The propaganda of ‘British Values’ is a distortion of history – video from Akala


I stumbled today across this new video on The Guardian website from Akala.

It gives me shivers.

“The propaganda of ‘British Values’ is a distortion of history.

What does it mean to be British? Many things have apparently come to define British values  Winston Churchill, the monarchy, Empire, received pronunciation, aristocracy, whiteness.

But some of the people of this island have a much more interesting, subversive, countercultural set of traditions buried beneath the surface. These traditions don’t fit the elites message that they alone are responsible for everything that’s good in society. Therefore it’s no surprise that most of us learn more at school about Henry VIII’s marital dramas that we do about the Peterloo Massacre. These are the traditions embodied by striking miners, peasants revolting against private tyranny and by the suffragettes. Also embodied by William Cuffay (Kofi) the disabled black man from Kent who lead the 19th Century Chartist movement for free speech.

A tradition embodied by the John Brown Women’s society from Sheffield, who refused to make manacles for factories that supported slavery, but because they were poor and women to boot, their names have vanished into history.

A tradition whose legacies include Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, which was born out of multicultural, anti-racist activism in what was, 50 years ago, one of London’s poorest areas.

Today these traditions are embodied by activists, youth workers, school teachers and nurses that go that extra mile for the people they are trying to serve.

These traditions have often been persecuted and even labelled anti-British or anti-state until they bear fruit that the state then wants to claim for itself, such as poor people getting the right to vote or the abolition of child labour. These gains are then presented as the result of inherent British values rather than as the results of serious political struggle that they in fact were.

Whilst I’m not a nationalist, how national peoples and cultures see themselves undoubtedly has real world implications.

The question in these tumultuous times, is which of the traditions of the people of this island will you be drawing on and identifying with? The one that promotes and reinforces race and class oppression and explains away the genocide of Empire as a civilising mission? Or, the one of relentless activism that secured for us the very fragile freedoms that we have today.

I know my answer.”


Video: Is Britain racist? #BESoM

Appearing on Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy 2015 back in May, rapper, poet and journalist Akala talks about Britain’s inherent xenophobia, touching on imperialism and colonialism and how that has bred and perpetuated racism and white-centricity in society today…

Akala starts speaking at 1.38…

“When we talk about race we often talk about individual acts of prejudice, which is why UKIP often come up because they overtly say stuff we find offensive. But unfortunately the issue of race if we understand it is a lot more insidious, and it takes a lot more of a historical view to understand the difference between individual bias and structural racism and privilege and the idea of Great Britain was intimately tied to the fact that Britain has invaded almost every country on the earth, literally. Literally there’s a map. You can Google it.  So the idea of our greatness was intimately tied to this idea of empire, which was intimately tied to what Rudyard Kipling calls ‘the white man’s burden’ – to go and  civilise all these stupid brown folks that have been writing and having civilisations for thousands of years but let’s forget about that.”

Let me know what you think – is Britain racist?

“…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.