The DLR was cycling on its way to work today when it was stopped, not by traffic but by wind, behind a bus with the advertisement for an Enfield church whose services were now being offered on TV. Well, hello, America! Nothing quite says quiet despair — what socially immobile Americans have been living with for decades — like watching a service for the blessed Christ from the mouldy decaying surfaces of your own sofa. And, hello, America! — the DLR’s hunch was confirmed by that most American of controversies: the race row, hitting our MP Diane Abbott’s racially significant face like an egg thrown by a BNP supporter.
As you might have read, Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Dianne Abbott tweeted “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism” in response to criticism from black female journalist Bim Adewunmi of the use of the term ‘black community leaders’ by media outlets in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence verdice. Abbott’s point was that the ‘black community’ should remain united rather than individualised to ensure a greater voice and unity of purpose. Ed Miliband, lethargic boy wonder, didn’t agree and broke his 2011-12 resolution by actually getting off his decaying sofa to do something — or maybe just reaching for the phone and giving her a real ‘dressing down’ from there. Abbott, chagrined we are sure, has since apologised (via Twitter, naturellement).
But Abbott, Miliband, band-wagon critics of blogosphere, are you sure you’ve got the offence right? Because we at the DLR are still concerned that not enough attention has been paid to the hashtag that dangles promisingly at the end of her tweet, the ultimate absolver of her transgression. Tactics as old as colonialism? It doesn’t make sense! The old divide and rule knocks colonialism out of the park — ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, indeed, is attributed to Aesop, the seventh century BC chronicler of proto-Victorian mammals, and the US used it for a little ditty during the Revolutionary War: “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” Kentucky later won it for its state motto in a protracted interstate game of rocks, paper, scissors, and now won’t give it back. The Romans were masters of divide and rule, as was any significant imperial power since.
It is a shame that Abbott referred to ‘white people’ in a generalised fashion. Even though most (if not all) British colonialists were white, it would have been better to reference imperialism itself, not the race of the people involved. The Turkish sultans used similar tactics at times in feuds among Christian factions, and they’re not exactly white people.
We appreciate horning the word “colonialism” in to make your point (or, maybe, next time, just hashtag “colonialism” because as far as we can see that was your point) but not at the expense of logic, dear Abbott, dear Miliband.