July 17, 2000
Dear Mr. Gibson,
I promise that one day soon I'll see The Patriot. It's only just been released over here, but believe me I was excited when I first heard about the film. At last, I thought, a film that is proud to be American. And it sounds like it is proud. Of course, being a Limey, I have this niggle with the idea that we burned women and children in locked churches when we did not; but compared to the blood libels we have against us from the Irish this is nothing.
Any way I thought I'd write this open letter to you to suggest some further Brit bashing, but on a more constructive line, like the truth. The problem is that your Limey squeezing films always seem to fall on the killer facts like the non-torture of William Wallace or the non-church burning in Patriot. I'm here to help.
Our treatment of the Irish is probably one of the greatest distortions there is. Let me be plain here, we were not good towards the Irish but it wasn't out of malice. The fact was that there was this potential French military base just off our shores, what were we supposed to do give them baguette baking lessons? We were ham fisted at times, but Ireland was not about the extinction of a culture (the Vikings looked after that a few hundred years before us) but about strategic survival.
There is one exception to this, Cromwell. The regicide did carry out the most appalling atrocities acts in his campaign in Ireland, and genocide is not too strong a term for this. This is a case of why warfare should not be for ideological ends, in this case conversion from the church of Rome to that of Geneva. In fact, I think it is safe to say that this was, in the words of our very own Mr. Blair, the "first progressive war". The problem with doing this as a film is that although the British were the bad guys, the good guys didn't win this time.
How about a more contemporary film on Ireland, and how the British betrayed a people there? I'm not talking about the sad demise of the Home Rule party and its replacement by the proto-fascists of Sinn Fein and the IRA. Michael Collins was not your fault and the English are not bad at idolising this particular nasty specimen after all Mussolini would look good next to De Valera. What about the people of Ulster?
Back in 1912, a small god fearing band of people who come together to make a solemn covenant (shades of the Pilgrim Fathers here) that they will not be ruled by their neighbours. The British ruling classes sneer as they see these farmers and working men as infernal nuisances and pledge to sell them off just to get rid of them. And then comes (the First World) war and instead of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, they loyally fight for their oppressor, seeing the flower of their youth die on the first day of the Somme. And yes, they win in the end, for a few years.
Mel, this has it all, British betrayal, honest salt of the earth types fighting against tyranny, flower of the youth dying in the trenches, and a good dash of celtic type music for the sound track. Here, Mr. Gibson, the British need to be bashed.
No, I haven't spelt this wrong, these were the Dutch speaking peoples of South Africa with whom the British fought the Boer War. Once again the British were on the side of wrong. And we have a spectacularly evil cast here. Cecil Rhodes, the manic capitalist who is perfectly prepared to use the government to make him even richer. Milner, the arch racist who allowed himself to become the tool of the mine owners and diamond monopolists led by Rhodes. Joseph Chamberlain, the lying incompetent who was British minister for the colonies. And the Tarlington figure, Kitchner, the British commander who brought in the idea of concentration camps from the Spanish campaign in Cuba (no the British did not invent concentration camps).
Greedy capitalists using the state to make them richer, against honest Boer farmers aiming to keep their republic. The subjugation of the brave Boers through the camps with appalling death rates for both black and white. They may not be the most politically correct tribe in Africa, but they did suffer a great injustice at the hands of the British.
The fact is, Mel, that there are plenty of other examples of where the English became monsters. The campaign against the Mahdi in Sudan where we had no business being there but still massacred thousands of tribesmen on the way. The betrayal of Rhodesia. The genocide against the Tasmanian aborigines.
This is not to say that we are monsters in our natural state. There is a good case for saying that as imperialists we were somewhat more humane than the French, Germans, Japanese or Belgians. That however is not a hard feat. But on our own we English are good, honest and decent people. Where do you think the Americans came from? What about the Industrial revolution, Adam Smith, John Wesley?
We were corrupted by Empire, and your country will be too. How about a movie on that?
PS: If any readers know Mr. Gibson's address or that of his agent please pass on my letter, as I seem to have misplaced my address book.
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