“…if people’s lives are made untenable in the lands that they come from, they flock to the centre of the empire – we choose not to see that or to know that story”

In September last year, rapper, poet and journalist Akala spoke at the V&A at an event called ‘Is London too rich to be interesting?‘ He spoke on a variety of different subjects including poverty, creativity, London gentrification (racial dislocation), rich people, white middle-classes, Notting Hill Carnival and  income tax. He also spoke wisely and passionately about immigration, free market economics and the IMF.

In the UK there is a serious problem with the lack of education about Britain’s true violent, oppressive and dark history. We don’t talk about it. We also don’t look at the part our history and our continued international influence has to play in global poverty, international conflicts, environmental degradation and immigration.

People are often quick to look at the symptoms of these issues, and are equally quick to blame the victims. I’m not the first to say it, but Britain is largely unwilling to acknowledge that it (and the West) has, and continues to play a powerful and destructive role in an unequal and crippling international economic system; the underdevelopment, restriction and disempowerment of developing countries; the political and cultural marginalisation of entire nations; the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people as part of the transatlantic slave trade; the division and rule of an entire continent and several countries to serve a colonial empire; countless international conflicts and wars, often committing terrible atrocities; promoting and often enforcing the pursuance of a manipulative and disastrous ideological system based on consumption, individualism and selfishness; the the destruction of huge swathes of our planet; I could go on…

People get angry about immigration in the UK, but we build a nation on the backs of others and then call it audacious when they come calling (read more in my recent post with quotes from Frankie Boyle). So it’s refreshing and important to hear people like Akala calling this out.

You can read the transcript or watch the video below (this passage is at about 12 minutes in):

“Like I said we ignore the politics that don’t affect us. London is rich for a number of reasons, people want to come here for a number of reasons, but the reasons are often primarily political. So for example, if we take the Caribbean community, why did they leave sunny Jamaica and St Lucia and Trinidad to come here? Primarily because neocolonial economic policy had made it unviable for them to make a living where they live. That’s just not poppycock. When the IMF lends Jamaica or Trinidad or any of these other countries money, they demand that you don’t spend money on social housing, they demand that you privatise your water supply etc etc etc. So if people’s lives are made untenable in the lands that they come from, they flock to the centre of the empire – we choose not to see that or to know that story. The same protectionist policies that Britain employed when it was becoming a developed nation, these countries are prevented from employing. Does that make sense? So when we look at how a country becomes rich, free-market economists become very selective about what they choose to remember and what they choose not to remember.”

“The special policies exist, that’s what I’m saying to you. When Britain was a developing country, it employed tariffs to protect it’s trade. Today, developing countries are prevented from employing tariffs to protect their trade…”

What do you think? H/T to Chris P for highlighting this on Facebook.


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