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.”


The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources

I have been wanting to write this report and make this map for AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. Thank god someone’s done it.

Colonialism never ended. Independence was an illusion.



British Empire State of Mind is REAL – 44% of polled Brits say we should be proud of colonialism

This week the UK’s YouGov published the results of a poll where 44 per cent of British respondents said that the country should be proud of colonialism.

The poll comes ahead of the upcoming Oxford Union debate to decide the fate of a statue of British colonialist (murderer…racist…I could go on) Cecil Rhodes as a result of the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign to have it removed. 59% of respondents thought that it should stay.

Whether or not you think the statue should stay or go (and there are strong arguments to leave it and have it re-labelled), what’s more disturbing is the fact that there still exists within the public discourse, a narrative that seems to feel, as Rhodes said himself that “the more of the world we [English] inhabit, the better it is for the human race.”

According to YouGov “British people are not generally ashamed of the former Empire or of our history of colonialism. Only 19% say the Empire was a bad thing and only 21% say we should regret historic colonialism.”

50% of

UKIP voters and 37% of Conservative voters say Britain tends to view our history of colonisation too negatively – we talk too much about the cruelty and racism of Empire and ignore the good that it did. Young people (40%) and Labour voters (43%), on the other hand, are more likely to say we view our colonial history too positively, suppressing the cruelty, killing and injustice that went on.

YouGov previously found, in July 2014, that British people tend to say the countries that were colonised by Britain are now better off for it (49%) rather than worse off for it (15%). And 34% even said they would still like Britain to have an Empire, while 45% said they would not.

This Guardian article pretty much nails it when it says (satirically):

So, basically, nearly half the population thinks the Amritsar massacre, the concentration camps during the Boer war and after the Mau Mau uprising, the post-partition violence in India caused by uprooting 10 million people, and the four million deaths from famine in Bengal while Churchill diverted grain to British troops and other countries were – what? Dunno. Not things they knew about? The price of doing business? We did bring a lot of economic development to places, you know.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Britain has a very self-centric view of the world that continues to elevate it and its people as ‘civilisers’, ‘heroes’ and ‘saviours’, and traditional ‘British’ values, culture and norms as an ideal global standard.

Throughout history this ‘British Empire State of Mind’ and resulting actions has led to the suffering of people the world over, the pilfering of resources and the destruction of our planet. The result today is this: globally we are witnessing increasing political and economic inequality and borders that are closed to people but open to money, and at home in the UK there is a pervasive and growing fear of immigration and xenophobia and racism.

Beliefs like these are exactly the reason why I’m working with a group of people to run a series of interviews and events to challenge this mentality, and why it’s more important than ever to Rethink the British Empire State of Mind. If you agree, please join us. Get in touch via the Contact page or on Twitter @devtruths.

You can read the full YouGov press release here.

What do you think? Do these results surprise you? Do you agree with the 44 per cent of people surveyed who believe colonialism was a good thing? 


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?

Trevor Noah reminds Britain of its colonial past…

Tonight I watched this clip of South African comedian Trevor Noah’s appearance on the John Bishop show in the UK back in May. His performance focuses on the arrogance and absurdity of British colonialism. His touch is light and deep, which is much needed in Britain where these issues and this history are widely ignored.

A few highlights:

“The British immigration officer says “Sir you’ve got to understand i’m not trying to be a hardass about this but I can’t just believe you’re here to do what you say you’re going to do – you could do something else.” I was like “well you know what, fair enough, fair enough, that’s a great attitude to have. That’s the attitude I wish we’d had in South Africa when the British first arrived – it would have saved us a lot of pain.””

“It’s a fun game colonisation, it really was. It’s the most arrogant form of patriotism when you think about it, you know. It must have been cool. Like I wonder what Britain was like back then, it was so great, that you guys wanted to go and make it somewhere else. It was like ‘this is wonderful, we should do it everywhere’. That’s exactly what it was, colonisation all over the world. What’s weird to me though, is like how people act like colonisation never happened, I don’t like that. Like it’s weird when people say ‘all these bloody foreigners coming into the UK, all these bloody foreigners..’ well it’s because YOU TOLD them about the UK! You’ve gotta understand, in the world we did not care for this place at all, noone knew about Great Britain. In India they were having a good time, the British went and told the Indians about Great Britain – they were having fun with elephants and spices, they had no need to come to this country…”

“It’s colonisation done right that’s what I truly enjoy, the British did it perfectly. Yeah. Cos’ now we’re friends; we all speak the same languages, we even have a games where we participate together – the Commonwealth Games. Ironically named. There was nothing common about it. The wealth was in one place. [It’s like] ‘Right, let’s forget everything that happened and let’s play some games together’.”

