Well we are only a few days into 2014 and I have already broken my new year resolution. You see I resolved last year to post more positive things on my Facebook wall, and stop having a go all the time at the conservative clowns running our country. But alas, I have already failed. Just a few days into the new year and one of those Tory toffs has already got my back up. The culprit this time – the infamous education secretary Michael Gove.
He has been winding me up for some time now in fact, as he has many other people with his constant interference and meddling in the UK education system. I understand there is a problem with Britain’s schools. We are being outsmarted by developing countries, in no small part due to our schools being so crap. However bumbling Gove seems to just come up with one silly idea after another, seemingly having no coherent sense of direction or purpose. It’s like he wakes up on a morning with some freshly formed half-baked idea in his head, and just blurts out whatever he happens to think at the time. You almost have to admire the sheer consistency of his crap ideas though.
This time my hackles have been raised by his criticism of the teachers who have been using the final episode of the ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ TV series as a learning resource to aid in teaching children about the First World War. The reason this galls Gove so much is because of how effectively this TV series portrays the historical reality of an out of touch elite class recklessly sending millions of young working class men to their death, shamelessly using war mongering propaganda to entice young uneducated people into fighting under what was more or less false presences (sound familiar). Gove much prefers the patriotic version of history where Britain were the good guys fighting the newly emerging aggressive expansionist German nation. And sure, the newly unified Germany was of this ilk. But was Britain really any better???
Just prior to the outbreak of the First World War Britain was nervously looking on with growing alarm as Germany built up her navy, increasingly fearful that Germany had the firm intention of nicking some or all of Britain’s overseas colonies. This resulted in a frantic arms race between the two great industrial powers. Britain was determined to stay ahead of the arms race and quickly built up her fleet of warships, introducing the fearsome Dreadnought warship for the first time. Also both countries formed a system of polarized military alliances, a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. And go off it did, requiring only a relatively minor incident in the Balkans to create the pretext for the two opposing alliances to throw everything they had at each other. The troublesome Balkans were not really a fundamental cause of the First World war. They were merely the blue touch paper, a barely needed spark to trigger a full blown global conflict that had been simmering under the surface for some time.
But did the aggressive posturing of the newly unified Germany justify Britain declaring war on her in 1914? Well, how do you suppose Britain acquired her huge empire in the first place, so vast in scale it covered one fifth of the land mass of the Earth! Did they wander over, greet the indigenous populations, and ask them kindly if it was alright if they seize control of their natural resources and exploit their country for all it was worth? No of course not. They used military force. And they were more than willing to use military force to hold onto their precious colonies as well. And who can blame them. Just consider the benefits to Britain. They could take from their colonies all the natural resources they wanted and force the colonies to buy their manufactured goods in exchange. Moreover they could charge whatever they wanted since Britain prohibited other countries from trading with her colonies. India was a classic example of this kind of exploitation. Britain grabbed from India all the raw cotton it could and sold them back cotton cloth at a price which reflected the deliberately imposed lack of trading competition. It was quite a handy arrangement for Britain, and if you have ever heard it said that Britain became wealthy off the back of her colonies it is this fact this statement refers to.
In fact Britain was the most imperialistic nation of modern times. As mentioned above her empire at its peak covering around one fifth of the land mass of the Earth. And let’s not forget Britain’s totally despicable Opium wars with China, arguably the single most shameful incidents in all of British history. Now couple all this with the fact that Britain allied itself with Tsarist Russia during the war. The idea that Germany could legitimately be blamed for the war, and could legitimately be labelled as the villains while Britain were the good guys, starts to look a bit silly. But it is precisely this that Gove and the out of touch tossers of his Tory party would have you believe.
Now let’s take Gove’s outrageous statement that “it was just a war” (direct quote). For one thing there is never “just a war”. War acquires zero moral legitimacy by virtue of being state sponsored, something that many people still forget to this day. But if there were such a thing as “just a war” this certainly wasn’t it! This war destroyed pretty much an entire generation of young men, and helped to sow the seeds of future conflict. For four years a war of attrition was fought. The military and political leaders were unable to break the stalemate, unwilling to negotiate a peace, but prepared to expend men on an industrial scale. Just a war! – I don’t think so!
Gove goes on: “even to this day there are left wing academics who are prepared to feed these myths” (myths basically referring to the idea that the war was not in fact a case of good vs. evil, as he alleges). That’s right. He regards anyone who sees the war for what it really was – a totally unjustifiable conflict of almost incomprehensible scale and of unimaginable horror – as being “left wing”.
When is this man going disappear from whatever dark corner he crawled from? Perhaps Gove should be made to fight in a war himself. This might be a great learning resource for Michael Gove, providing a means by which he can better his own personal education. And I guarantee it would present a very steep learning curve for him.