29 October 2021

20.00

I went shopping yesterday. Very ordinary you may think, but a two hour breathless, staggering, marathon for me with frequent rests leaning against fences, sitting on walls, exhausting. It’s taken two days to recover, sleeping most of the day. That underlines the ambition of this project, to walk 200 miles in April or May across wild country. I’m still confident. This blog is crucial for morale, planning a sunlit future, looking forward not back. The staff at Lidl were lovely, helping me, getting my stuff, waiting for a cab with me, as was the cab driver who helped me carry stuff to my flat. All evidence of the kindness of Londoners and how pathetic I must appear.

30 October

17.26

Robin Walker’s Timbuktu Gresham programme was brilliant, faultless grasp and clear delivery. I learned a lot about the west African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songat, the wealthiest and best organised urban cultures in the world until destroyed by white Westerners.

Although Manifest Destiny and the White Mans’ Burden were inevitable policy when it came to what is to be done, there was underlying ambivalence in the ideas, illustrating the psychological gap between think and do, cognitive dissonance, a contradiction in belief that we maintain side by side.  

Two Victorian poets who noted this ambivalence were Rudyard Kipling and Hilaire Belloc. Gandhi’s was dubious; his forthright answer to his view of western civilisation: “It would be a good idea”.

Kipling is usually noted as an outspoken British apologist and jingoists – “we don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too”. in 1900 he wrote “The White Man’s Burden” for Queen Victoria’s jubilee, encouraging the United States’ colonisation of the Philippines in the purportedly altruistic interest of promoting the ‘gain’ of inferior natives benefiting from Western hegemony and civilisation, apparently certain of his thesis that this was, in the other phrase for the same phenomena, ‘Manifest Destiny” to the obvious, so he said, benefits of western civilisation to the inferior races, anyone not of White, Anglo Saxon Protestant stock. It is not often coupled explicitly with anti-Catholicism, anti-Celtic peasant and anti-Semitic attitudes, but it really is that pervasive and exclusive. However, alongside these unequivocal certainties of racial superiority – as Churchill said, “I see no problem in superior races replacing the inferior” was ambivalence. Kipling also published the “White Mans’ Burden” with “Recessional”, expressing misgivings about the transience of the British Empire. A recessional is hymn form within the Anglican liturgy, so adding to the profundity in British culture of the warning against hubris – the overweening arrogance of Greek myth that was imposed by gods on those they wished to destroy, “that they first make mad”: 

“Lo, all our pomp of yesterday, 

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre”

Recessional.

Belloc, best known for his nonsense verse, “Cautionary Tales”, was blunt:

‘Whatever happens

We have got

The Maxim Gun, and 

And they have not”

The Maxim Gun, created by Hiram Maxim, an early aviation pioneer, was a successful machine gun, overtaking the Hotchkiss and Gatling in use in the nineteenth century. It operated by using the gases of combustion to compress a spring. Previous designs tended to jam, literally fatal in combat. Development and production were financed by Albert Vickers’, son of Edward, a nineteenth century Sheffield miller. It achieved global use as the multinational weapon of imperialism and genocide, in those days dear to racists, when white hegemony was unchallenged, or if it was, ruthlessly tortured and crushed.

I realise this is all about me, currently obsessed with my birth in apartheid South Africa, but I aspire to resonate with readers, learning my new craft of communication after a life time of narcissism which has cost me dear: conflict between my children, failure of all four of my domestic partnerships, a life of self indulgence that I must accept partially explains my attraction to and for character disorders: incapable of sustained affection, ruthless irresponsibility, spontaneous and unpredictable espousal of ‘this looks like fun’ that angers Nicholas, my son. I’m working on this new awareness that has come to me now, only when I am alone, abandoned by my youngest child, with solitary years. That will be diluted when Cher moves house to provide. a bedroom for me, a great gesture of affinity with her poor old dad, approaching 80 years as Ellie said. But it might be an advantage, perhaps I’ve done all I can on my own. 

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