I have just (May 2021) acquired a 50 pence piece bearing the inscription in large letters across the obverse: DIVERSITY MADE BRITAIN. The only cure, apart from synthetic opioids, for the saeva indignatio that threatens to blow my brain through the top of my cranium is to transfer my rage to the printed page. So here it is.
For a start, it would be much more accurate to say that SLAVERY MADE BRITAIN. Sir Eric Williams, who was a historian before being appointed first Prime Minister of independent Trinidad and Tobago, and a Fellow of my old college, argued precisely that thesis. Profits obtained from the slave trade and the sugar and tobacco industries permitted the accumulation of the capital necessary to build canals, modernise agriculture, and finance the new manufacturing technology that made Great Britain the world's greatest power between Waterloo and Jutland.
Nelson maintained that the slave trade was indispensible to maintaining the Royal Navy. The Navy's main purpose was to protect the slave trade and the King's Caribbean possessions from jealous intruders from the Continent. It was, conceivably, the biggest enterprise that the world had yet seen. On view to the public at Portsmouth is the world's first factory organised on division-of-labour principles: it used to make blocks and tackle. The Enclosure Movement, that is, the creation of fields and the driving away of redundant peasants, was driven by the need to provision and staff the Navy (as well as to feed the Great Wen of London).
A vignette: I used to live near the Rose's Lime Juice factory in Hemel Hempstead. Limes were grown on the rocky volcanic island of Dominica, shipped to London, transferred by the Grand Union Canal, and pressed and bottled for use as an anti-scorbutic in the Navy. That is why British sailors were called “Limeys” by the Americans.
At the time of writing, there is an epidemic of “virtue-signalling” or “holier-than-thou” pharisaism. One of its manifestations is the hunting out of modern beneficiaries of old-time slavery. (It was declared unlawful in England in 1772, the slave trade was abolished in 1807, and slavery itself was made illegal throughout the British dominions in 1837). A vociferous campaign has been raging to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down from the front of Oriel College, Oxford. Most of the campaigners think Rhodes was a slaver, which he wasn't. His dates are 1853-1902. Certainly he was a leading racist and imperialist, but he was not a slaver. Amusingly, the trustees of his bequest have very commendably devoted its funds to the education of the very people that Rhodes set out to marginalise and suppress.
Because so many people in Britain benefited from slavery, there is no shortage of victims to bear the malice of virtue-signallers. There are references to slavery in some of my earlier essays. Royalty were major shareholders in the slave trade. Slaves belonging to the Church (C of E) Missionary Society were branded with the word SOCIETY. But that was many generations ago. Do we really expect modern Germans to persecute the descendants of Nazis? Personally, because my paternal ancestors were from Lancashire, I like to think I am descended from cotton mill workers who refused to handle cotton grown by slaves from the Confederate states during the American Civil War. Even if that were true, however, I cannot see how that would make me virtuous.
Actually, what the slogan on the coin means is this: “There are a lot of COONS and WOGS around nowadays and WE should be NICE to THEM”. I have deliberately used offensive words, because I find the whole ethos behind the slogan on the coin offensive. “Diversity” is a new word, but not an improvement, for “multiculturalism”, a word that used to make me reach for my revolver (metaphorically; only because I never had one). The whole point is that there are US who are pale-skinned and descended from distant immigrants, and THEM who are darker-skinned and descended from more recent immigrants. I do not like being bundled into a classification that calls itself WE. In my view, all individuals should be treated with respect, educated to a high standard, and allowed every lawful opportunity to improve their own, their families', and the entire population's welfare. Furthermore, I think that is a view that is shared by everybody except for a few sad individuals who seek to blame their own shortcomings on perceived other groupings. Such sad individuals should not be encouraged by silly slogans on coins or anywhere else. And those who encourage them should be put down.
Of course, politically Britain was made by the Act of Union of 1707. At the time, no doubt there was seen to be a considerable diversity of population. Recent immigrants included Romanies, Jews, and French Huguenots, all of whom wore funny clothes and had their own traditions, languages, and religious practices. There were also Seditious Scots who wore plaids (not kilts), Thieving Taffies, and Brawling Irishmen, ditto ditto ditto. The government of the day did not put imbecile slogans on the coinage; they reintroduced from Roman times the symbol of Britannia to represent One Nation. Interestingly, and alarmingly, the unification symbol of Britannia was removed from our currency in the present century. I do hope that removal was not a political act.
