City of plunder
In a few days time, the English organisers of the Olympic Games will roll out the red carpet for a multitude of visitors from all over the world, and will seek to dazzle and impress them with the fabulous sights of the city of London.
No doubt, most of these visitors will be awestruck by the sheer massiveness and opulence of many of the buildings and other elements of the infrastructure of London. But before such visitors get too carried away, we would admonish them to ask some hard and piercing questions about the source of the wealth that is behind these wonderful edifices!
We would also encourage them to seek out an answer to their questions by looking very carefully at the historical personalities that the British establishment has chosen to honour and memorialise in their holiest of places — London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey — and in the many parks and other public spaces dotted across the London landscape.
We can assure them that they will find historical personalities such as Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, Lord Kitchener, Major Charles George Gordon, Sir Robert Clive, Lord Nelson, Cecil Rhodes, Lord Frederick Lugard, Sir Henry Morgan, Lord Baden – Powell and General Jan Smuts among many other arch-imperialists and plunderers of the so-called “Third World”.
It is not surprising that the British elite have chosen to memorialise these rogues, for it was upon their exertions that the vast wealth of London was built! You see, London is really a repository or storehouse of centuries of accumulated loot and plunder that was stolen by the British from virtually every conceivable corner of the world. This, after all, is the true meaning of the phrase — “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”
Indeed, if we wanted to pinpoint the beginning of the British establishment’s career in international theft of resources, we would have to go as far back as the Third Crusade of 1188, when King Richard I of England led a mercenary army to the Middle East and captured and pillaged Cyprus and the town of Jaffa (Present day Tel Aviv).
But perhaps a more poignant starting point for us black folks would be the year 1564 — the year in which Queen Elizabeth I provided Captain John Hawkins with a 700 ton ship and sent him to the West Coast of Africa to burn and destroy the towns, and to capture the black men and women that he found there and reduce them to slavery. This was the beginning of the British organised trans-Atlantic slave trade — an evil, criminal enterprise that delivered untold wealth to the London-based elite.
Indeed, the trade in African human beings provided the British kleptocracy with a springboard to launch their piratical activities into the rest of the African continent, the Caribbean, North America, Australia, India, China, New Zealand, the Middle East, the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans, Iran, Afghanistan, and the list goes on and on.
And it was not merely theft — often it was theft coupled with the most extreme and barbaric violence. Take, for example, the case of Lord Kitchener, the so-called “Conqueror of the Sudan”. In 1898, his machine-gunners mowed down 10,000 relatively defenceless Sudanese troops. A British soldier captured the horror of this event in his diary when he recorded — “The many thousands of Mahdists dying and wounded on the battlefield received no aid from the British, who simply turned their backs and marched away … they called for water and they called for our aid, but our officers spurned them”.
But as horrible as this incident was, it probably has to take a back seat to Britain’s decision — in 1839 — to go to war against China because the Chinese government, alarmed at the number of drug addicts that was being created, had dared to attempt to halt the flow of British produced opium into China. After three years of warfare, the Chinese acceded to British terms by opening a number of their ports to the opium trade, paying an indemnity, and ceding the island of Hong Kong to Britain.
These are but two horror stories in a long list of atrocities — all committed in the interest of feathering the nests of the political and economic elites of the United Kingdom, headquartered in the capital city of London. Truly, it would take several books to simply catalogue the list of abuses.
However, it behoves the Olympics-bound Barbadian visitor to recall that for 175 years the British monarchy extracted an onerous four and haf per cent duty on every single item produced in Barbados and shipped from our island. Surely, many of those splendid buildings in the heart of London must have been built with the proceeds of this pernicious “thieving” tax!
* David Comissiong is president of the Peoples Empowerment Party.