Thursday, 14 July 2016

We Are the World: Corbyn, Blair and Post-Imperial Delusions.

“United by a desire to make our world a kinder, fairer place, [Corbyn and Okri] will discuss the forces that have made them what they are, the state of the world today and their belief that we can transform ourselves for the better”
It's curious that the Guardian reports, either with sarcasm or with drippy awe ( it is difficult quite to tell which ) that Jeremy Corbyn is taking time out from damaging party leadership wrangles to discuss with the Nigerian novelist Okri how best to change the world at the Royal Festival Hall.

One thing that unites Corbyn with Blair and the Blairites such as Angela Eagle, or others such as the murdered Jo Cox, is how all share a militant progressive agenda that posits that Britain somehow really can be the Moral Force for Good in the World. That what 'we' do in Britain has demonstrative world transforming potential.

Corbyn clearly believes that Britain's renunciation of military intervention and so of 'imperialism' and Trident and so on would provide the moral impetus for the rest of the world to follow suit. After all, this was, according to historian Peter Clarke, one of the rationales behind CND in the 1950s.

The idea is that all evil,such as terrorism, flows from a reaction to wrongs committed by bigger powers and forces that really ought to know better. To an extent Tony Blair believed that even as he spun around in the 1990s and tempered all the ideals he shared with Corbyn back in the 1980s by 'realism'.

Britain, as Blair once soundbited, 'would never again be great but it can be the best', that is, a model beacon unto all humanity as shown by its diversity and multi-culti harmony, an example of how the world might be re-imagined as be as one. It's just that Blair 'believed' military force could hasten the realisation of this dream.

The Corbynites and Okri believe there is some global 'we' that can act,a Humanity that can be collectively realised and affirmed beyond divisions. New Labour held to that too. It was one reason humanitarianism and military intervention went together especially in places such as Afghanistan, seen as a good war by contrast with Iraq.

The idea that Britain is actually rather a small and insignificant country without the military resources to be an 'imperialist' or even a force capable of changing the world never seems to occur or be contemplated as just a fact to adapt to and accept. On the contrary, it must be 'outward looking' and 'internationalist'.

This neurotic impulse that 'we can change the world' still presupposes Britain as a post-imperial power that matters when, in fact, its 'values' are not are not those of the world and never will be. In fact, the obsession with lecturing the world is increasingly despised by others as meddling hypocrisy.

This is not least the case, because human rights and humanitarianism is seen as an adjunct justifying what is euphemised as 'intervention' and often connected to attempts to rationalise control over resources from Africa to Asia that are needed to underpin Britain's cosy consumerist existence.

Humanitarianism has replaced Christianity as the missionary creed that could justify Britain's role as a Global Player. To retain that position, it needs control over resources to remain rich and so to pretend it can necessarily reconcile that with 'Democracy Promotion' and Human Rights agendas for the Developing World.

The problem with that is it stands to make Britain responsible for all the world's ills-and in some sense guilty-while it is not at all capable of being effective in promoting these worthy causes. And in that sense it will only incur even more resentment from those such as Islamists who detest its hypocrisy from within Britain and without.

Maybe it is time to stop the grandstanding and stop pretending 'we' can solve the world's problems. Certainly 'we' can make ourselves better but from refraining from doing and allowing others elsewhere to solve their problems in their way, as is quite clear in the case of Afghanistan or resource rich Nigeria.

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