Friday, May 29, 2009

Who's a democrat?

Who's a democrat?

Hurrah!  Another Johann Hari article!  And it’s another one that would have required a reasonable knowledge of history.  The hook for it is that Kenyan survivors of the Mau Mau emergency have been petitioning the British Government for redress for the treatment they suffered during the 1950s.

Without going into the circumstances of  Mau Mau (and it is fair to say that Hari has read Catherine Elkins book and accepted it as gospel – a view that is not exactly universal among Africanist historians)  Hari makes some fairly breathtaking assertions.

While talking (oddly) about the Gurkhas, for example, he says this:

We have all waxed lyrical over the Nepalese soldiers who were, for two centuries, hired by the British Empire to fight its battles. Sometimes they were used in great causes, like the defeat of Nazism. Sometimes they were used to crush democratic movements in India or Malaya or Pakistan.

Well, Pakistan didn’t exist until after the British left, so that bit is simply nonsense.  But what is strange is Hari’s casual aside that the insurgency in Malaya was between imperialists and democrats.  Does he believe this?  Does he know anything whatsoever about the Malayan Emergency?  One can only really assume that he doesn’t, as he surely doesn’t believe that Chin Peng’s communists were a democratic movement.  They were barely even an independence movement, representing instead an attempt by Malaya’s ethnic Chinese minority to take control over the country.

I rather suspect that Hari on history is even less worth listening to that Hari on politics.


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