Earlier in Countercurrents, I reviewed Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness– very favorably. In that review, I mentioned other books, including Madhusree Mukherjee’s Churchill’s Secret War and Mike Davis’s magisterial Late Victorian Holocausts. All three books break with the mythology of Pax Britannica and describe its body-count. A wasteland indeed called peace. A Pox not a Pax.
I wrote the review while in London- propitiously- and even portentously. London is full of artifacts and monuments to imperialism and despite having a Muslim mayor and being perhaps the most diverse major city in the world, reeks of colonial nostalgia, apologia, and self-lionization. No longer a major power, England at least has its past to hold on to, I suppose.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the glorification of Churchill.
England does love its “Last Lion.” Churchill, whose bust now sits in Trump’s Oval Office, is still the cynosure of all hearts, souls, and minds of the English. Go to any London bookstore and you’ll find entire sections devoted to Sir Winston. In a particularly charming bookstore in Piccadilly- perhaps one of the most beautiful stores in the whole country—an entire section is devoted to Churchill. Shocking? Perhaps not until you stroll by the Asia “section” and the, count them, 13 books on India.
The Jewel in the Crown rates only high enough to get 13 books while a racist and vicious India-hater gets his own section. One-sixth of humanity is good enough for only 13 books while shelves and shelves are devoted to one man.
This is a metaphor for something larger- a persistent diminishment of India in the eyes of its former colonizer and in the eyes of the Western world in general. Business deals, sports scores, and diasporic success kept aside, India is a diminished quantity in the English imagination. One country does not honor another country and its people by hiring its engineers and accepting its capital only. And one country certainly does not honor a country and its people- bilked, murdered, denuded, and setback- by lionizing the very people who did the most to bilk, murder, denude, and retard.
The era of darkness did not end in 1947. The residues of 200 years of depravity persist and pollute.
Can we not at least remember properly and with sufficient contrition and decency? Can we not at least stop intellectual colonialism?
Will there be an era of light?
Romi Mahajan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org