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The British Empire had been reduced to a couple of islands by the time I was old enough to pay much attention to it. But having watched a television series about it fronted by Jeremy Paxman, I can only conclude that it was a Bad Thing. It wasn't what Mr Paxman or the people he spoke to said that led me to this conclusion. It was Paxman himself. It struck me that if Paxman had been born 50 or 60 years earlier than he was, he is, just the sort of person who would get a job with the Colonial Office. Just the sort of chap who would thrive in a seedy British colonial administration in say Malaya or Kenya. I would not want to live a country ruled by the likes of Paxman. The colonies may have gone, but the grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and even great-great-great grandchildren of the old British administrators still roam the earth supposedly helping those people not lucky enough to have been born English. Only now this happy privileged few are working for a charity during their "gap year". Some of them even return to the Non-Governmental Organisation industry after they graduate. Even such a respected NGO as Oxfam, which does actually sometimes genuinely make things better for people, is not without its problems. Did the old British administrators in Malaya or Kenya indulge in the same sexual exploitation as their spiritual, if not literal, descendants working for Oxfam did in Haiti? Oh, when I refer to English, I include those born in Scotland whose parents chose to ape their masters by sending the kids to private schools. 

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For a while now I've been intrigued by a radio programme put out by BBC Ulster. It involves two historians, one Catholic and the other Protestant, looking in various controversial aspects of Ireland's past. Apparently, they usually have different takes on events. Sadly, the episode I heard, on the Irish Republic's neutrality in the Second World War (and, yes, I know it was called Eire at the time) they agreed. They agreed that neutrality was the wisest course. But the programme did a very very poor job of examining the issues. Yes, thousands of Irishmen fought for Allies. But there was no mention of the decades of official persecution the 5,000 men who absented themselves from the Irish armed forces to fight the Nazis faced from the Irish government after the war. Yes, Eire exported food to the United Kingdom. But it was the only export market they had and they didn't exactly sell the food cheaply. Yes, folk in Donegal did help build the new Royal Navy facilities on Loch Foyle, but again they didn't do it for free. And it would have saved a lot of time and money if the De Valera government had allowed the Allies to use Irish ports during the Battle of the Atlantic. It was not mentioned that more than half of Eire's population wanted Hitler to win or were certain he would until far into the war. The arguments for Irish Neutrality could equally well be used to justify a British surrender in 1940. As the war went on, Eire's neutrality tilted in favour of the British. But then even the De Valera government knew which country was in the best position to invade them. The Irish Republic deserves no more praise for its application of neutrality than the Swedes and Swiss deserve blame for their pro-German stance in the early years of the war. And lets not go into whether De Valera's official condolences to Germany on Hitler's death in 1945 could be justified as simply diplomatic protocol - other European leader felt the same obligation. I can only think that this sad attempt at history on the wireless was somehow down to some politically inspired desire not to rock the boat in the Northern Ireland of 2018.

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Complaints about tourists disrespecting what are war graves at Culloden, thanks to an interest inspired by the TV series Outlander, have inspired a number of people to point out that a big part of the Government army was Scottish. Most want to debunk the whole "Culloden was a Scottish Vs English" thing. What these people don't seem to know is that the aftermath of the 1745 showed that the English on the whole did regard Culloden as a Scottish Vs English battle. So, I think perhaps we should take it that the English back in 1746 knew what was what and whom was fighting for whom. As George Orwell pointed out, it wasn't a good thing to be a Scot in England in the decades following Culloden. It wasn't just the "rebellious Scots" of the National Anthem who needed crushed according to the bulk of English people, it was all Scots. Yes, from a Caledonian point of view, the 1745 Rebellion was complicated and very much the final chapter of a Scottish civil war that had been going on for the for decades. But Britain could never have held India without the help of Indian soldiers. And technically large parts of the Indian sub-continent, the Princely States, were independent entities. But no-one in their right mind would claim that the British did not rule India until 1947. Maybe India in 1946 and Scotland 200 years earlier had more in common than many people realise. I can't help feeling that many of the Smart Alec's who draw attention to the number of Scots in Cumberland's Army are also apt to declare that the British invented Concentration Camps during the 1899-1902 Boer War. A couple of problems with that. The Spanish had a couple of years earlier introduced a concentration camp system in a bid to cripple the Cuban Uprising. And what were the Indian Reservations in the United States and the Reserves in Canada but concentration camps without barbed-wire?  The Afrikaans population of South Africa  has never forgiven the British for the deaths of up to 25,000 women and children in the concentration camps. But the deaths were not part of any British plan or policy. They were down to the same official stupidity and incompetence that meant the British lost twice as many men, around 13,000, to disease as they did due to enemy action during the war.

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So, one of Aung San Suu Kyi's biggest international admirers, former US diplomat Bill Richardson has finally seen what dispassionate observers realised years ago - that she is a hypocritical supporter of ethnic cleansing and against press freedom. Well, good for Mr Richardson. But it's only words and that's all we've seen really so far from the international community and they don't really help the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world and can't really afford to play host to hundreds of thousands of refugees. So, here's an idea. Any company that does business with Burma/Myanmar, import or export, should be pressured into making a contribution to the United Nations' refugee fund. Some naming and shaming should do the trick. The people who run Burma/Myanmar will probably be hit hard in the pocket as many of their international business partners decide they would rather not pay the levy intended to support the refugees. The country is all about the money. The Burmese military can barely fight its way out of a wet paper bag, instead it is a prime example of a military/industrial complex, though not in the way the late President Dwight Eisenhower meant the term. Anyway, either way the Rohingya come out ahead. Either the refugee camps are properly funded or the Burmese government ends the ethnic cleansing and the refugees get to go home in safety. Make no mistake, the ethnic cleansing of Rakhine State has as much to do with money as it has to do with community disagreements. 

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One of my pals used to play bars and community halls in Edinburgh in a band fronted by a couple of guys from West Africa. Sometimes one of the Africans would perform wearing a kilt. The crowd was delighted. But according the BBC World Service, we should all have been appalled and disgusted. The musician was apparently guilty of Cultural Appropriation. I can only presume from the lack of balance shown in the programme that the BBC regards this as a crime. The way to avoid accusations of simply giving extremists and racists a platform on such programmes is to challenge them vigorously on air about their views. The only interviewee given a hard time was a white English woman who performs rap music. The woman who declared no white person should ever have dreadlocks pretty much went unchallenged. Here in North America sports teams run into trouble for naming themselves things like the Edmonton Eskimos, Washington Redskins, or the Blackhawks. I find it hard to condemn a high school sports time that chooses to call itself the Clansmen or something along a Scottish theme, even though none of the players has ever crossed the Atlantic. But that said, I do find the hijacking of Scottish themes by American white supremacists a little disappointing. But these guys belong in the same reject bin as the Boston Irish who run fundraisers with catchphrases such as Buy a Bullet, Kill a Brit. I would really like to know how the Dreadlocks Woman feels about people of different skin tones marrying: Ethic Cleansing by Stealth, perhaps. Maybe she would want to outlaw Englishmen wearing kilts for their weddings. 

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