Thursday, 21 March 2013

When the map was pink

So, tell me this cyberspace... Where does being a proud member of your country end and being a racist Nazi begin?

(I've used the word, Nazi, quite a lot recently haven't I? Loads of times yesterday, about flying disks and suchlike... Great word, so many possible uses - Did you know it's a contraction of 'Nationalsozialismus' or the National Socialist Party? That sounds much more fluffy doesn't it, something you could really get behind?)

Anyway, back to the question in hand, I'm an anachronistic kind of guy, I like hats, I wear a beard and sideburns completely unironically, I wear silk waistcoats and regularly use a pocketwatch... You'd be quite within your rights to think that I live in the past.

In fact, you'd probably be right. Why do I do this? Well, it's obviously because the past was a better place. There was clean air and long summer days playing in the woods, you could make a bow and arrow and your Mum knew how to make jam. It wasn't all great obviously, there was slavery and quite a lot of syphilis, but that was a small price to pay for being able to go to exciting new countries and expect everyone you met once you got off the ship to be able to speak English.

Ah, there you go - You see the first warning sign right there, the expectation that we had (and still have to a large extent) that Johnny Foreigner will speeka-da-English. At the height of its 450 year history, the British Empire covered a quarter of the world and comprised a fifth of the total planetary population, the Sun quite literally, never set on it. We sailed to foreign parts, planted a flag, claimed the land for the King or Queen (delete as applicable) of the time, enslaved the natives (but we taught them English and Christianity, so technically they still owe us), spread a light smattering of syphilis and cholera, exported all their food, rinsed and repeated.

We invented stuff though, and built things. Everywhere you went there were huge copper and brass steam engines, pumping water and mining coal to keep massive copper and brass steam engines running so that they could pump water and mine coal, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera as Yul Brynner might say. There was cast iron and battleship chain and mass produced bone china - You might counter that with 'Yeah, but five year old children were being seriously maimed in woolen mills, and young boys were catching scrotum cancer from sweeping chimneys for fourteen hours a day.' And I'd look at you funny, because no-one likes to hear the words 'scrotum' and 'cancer' in the same sentance. But honestly, wouldn't you rather see children sweeping chimneys than hanging around on streetcorners with their jeans around their knees, stabbing old ladies for an out of date tin of catfood? (And by children, I mean other people's children, obviously)

We had a Navy which ruled the waves (Which there's a song about, so it must be true) and an Army which kicked ass pretty much everywhere it went, especially when their cannons and muskets were turned on people armed with sticks and lengths of rope. We didn't have all the supply problems and the 'But I'm suing the Government because my Kevin had to buy his own body armour off of eBay and it came from China and it was made of papier mache' nonesense that we have today because we would take what we needed without a second thought... Without a first thought in some cases.

Sorry? What was that you said? Rape? do you mean of the indigenous populace or the country? Both? Well, yes, I suppose there might have been a small amount of that sort of thing here and there, I mean you get a few bad apples in any expeditionary force don't you? It's not like we exterminated anybody is it? No native tribes ever got wiped out because they were a bit close to places where we could mine copper, or diamonds, or pitchblende... *cough*

The women of the Empire (which, even to me, sounds like badly written Star Wars fan-fic) were proper women, with the big hats and skirts and parasols. Demure and cosseted, they ate bon-bons from silver trays, brought to them at 3:00pm sharp by Philip, the nice dusky gentleman that they'd had brought in from Bechuanaland especially for this purpose. Most importantly, they knew their place, which was atop a pedestal, being showered with gifts and the only thing they had to do on a daily basis was to look pretty whilst their husbands got on with the very real and worthwile job of being a good Captain of Industry and not getting gout... Or syphilis...

Wouldn't it be easier if things were how they used to be? The UK being the only real world power and thus guaranteeing no global war ever again? Children gainfully employed rather than roaming the streets like feral weasles? Women being sedate and wonderful and pretty and domesticated? Johnny Foreigner doing all the simple hard work in the hotter climates? Worthy but expendable lower-class people doing all the skilled hard work in Blighty?

You know it would, deep in your heart of hearts - A better time, a more rewarding existence for all... Well all the important people like us at least. But it'd still be best to keep a few ampules of Doxycycline about your person just in case.


I'd like to finish with a few definitions, see if you can guess where they fit in:

anachronism (əˈnækrəˌnɪzəm)


1. the representation of an event, person, or thing in a historical context in which it could not have occurred or existed

2. a person or thing that belongs or seems to belong to another time: she regards the Church as an anachronism


satire (ˈsætaɪə)


1. a novel, play, entertainment, etc, in which topical issues, folly, or evil are held up to scorn by means of ridicule and irony

2. the genre constituted by such works

3. the use of ridicule, irony, etc, to create such an effect


irony 1 (ˈaɪrənɪ)

n , pl -nies

1. the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to imply the opposite of what they normally mean

2. an instance of this, used to draw attention to some incongruity or irrationality

3. incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is, or a situation or result showing such incongruity

1 comment:

  1. LOL! As a number of surprise visitors - Celts, Gauls, Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans et al developed our wonderful lingo.

    It's inspiring to see this trend continuing, 'English' now being an exceptionally flexible and versatile language especially when combined with the imaginative glottal stops and contractions used by young people.

    Apart from remote areas of the world where certain concepts have never been embraced - drinking alcohol, eating McDonald, monogamy, studying foreign languages and equality of the sexes - I have always found our language to be comprehensible throughout my incontinental travels.

    Irony? Tricky subject. Satire? Sounds too much like satan. Humour - does not easily translate!