2007 - 2021

Banana Republic

velvet-underground-banana-650My friend has a theory about missing bits of culture and history. It’s ‘mislaid’ by mainstream historians – not in some Orwellian act of deliberate subterfuge, not in some InfoWars-style conspiracy. It’s just that it’s deemed unimportant over time. Things aren’t covered-up, they’re just forgotten.

It seems like EnglandBritain is suffering from a version of this. A sort of National Aphasia. Whole countries, maybe whole continents are just being forgotten.

“What’s that down the back of the sofa? Oh, that’s the Iberian Peninsula?”

Ooh, you find all sorts down there don’t you? “Look, there’s Carrickfergus!”

Back in 2014 the steady flow of derision against taking back control was that Scotland would be weakened internationally, our economy would suffer, and, after all, why go to so much bother for so little gain? We’d be a laughing stock with key international relations weakened, cast out of Europe and all for a misplaced sense of grievance.

And you know what, the stumbling block would be Spain. Oops.

If such an analysis seems painfully ironic now in light of Boris’s emerging Banana Republic, I’m sorry about that.

But even if all these things had come to pass, and Scotland had become a sort of xenophobic parochial backwater, more Albania than Alba, as our worst critics suggested, no-one thought we’d become aggressively militaristic against our near neighbors did they?

Lord Howard – of whom the Spanish say Hay algo de la noche sobre él” – certainly is leading from the front this week with the war-mongering against Spain and his conjuring up the ghost of El Thatch:

“Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar,”

The comparison is, on one one level, fair. A far-right Conservative leader driven by a wave of nationalism revives support through a tabloid-backed frenzy while facing incoherent opposition by a left Labour leader (then Foot, now Corbyn). But, it in other senses (like in the sense of being deranged) it doesn’t really work.

There’s 400,000 Spanish people living in the UK, including a reported 25,000 in Edinburgh alone.

I don’t think the Brits of Magaluf would appreciate any interruption to their leisure activities.

But it’s not the only flight of fancy that’s going on. The Brexiteers,who should be joyous in victory are spitting mad. Gerard Batten, UKIP’s Brexit spokesman thinks that the whole Article 50 process is a sham and a sellout and the two-year timeline is treason. We could leave the EU “in an afternoon” he says. He’s also got a nice Trump-esque line about sending back the workshy and  “beggars and criminals”.  While Tory MP Andrew Rosindell thinks the real problem is our pink passport – the heart of our national malaise:

“The humiliation of having a pink European Union passport will now soon be over and the United Kingdom nationals can once again feel pride and self-confidence in their own nationality when traveling, just as the Swiss and Americans can do.”

Victory’s not yet ours it seems.

This whole process of remembering and forgetting is complicated. We know we hate the French and the Germans, but the Spanish too? Who knew. One week in and we’ve remembered a new European foe and forgotten ourselves.

I don’t think they’ve thought this true.

But war with Spain makes as much sense as anything else we’ve heard in this Banana Republic.



Comments (4)

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  1. TY says:

    “Just like the Swiss and American do”? Erm, here’s a little message from someone who has lived in Europe over half their life on an American passport….there’s little sense of pride when you are forced to stand in massive queues just to get back in to your (now) home country. Little pride involved in filling out ‘landing cards’ on the plane home to prove you have a valid address and have a right to live in your home. There’s even less pride when an erse of a customs official in Glasgow sees you with your family (of whom both have red passports) and proceeds to question you about everything and nothing just to delay you because, well, immigrants. Further, one of the first things I was told when I moved here by security advisors was if you are ever on a flight or travelling and there is a threat, hide your passport. Why? Because, due to the atrocious record of military interventions, that little blue passport sets you out as a damn good target to many in this world. The refusal of Americans to get on with the rest of the world and the isolationist tendencies don’t make the intelligent ones among them proud of the blue passport, it makes them worried to be seen with it. Perhaps this little tale can be seen as a warning to others with military and isolationist tendencies but I guess some won’t learn until it’s too late.

  2. chris avery says:

    I always thought there was a sizeable Scottish and Welsh population in Argentina but that didn’t stop the Tories arguing that the Falkland Islanders wouldn’t be safe under a Spanish speaking executive? Am I right or did I confuse the expats with Argentine Aberdeen Angus?

  3. DaveyM says:

    You ought to find out what ‘aphasia’ means. It’s nothing to do with memory…

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Missing pieces of history and culture that (if heard) would undermine elite narratives, are unlikely to be accidental silencings. Michel-Rolph Trouillot (in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, page 99) points out that the successful slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue/Haiti was not mentioned in the Penguin Dictionary of Modern History, nor much by Eric Hobsbawn’s The Age of Revolutions, 1789–1843, though these authorships are presumably wide apart on the British political spectrum.

    “Napoleon lost nineteen French generals in Saint-Domingue, including his brother-in-law. France lost more men in Saint-Domingue than at Waterloo — as did England [sic].”

    Wikipedia gives British casualty figures of 45,000 (British soldiers dead in St Domingue/Haiti) versus 3,500 (Anglo-allies dead at Waterloo):

    There are many such silences if you look. The BBC will show fictitious history of German occupation of Britain but not factual British occupation of Germany at the end of WW2. The Royals deploy a cloak of secrecy. Women, dark-skinned people, children get scant mention.

    The USAmerican historian Howard Zinn explicitly confronted this tendency with his corrective A People’s History of the United States:

    There are modern historians who are tackling the mainstream British problem, but they succeed not because they randomly stumble upon forgotten gems, but because they are aware of the systematic cover-ups and propaganda models that spew out this fake history for public consumption.

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