Ten years ago the BBC conducted a poll on the 100 greatest Britons. Those who notice this sort of thing noticed that no black people made it on to the list, so a black list was produced. Sorry; how else am I to describe it?! If I tell you that it features the Labour MP Diane Abbot that might give you a measure of the quality of ‘greatness.’
The whole thing is really quite ridiculous, risibly so at points. I have no problem at all with black people looking for positive role models, but who really needs this kind of silly condescension? These is also a kind of desperation, it seems to me, in the search for the century. Philipa of Hainault, queen consort of Edward III, is on the list. Why? Because she was the mother of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales! You know, and I know and anyone with any wit knows this had nothing at all to do with the colour of his skin!
Mary Seacole is also there. In fact she tops the list, this supposed black heroine of the Crimean War. She’s rather the flavour of the day, this woman, even replacing Florence Nightingale as the true Lady of the Lamp. This is not just a result of black elevation, but white guilt, as Lynne McDonald suggests in a brilliant, eye-opening piece in the latest issue of History Today (Nursing’s Bitter Rivalry). I almost passed over this because, quite frankly, the subject does not really interest me that much. I’m so glad I didn’t. The Seacole story, I know now, is a lot of black propaganda. (Sorry; I couldn’t resist that either!) It’s only fair to add that it’s not of the lady’s devising.
I give you Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, an hotelier and herbalist by profession. So far as the quality of ‘blackness’ is concerned black people would be well-advised to stay well clear of the truth; the myth is much more comforting. She was three-quarters white and, as she explains in her journals, proud of her ‘Scotch blood’. Her writing, moreover, is full of the usual nineteenth century stereotypes. She refers to black people as ‘negroes’ and ‘niggers.’ It’s never a self-reference. No, she took considerable pains to distance herself from what she called the ‘lazy Creole’ image, evidenced in her “good for nothing black cooks.”
But the myth has wings. I understand that a massive statue is to be erected to this ‘Pioneer Nurse’ at
St Thomas’ Hospital in London, the place where Florence Nightingale was based for forty years. The monument, McDonald says, will even be visible from the House of Commons, taller both than that of Florence Nightingale at Waterloo Place and Edith Cavell in St Martin’s Lane.
I suppose I have to congratulate the fundraisers on fighting such a brilliant campaign, brilliant enough for the hospital trustees to grant permission on a foundation of evidentiary quicksand. The statue will show ‘
Britain’s black heroine’, with medals won for bravery, walking on to a Crimean battlefield to treat the wounded. There is only one problem: it’s a lie.
Here are the inconvenient facts. Unlike Nightingale, Seacole never nursed, never trained as a nurse and never worked in a hospital. In the
Crimea she ran a hotel, catering specifically for officers, a thing she remarks on with a snobbish sense of delight. She never won any medals, and never claimed to have won any medals, though that did nor stop her from wearing medals.
Even the Nursing Standard, a magazine owned by the Royal College of Nursing, which supports the Seacole statue campaign, has contributed to the mythology. Over the past ten years it has published more than seventy articles lauding her ‘achievements’, even though they give not a single concrete example of Seacole’s contribution to the profession.
The media has taken up the angel Seacole and devil Nightingale campaign. In Mary Seacole: a Hidden History, a Channel 4 documentary broadcast in 2005, it was claimed on no evidence at all that Seacole had “saved thousands of lives.” The fakery, for fakery it is, has even made it into children’s literature. In The Life of Mary Seacole by Emma Lynch she is described as nursing soldiers from 5am until midday before going on to the battlefield, presumably to look for more.
It never happened. She was present at only two engagements, the Redan assault in June and Tchernya in August 1855. In her journal she gives no details, other than to say that it was ‘pleasant enough’ and a source of ‘strange excitement’.’ Yes, I suppose it was. Meanwhile it was back to the British Hotel, where lightly wounded officers (the serious cases were sent to Nightingale in
Turkey) could feast on such delights as lobster, oysters, wild fowl and game, all items well beyond the means of ordinary soldiers.