Years ago, one week before Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, I found myself sharing a table with some firemen in the staff canteen in the GLC's palatial main building across the river from the Houses of Parliament. They showed me a poster that was being handed round. It declared: “It's a man's life in London's Fire Brigade”. It depicted three men (yes, all men), in firemen's uniform. The rearmost was a Sikh wearing a turban, grinning. The centre position was taken by presumably a West Indian, grinning. The foremost position was occupied by a white man in a stage limp-wristed attitude, simpering. “Bleeding 'Ell”, said one of the firemen, “I'd rather be burnt to death than be rescued by one of Them!”. Years later, my then boss showed me a poster that she intended to display in our public space. It depicted a pleasant-looking black man and it asked “Why should you be afraid of me?” “You can't put that up!” I exclaimed. “Why on earth not?” “Look outside”, I said. There were mothers taking their children and no doubt other mothers' children to nursery school. There were white mothers with dark children and black mothers with pale children, and all were gossiping together. I'm glad to say the poster was not seen again.
Thankfully ordinary working people were ahead of the anti-racists; they had become non-racists. Homosexuals also had to suffer from the embarrassment of “anti-homophobia” for some time after people stopped classifying them and started accepting them as rugby players, cactus growers, policemen, whatever. I am inclined to think that David Cameron's promotion of “gay marriage” was the only good thing he did, but it achieved a lot by promoting simple human dignity. Unfortunately, now that the wind has been taken out of the sails of racists and “homophobes”, a new culture has sprung up, called “woke”. People exhibiting, or claiming to exhibit, all kinds of sexual unconventionality are encouraged to add their chosen letter to an alphabet stew and exhorted to regard themselves as a persecuted minority. It has reached the stage where calling somebody “male” or “female” is deemed to be persecuting somebody or other. The word “mother” is being banned by some local authorities in case some people who wish to regard themselves as female despite not possessing ovaries or a uterus might take offence.
All this is so very silly, and so obviously attributable to the industry of taking offence on other people's behalf, that with any luck it will soon evaporate. “The earth hath bubbles even as the water has”. Much more pernicious is the related practice among some of the more vocal university students of “no-platforming”. Anybody who says there are, for example, such things as “women” and “men” is denied the facility of speaking or lecturing. Older persons, particularly those of a historical inclination, are reminded that as early as 1933 Nazi students combined to no-platform Jewish teachers and see them dimissed from their posts. It was also students who gleefully made bonfires of books. The French called this behaviour la trahison des clercs, the treason of the educated.
Alas, the population of this country is divided into two cultures: those who are better educated tend to regard themselves as heirs to one European civilisation, to which Britain is an important contributor. Such people get their art from Flanders, Paris and Madrid; they get their music from Vienna, St Petersburg and Northern Italy. They expect to have some degree of competence in at least one other of the languages in which that civilisation is expressed. The other culture takes its norms entirely from the United States; they have no art, their music is derived entirely from American Teenage Popular Music, and their heroes are celebrities celebrated only for idiocy and conspicuous consumption. Thus it is the case that if a silly idea emerges from the United States it has a 50% chance of being adopted here; if silly and dangerous, a 75% chance, and if silly dangerous and evil, a 100% certainty. The United States, which was founded in order to protect the institution of slavery (declared unlawful in England in 1772 as I have said), has never got to grips with the ending of it by Abraham Lincoln. We liberated our slaves a generation before the Americans did. Plus, and it is a big plus, our slaves lived thousands of miles from this country. We should not be too smug. It took a lot of heartache and effort before the Windrush generation taught our settled population elementary good manners. I am thinking, sadly, of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is a response to particularly American malice and stupidity. In principle I disapprove of “virtue signalling”, though I think if I were a football player I would canvass the views of black players before deciding whether or not to “take the knee”.
Basically, all this nonsense will stop as soon as we stop classifying people and start conducting ourselves towards individuals with dignity and respect. Let us have no more silly slogans on our coins. It is but a small step to YOU CAN TRUST BORIS, or even, in a seemingly ever more commercial age, DRINK BOGGIS' BEER, MAKES YOU DRUNK.
South African coins bear the slogan !KE E: /XARRA //KE which is Nama for “Let's all work together”, but that Mandelan sentiment is on the country's coat of arms. Nama was chosen because it is not one of the country's eleven official languages, so it should not offend anybody, though no doubt some people can be found to feel insulted if you probe deeply enough.
Just recently there has been a move in this country to devise a tepid ditty (a pap song?) celebrating “diversity” that we can all sing together while we are doing our voluntary Friday lunchtime exercises under the benevolent supervision of the Stasi. Grrr.