Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heroes from History

We have been warned that Christianity knows no neutrality and history has verified the warning. It is incapable of co-existing permanently with a civilisation it does not inspire; and any such that came into contact with it has withered.

Who wrote those words? One of our modern atheist philosophers - a Dawkins or a Hitchens? Perhaps an anti-colonialist - Gandhi or Garvey?

It was Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury three times Prime Minister of Great Britain after Disraeli in the Victorian era.
Ironically the British Empire was at her height, Victoria had just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and Salisbury wrote those words to his daughter explainiing why he was not inclined to support the work of missionaries in Asia and Africa.
He was an enigma - while the British Empire controlled one fifth of the globe he persued a foreign policy of "splendid isolation" trying to maintain a balance of power by not entering into permanent alliances or commitments. While his contemporaries like Rhodes "I would annexe the planets if I could" dreamed of further expansion, Salisbury had said "Seizing a coloured man's land and giving to a white man is an operation now generally known as the progress of colonisation."

I was born in the city named after Salisbury, in the country that Rhodes named after himself. So I am a product of British colonialism. (And very grateful for it - a more priviliged and luxurious childhood could not be wished for) And so it comes as a great surprise to find that Lord Salisbury is the author of these quotes and thoughts.
I leave you with three quotes of his on liberty, morality and common sense:

By a free country, I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like.
Speech to the Kingston and District Working Men's Conservative Association (June 1883)

On general grounds I object to Parliament trying to regulate private morality in matters which only affects the person who commits the offence.
Letter to Sir Henry Peek (1888)

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Letter to Lord Lytton (15 June 1877)

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