If you really want to know about Seacole it’s best to ignore the saccharine-sweet hagiography. Go instead to The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, her own account originally published in
1857, a reasonably honest testament, unlike so much of the present dishonesty surrounding her memory. We are all ill-served by this sort of nonsense, black people most of all, treated by a certain shade of white liberal opinion as though they were children to be indulged in a state of innocence. It’s just a mirror image of the old racism.
An excellent write-up of a very infuriating trend in modern Britain. The more of us we have, the better - or pretty soon there'll be no white heroes wherever a 1/4 black hero can be substituted.ReplyDelete
Theodore Dalrymple pricked the Seacole worship brilliantly back in 1999: http://www.city-journal.org/html/9_3_oh_to_be.html
"Last week, the union representing most nurses in Britain's public hospitals announced that henceforth Florence Nightingale should be demoted as a symbol of British nursing. Never mind her heroic role in establishing the nursing profession worldwide, her sacrifices, her devotion, her indomitable force of character. The union's annual conference voted overwhelmingly that she "represented the negative and backward elements of nursing" and suggested that she be replaced iconographically by Mary Seacole, a Jamaican herbalist who also went to the Crimea to nurse British soldiers. After all, wasn't Mary Seacole more representative of multicultural Britain? Wasn't she the victim of Victorian prejudice? (In fact she was decorated by Queen Victoria herself.) By contrast, Florence Nightingale came from a white, moneyed, Protestant background, "unrepresentative of the ethnic mix in today's National Health Service," according to a union member. "All over Eastern Europe, statues of Lenin are being taken off their pedestals, dismantled, and pulled off to be cut up," the same member said. "It is in the same vein that the nursing profession must start to exorcise the myth of Florence Nightingale."
These remarks would be beneath contempt — even if one did not subscribe to the view of Florence Nightingale as a secular saint — were it not for the fact that they so perfectly capture the bad temper of the times. Not to be statistically representative of "where we are at" is sufficient to discredit any hero from the past. Seen in this light, Britain's traditional culture is but the ideological veil that concealed an unjust, undemocratic, exploitative, oppressive society. We study it only to reinvigorate our own grievances by finding their roots."
Decorated by Queen Victoria! Where on earth does this rubbish come from? I wish I'd known of Dalrymple's piece before I wrote this. Obviously those who determine these cultural trends are simply refusing to listen. In a way it resembles the worst kind of historical rewrites from the Soviet period.Delete
Seymour, I'm sure you noticed that the Beeb is refusing to allow a statue to George Orwell to be erected on land they own because he was too 'left wing.' What absolute rot! I intend to throw a thunderbolt at this also. :-)
Ana, I think you misunderstand. Dalrymple himself is saying that Seacole was decorated by Queen Victoria, thus refuting the claim that she was a victim of Victorian prejudice.Delete
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a source for Dalrymple's claim. I've read that Victoria entertained Seacole personally and thanked her for her work in the Crimea, but nothing about medals. Maybe TD got it wrong?
Either way, the attempt by modern PC elements to replace Florence Nightingale with Seacole, really just rubbishing Nightingale on the basis that she was white (bad) instead of black (good), is simply reprehensible. I wonder if these people have any idea of the damage they are joyfully doing to British self-image, and on the basis of lies. Imagine comparing Nightingale to Lenin, for god's sake, and claiming that Nightingale's achievements are mere "myth"?!
Sorry, Seymour; I clearly did; I read far too fast! She wasn't decorated by anyone. He, too, is clearly a victim of a deeply planted piece of historical deception.Delete
There is so much nonsense here. I might say that it's almost Orwellian in the deliberate distortion of the past, if it was less obvious that the whole thing is born of the most naive forms of guilt and self-deception.
Hey, it doesn't interest me much either.ReplyDelete
Well, you are American. :-) Still this kind of historical lie is a danger throughout the Western world.Delete
There is much fabrication in what is generally accepted as historical fact, not to forget "Religion" as well.Delete
No culture can survive self-deception on the scale that has become normal practice today. We have devolved from the Age of Reason, through the Age of Invention and the Age of Propaganda and the Age of Secrets and the Age of Communication, to the Age of Lies.ReplyDelete
We lie about finance, and business, and education, and immigration, and politics, and war. We even lie about the climate. Those who try to reveal the truth are denounced as terrorists. Unless we change our ways, we are entering the twilight of a new Dark Age.