Accra calling

I’m writing from Accra, Ghana, where I will be spending the month of July writing, reading, learning and listening…

I’ve been here for five days already, dancing, eating, talking, watching and easing into Dumsor (lights out/power cuts).

It’s very easy to get caught up in how much I love Accra life and forget that, at the same, time as hanging out with friends and appreciating (IMO) some of the best music in the world, my time here is precious and I want to be speaking to Ghanaian activists, people, businesses and organisations in the who are passionate about and/or standing up to Western neoliberalism, colonialism and multinational corporations. We’re cooking up a platform in the UK for them to be heard more widely there (which I believe I’ve mentioned before – more details coming soon..).

If you know of anyone or organisations that might be willing to share their story – please let me know ASAP or put them in touch… You can reach me here, or send me a tweet (@devtruths).

I’m also interested in hearing from people in the UK and from around the world who would like to be involved in supporting our ‘campaign’, or just want to find out more.

While I’m here I will be sharing some of the conversations I have with people and some of the observations I make of the city and country.

First feelings

It’s not my first time in Ghana, but already I’ve been met with familiar feelings of indignation about the effects of neoliberalism and colonialism that are so evident here. I hope to delve into this in more detail in later posts, when I can share more from people who have the full experience of what’s going on. In summary, however, over the coming weeks, I will be exploring:

  • British influence here – exactly how much influence does Britain have over Ghana and where does it lie, both in terms of the UK government and British businesses? How is UK aid money being spent? What does this mean?
  • The colonial hangover – what effect has being a ‘former’ British colony had on Ghana and Ghanaians? ‘Whiteness’ in Ghana – what does it mean?
  • Neo-colonialism – how has Britain paved the way for neo-colonialism in Ghana from multinational corporations, the USA and China? How is this affecting the economy, governance and everyday life?  How much corporate power and control of the food system is there in Ghana?
  • Speaking truth to power – what do Ghanaians think of all of the above? Is it welcome? Do they feel they have agency over external influences? If not, who is standing up to it?
  • Why me? What right do I have? A little about responsibility, self-righteousness and why I’m doing this.
  • And whatever else I come across…

I’ll also be going wildly off topic, am madly open to suggestions and will (hopefully) be sharing lots of stories, that are often told, but less frequently heard in the Western world.

I will also be announcing further details of our upcoming event in the UK in October and how you can get involved…

Please do get in touch! And if you are in Ghana or know anyone who might be happy to talk to me, please do let me know. I have the opportunity to write for a couple of different outlets while I’m here, not just on the blog – so it would be wonderful to share important stories.

Frankie Boyle: “Britain’s criminally stupid attitudes to race and immigration are beyond parody”

Frankie Boyle writes for the Guardian newspaper: “The anti-immigration election rhetoric is perverse – we fear the arrival of people that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them..”

This article has been around for almost a month now, but I’ve only just got round to reading it, and I’m glad I did. I’ve extracted a few of my favourite paragraphs from the Guardian article, but fully recommend reading the whole thing here.

“Even our charity is essentially patronising. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Give him a fishing rod and he can feed himself. Alternatively, don’t poison the fishing waters, abduct his great-grandparents into slavery, then turn up 400 years later on your gap year talking a lot of shite about fish.

In a further nod to satire, Comic Relief this year focused on Malawi and Uganda. I didn’t see any acknowledgement that Britain had been the colonial power in those countries. “Thanks for the gold, lads, thanks for the diamonds. We had a whip-round and got you a fishing rod.”

A lot of racism comes from projection. White Americans have a stereotype of black people being criminals purely because they can’t acknowledge that it was actually white people that stole them from Africa in the first place. Today, you have the spectacle of black men being gunned down by cops who, by way of mitigation, release footage to show that the victims were running away. This is what happens when you don’t understand or even acknowledge history. You end up in a situation where, when slavery is the elephant in the room in your relationship with African Americans, you think it’s OK to say that you killed one of them because he was trying to escape.

Britain is in a similar place with colonialism. We have streets named after slave owners. We profited from a vile crime and feel no shame. We fear the arrival of immigrants that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them. For much of the rest of the world we must be the focus of bitter amusement, characters in a satire we don’t understand. It is British people that don’t learn languages, or British history. Britain is the true scrounger, the true criminal.”