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By Jason Michael
THE PROSPECT OF BORIS JOHNSON becoming leader of the Conservative Party and therefore British Prime Minister has the political left in the United Kingdom worried about the further normalisation of racism and xenophobia in British politics. However, what much of the comment on Johnson fails to grasp is that Johnson in himself is not the problem. He is merely a symptom of the problem. It’s not so much that there have always been racists in Westminster; the truth is that Westminster is a racist institution. Fascism and genocidal racism and xenophobia were largely checked in Italy and Germany after the defeat of Mussolini and Hitler, but the racism of British imperial-colonialism – to which both the fascists and Nazis of the 1930s aspired – was vindicated as an ideology as a result of Britain being on the winning side. Even with the end of empire the racist ideology of British imperialism with its “white man’s burden” remained and flourished deep in the cradle of Britain’s ruling class. Boris Johnson is simply a product of that class.
It comes as no surprise that as editor of The Spectator he published James Michie’s 2004 “satirical poem” describing Scotland as a “ghetto” inhabited by “tartan dwarves” – a “verminous race” – worthy of “extermination” for “polluting [England’s racially superior] stock.” Why should this shock Scottish people? We have been in a union with England for three centuries, we have been dominated by the products of this Anglo-Saxon master race, and as the pencil pushers and administrators of their empire we have long understood the nature of British imperialism. It must shock us more that so many in Scotland today believe that anything has changed since the Highland Clearances, when the unionist papers in our country were lauding the replacement of inferior Gaels with better “Teutonic stock.” Adolf Hitler was an amateur. His idea of eugenics and racial hierarchy didn’t have a patch on the British imperial and racist imagination.
Feeling the love, Scotland? Union of equals? scotsman.com/news/politics/…—
Carol Monaghan MP 🏴 (@CMonaghanSNP) June 17, 2019
Nothing of this is news. On a visit to Myanmar, it makes sense that Johnson would recall and recite Kipling’s poem Mandalay:
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay…
This poem – like the joke, the poem is a marvellous instrument for disguising contempt – captures the essence of Britain’s imperial fantasy. The Burmese girl’s religion and culture are pure ignorance. The British soldier – or the “English soldier” as Johnson quoted – can take the kisses offered to Buddha, the god made of mud, for himself. Mandalay, like every cultural production of imperialism, is a rape fantasy. Rudyard Kipling’s old soldier is walking about the dismal streets of London wishing he was on the road to the east, on his way to ride whatever young girl takes his fancy – and not in the nice way. See, in his fantasy of the empire the white man is the law. He is there to bring civilisation and good Christian kisses. He detests the earthen statues and the deities made of mud because he is there with his superior white phallus to be their god of flesh.
Why wouldn’t this poem come to Boris Johnson’s mind in a Burmese Buddhist temple? His attitude to other races has never failed to be consistent with his very British education, and he has never felt the need before to hide it. Not too long ago he won a £1,000 prize for his poem about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he played on the time-honoured British racist trope of Muslim’s shagging goats. This is why we should be deeply troubled when people see his rise to the top of the British regime as part of the process of normalising racism in England. Racism is as normal in England as big red busses and tea and scones.
When thugs like Tommy Robinson and would-be demagogues like Nigel Farage use the fictive threat of an Islamic invasion to win popular support, they are doing nothing new. As outsiders to the Eton-Oxbridge political élite class, they are lumped with all the blame – for promoting ideas contrary to “British values.” The élite class is protected from this because its racism and intolerance are traditional, it is written in the literature and poetry of their past. Their racism is culture. It’s allowed. Not coming from the cradle of the superior class, the racism of Farage and Robinson is crude and intolerable – but not because it is racist, because it is unsophisticated.
George Galloway (@georgegalloway) September 30, 2017
Of course, Johnson sees himself – his race and his class – as superior to the Scots. We’re not lower brown people, but – according to his imperialist-colonialist classification – we’re not exactly white either. We are a defeated and dominated racial group, we’re not even a defeated and dominated group of a decent “stock” – we’re not English. Our blood makes us inferior to him in the imagination of British imperialism. It is not appropriate in his thinking for a Scot to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, not because we have our own Westminster-controlled “parliament” in Edinburgh, but because – and Scottish readers will recognise this – we are not “genetically programmed” to govern. Our rôle in Britain, qua Greater England, is to play the part of the house slave and the field slave. Our peculiar condition of domination means we are citizens, but not being English we cannot be masters – not even of our own destinies. That is the white man’s burden – England’s job.
Knowing this tells us more of the pitiable position of people like David Mundell and Ross Thomson, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the soon-to-be(?) Secretary of State for Scotland. As Scots, they benefit from the union, but – also as Scots – they collaborate with the British administration as members of a genetically inferior race to their masters. With all the language of ghettos and extermination, one feels entirely justified in comparing these men to people like Chaim Rumkowski, the Jewish leader of the Łódź Ghetto. Over their fellow Scots they have been given a degree of devolved power, but that power is not their own. Sadly, their end is already written:
In August 1944, Rumkowski and his family joined the last transport to Auschwitz.
Yes, there were always Scots who benefited from the union and from the British Empire. There were always Scots who arrived at positions of power, but this was never their own power. It was always devolved and conditional. Such collaborators were always, like Rumkowski, traitors in the truest sense of the word. Chaim Rumkowski’s end was to be murdered by the Jews of Łódź who had arrived at Auschwitz before him. Our response must not be the same. Since we are not facing the ovens, their punishment should be a long life – in a free and independent Scotland, in a nation-state they know they tried to kill. Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.
Race & Privilege: A Social Experiment