The Age of Lies, indeed so.Delete
Calvin, in case you haven't noticed, Chris Coffman sent a plea in your general direction in the Hidden Secrets article.
More revisionism history, from self loathing whites. Glad you wrote this interesting post, as indeed I will read the 1855 true story.ReplyDelete
And thank you, Jen. I find the whole thing quite depressing, a dangerous sign of the times.Delete
Wow, this post really made me speechless. Yet, I admired your courage to speak up for this.ReplyDelete
As you had suggested, this practice to correct one wrong by another wrong is really what is happening here. This kind of bureaucratic spin is everyday reality in my work as well. The list of greatest black does not seem to advocate the true contribution of black people but to render the perceived "equality" of political correctness.
Yes, James, absolutely spot on.Delete
Ana this is the worst kind of tokenism. Create an anachronistic, racially patronising version of the past and shut the bastards up, those are not my words but an accurate representation of the sub-species' motives, those who are responsible for turning history into a theme park.ReplyDelete
You know, Richard, in some ways it's worse than the past abuses of language and historical truth, the kind of thing Orwell alighted on as the greatest danger to the future. His dystopia was backed up by violence. In our dystopia inconvenient truths are simply drowned in a lying and soapy 'consensus.'Delete
We live in a world constructed by white, Christian, democratic capitalists. Black people have contributed little or nothing to the creation of this world. Left wingers have contributed little or nothing. Islam likewise. This is why they are natural allies and why they have to construct their own fairy stories.ReplyDelete
Ah, Michael, we are being overwhelmed with fairy tales of one kind or another.Delete
If you want an example of government manipulation of national identity tryReplyDelete
English Icons – an exercise in Anglophobic NuLabour propaganda
Posted on November 21, 2010
Late in 2005 a body called Icons Online launched a website English Icons (www.icons.org.uk -the website is still up but is no longer being actively managed). The organisation was the creation of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). It claimed to be entirely independent despite being funded by the DCMS (to the tune of £1m according to the Daily Telegraph 28 4 2006). The minister with direct responsibility for Icons Online was the black London MP David Lammy, while cabinet minister Tessa Jowell had indirect responsibility as minister for the DCMS.
The ostensible purpose of Icons Online was to provide the English with a sense of nation by celebrating English accomplishments, inventions, events and such forth. The public would nominate and vote on such things and that a number of these nominations would be selected to be official English Icons.
This was an official projection of the liberal propaganda myth that the English have no sense of nation and the Icons’ website unashamedly made this intent clear:” Some people argue that there is no such thing as a shared English culture. They say all those invasions by the Normans and Romans simply left us with a ‘hotch potch’ of other people’s cultures. Paradoxically, this melting pot is what makes England unique. And today’s multicultural communities make this mix even more vibrant and interesting.”
The covert reason Icons Online was created is simple; NuLabour were only too well aware that the English have an immense sense of nation and were growing increasingly restive about their deliberate marginalisation by the British political elite, who besides regularly insulting the English, siphon off vast amounts of English money to give to the Celtic Fringe whilst denying the English any national political voice in an English Parliament having given such a voice to the other parts of the UK.
The Blair Government was trying control this growing English unrest by creating a soviet-style propaganda unit whose ostensible purpose was to give voice to the wishes of the people, but whose real purpose was to produce a preordained propaganda scenario. The preordained propaganda scenario in this instance was to portray England and the English as a happy-clappy multicultural heaven. This intention was signalled not only in the passage from their website quoted above, but also by the choice of The Windrush as one of the original panel chosen Icons. Further evidence comes from the official minutes of the Icons advisory board (available on the ICONS website). The minutes for 13 10 2005 stated:
Read more at http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/english-icons-an-exercise-in-anglophobic-nulabour-propaganda/
Very good indeed, RH. Thanks for drawing my attention to this, something that clearly escaped me at the time. I'm going to pop over to your site.Delete