Comments from a reader

You do a great job. One minor point: S.F. may be confusing about its street #s but all over New England the problem is roads that change names with little or nothing by the way of signs. For example, in Bloomfield CT at the key intersection Bloomfield Ave. becomes Tunxis Ave.; Mountain Ave. becomes Park Ave. If you look hard, you might find a street sign.

One major point: there’s a real question, I fear, if a successful democracy can exist in a country that has no history of free speech, women’s rights, etc., and where unemployment among young uneducated males is high. And this seems particularly true in the Muslim world. The British Empire has often been criticized but in many countries when the British left, they left a stable democracy behind because they had time it introduce it. India is probably the best example. The story of how this country became an independent democracy is really an extraordinary one that probably never could be repeated. Of course, corruption in Congress is not new to the 21st century – it has come and gone.

Your thought that it’s time for another liberal resurgence is encouraging and fascinating. One really wonders what the hell is going on in Bush’s mind, most of the time – if anything.

Thanks, Dad!

  • I’m afraid I have to disagree with your reader’s comment on the British Empire. Britain never put in place a democracy in India it was the people who were throwing the British out that built a kind of democracy. Britain always tried to hold on to its Empire and where that was impossible it tried to create a puppet government that would continue to give Britain favourable treatment. Below is a short article from my news-sheet, “The Anarchist Critic” I hope it throws a more accurate light on the British Empire.

    Britain’s Imperial history is always portrayed as a force for good, a paternal approach. Taking care of the colonies for their own good, a civilising process until they were able to look after themselves. Of course those who know their history are fully aware that the reality is a far different scenario.

    Mike Davis’s book, Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, details famines that killed between 12 million and 29 million inhabitants of the Indian continent. He clearly shows that these people were murdered by the British state. When the drought of 1876 impoverished the farmers of the Deccan plateau India had a net surplus of rice and wheat. The then viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should stand in its way as it was exported to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of the Nazi concentra- tion camps. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

    As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought”. This collected tax, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, in spite of the fact that they had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m people died.

    It is important that we know our history lest me repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • John Morris

    Replying to John Couzin: Assuming I was wrong to give the British ccredit for India’s democracy, I should have mentioned Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and several Caribbean Islands as examples of former British colonies with successful democracies today.

  • Once again there is this myth that we good British done well by the colonies. In each of the above mentioned can you tell me what happened to the indigenous people? In each of the cases you mention with the exception of South Africa we wiped them out and replaced them with nice friendly Anglo Saxons. In the case of South Africa we enslaved them and left a brutal white mob in charge, remember Apartheid? Please try to look at the colonies from the point of view of the local people and what they had to endure while we ripped off their resources, not from the history books of the conquerors. Imperialism is imperialism and history tells us it is not a benevolent system.

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