“O Bachchoo this talk of ‘minorities’
Makes human hearts break and blood to freeze
What happened to compassion and love
What happened to dharma
Decreed from above?
O read the holy Gita
Didn’t Krishna say
That division is Maya --
As atma we’re drops
In the ocean of Brahma
From Ki Karsi, Mercy Kadhi Na Marsi, by Bachchoo
Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, gave an interview to a magazine called The Cut, saying that a South African member of the cast of The Lion King had told her that South Africa rejoiced at her wedding to Prince Harry of Britain just as they had when Nelson Mandela was released from a near lifetime of imprisonment.
The Cut went with Ms Markle’s proud memory of the moment. Perhaps someone in Los Angeles, perhaps the cast of a performance of Frozen, also told her that marrying Prince Harry was as significant an event as Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, or maybe as historically redeeming as Barack Obama become US President.
No doubt marrying the great philosopher, the Duke of Sussex, places Meghan firmly in history with others like Mandela, Dr King and President Obama. Her interview in The Cut (wherever that’s published and whoever reads it) assures her stature as an icon of historical significance.
Instead of boasting about what this intellectually-challenged actor said, Ms Markle should have retorted with “Don’t be silly, I married Harry, who is a removed member of an insignificant, powerless, token, symbolic monarchy of a small country on the outskirts of Europe. I have only ever acted in small roles in some third-rate TV dramas while Mandela… He was sent to prison for a considerable part of his life…” Ms Markle didn’t think of saying any of that. She was happy, in the fantasy in which she exists, to be historically significant.
I am sure Napoleon thought of himself as an entrant into history, as perhaps did Winston Churchill. They led armies into decisive conflicts. The rest of the population of all nations were and are part of history only because we live and die within eras of it.
And yet, gentle reader, I have been confronted in the past year by perhaps ten people who, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter, have approached me for interviews about the political and activist movements I was involved with in the Britain of the 1970s-1980s. The interviewers, for TV, on the subject of the political organisation and agitation of the new communities of British immigrants from the ex-colonies in those decades, want to classify the events of such activity as “history”. And yes, it’s stimulating, if not flattering to be asked what one did in those days and of course complimentary when some of it is used as a documentary or fictional representation on the screen. But to call it history???
In one of these interviews, when asked what was achieved by the relentless and effective agitation of blacks and Asians in the UK through the 1970s and 1980s, I said the one thing it clearly achieved was access to the meritocracy of Britain for individuals from these communities. And look where that got us? With Cruella Braverman dreaming of packing off foreigners to Rwanda and restricting visas for entry to Indians? And then there’s Priti “Clueless” Patel… Achievement?
History, it is said, is written by the victors. Some of these “victors” deliberately destroy the records of the empires that they’ve vandalised. Take the case of Alexander the Damned, the Macedonian barbarian who defeated and killed Emperor Darius III of Persia and proceeded to demolish the palace, city and library of Persepolis. Had the library not been destroyed, the world may have a very different view from that of the Greek Herodotus of what happened, for instance, at Thermopylae. Or for that matter, how the monotheistic Zoroastrian emperor Xerxes regarded his subduing of the pagan polytheists of Greece with their worship of statues? (“The ‘eathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone…”)
This century, still in its infancy, has seen challenges to fossilised history. Two factors contribute: the march of the historically oppressed claiming their rights and the internationalisation of labour.
Black Lives Matter was one of the moments that sparked this de-fossilisation of historical truth. New realisations delving into the past prompted the toppling of statues, the renaming of roads, the disputes over the contents of museums and of course the overhauling towards truth of the curriculum of schools and colleges.
There are inevitably intellectually-challenged, right-wing boobies who carp and complain about this revision of historical truth. Their main argument is that the statue-topplers and their like are applying the ethics of this era to that of a previous one.
So is there no ethic, consecrated by religion or through simple human recognition of being one species which transcends the convenient “ethics” of slave-owning, of the vandalising of civilisations, of some doctrine that proclaims master races and sends others to concentration camps and gas chambers?
Gentle reader, there has always been a conflict between truth and blind nationalist interpretation of events. The media of any nation on the earth today are struggling to be on one side or the other. Nationalism uses censorship and the suppression of dissidents as a weapon. Count the nations, count the injustice.… O tempora, O mores!...