the V2 attacks.
When the War ended Britain entered a period of austerity. The civilian population had already endured privation and had lived virtually under siege from a foreign force for six years. The experience caused incalculable psychological damage.
Britain as an island nation has always felt vulnerable. Consequently the suspicion of outsiders is an understandable sentiment, but in the aftermath of a major War this suspicion was heightened. The increase in immigration from the British Commonwealth was welcomed by many, but not everyone in this country.
A damaged and fragile nation will always find it difficult to accept change. Post war Britain was captured so brilliantly by J.G Ballard. Ballard was another son of Empire, born in Shanghai in 1930 to British parents. Ballard pictures a landscape which is vaguely futuristic, but redolent of a country in the shadow of Empire. This was the Britain he returned to aged fifteen after spending most of the War in a Japanese internment camp.
He noted in a BBC interview that he would not have had the imagination to write if he had been born in a Manchester suburb, because Britain would just appear familiar and ordinary. Ballard also acknowledged the debt he owed to the vision of George Orwell. Orwell saw Britain from the outside as like entering a place where you breathe a different air.
Orwell knew how dangerous the Left-wing intelligentsia could be in destroying history and the methods that they were willing to use to demoralise a nation and its civilisation. He has been proven correct in recent times. The Left like to convince themselves that they are morally superior, but the opposite is true. It is impossible to convince an entire nation to hate itself, as he points out in his damning prose,
“It is YOUR civilisation, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side of the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.”