Monday, 19 September 2016

Self-loathing at the British Colonial

Self-loathing, along with the accompanying trait ingratitude, is the defining characteristic of the Whig or leftist progressive. In the progressive worldview the heritage and circumstance into which one is born is necessarily a restriction since it is not the product of free will. In this view only that which one chooses is authentic; all else is imposed and therefore, by extension, oppressive. Free choice is the highest value in such an ideology, and so it follows that all that might impede free choice and all that is not freely chosen must be torn down and rejected. We see an extreme example of this in contemporary gender politics. The notion that one is born with a particular gender identity is perceived by progressives as essentially oppressive. It denies one the right to choose whether to be male or female or neither or both. More generally, progressives typically develop an aversion for all those aspects of selfhood and identity into which they were born, leading to a general rejection of heritage and tradition. Heritage and tradition - history -, by definition, are received by inheritance; they are not freely chosen. One does not choose to be a white Anglosaxon middleclass Australian - it is a circumstance and an identity into which one is born (against one's will). For the progressive, typically, freedom consists in rebellion against this imposition. 

This is in contrast to the conservative. In the conservative worldview the inheritance one receives at birth - place, country, ethnicity, language, gender, history - is a providential gift which one should love and for which one ought to be grateful. Freedom and happiness consists not in rejecting this inheritance but in embracing it, exploring it, developing it, expanding it. The conservative, by temperament, accepts and rejoices in his own history and loves and honours the traditions into which he has been born. If the circumstances of his birth are difficult, it is a challenge to be accepted and overcome, but it never leads to self-loathing and ingratitude. The conservative is happy to have been born a man, or a woman, and feels none of the self-disgust and guilt the progressive feels at being born pale-skinned and prosperous and English. He is not ashamed of his forefathers. He is thankful for their sacrifices and labours and grateful that he is the recipient of the traditions they forged. This is an utterly different mindset to progressivism. The conservative embraces the many aspects of self he received from providence. The progressive is in rebellion against the same in the belief that authenticity is only found in what is freely chosen. 

Finally, these two dispositions represent two divergent relations to time. The progressive - as the name implies - prefers the future (in the vain hope that it can be engineered) and despises the past (because it is fixed and irrevocable.) The conservative - as the name implies - seeks to conserve the best of the past and is apprehensive about the future (because it is inherently uncertain and is very likely to be messed up by progressives.) We see these two dispositions clashing everywhere. They are the two political types of the modern era. An excellent account of these dispositions, especially that of the self-loathing leftist, can be found in an e-booklet at Oz Conservative here

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The salubrious and tasteful ambience at British Colonial Co., Brisbane

The self-loathing leftists were at their keyboards again recently  - they constitute the core of the aptly named twitterati - taking aim at a newly opened eating establishment in Brisbane, Australia. In a previous post the present author reported on the bullying and hysterics directed at a fine food restaurant in Seattle named the  Saffron Colonial. See hereThe incident in Brisbane is a virtual replay of the same event. Australians rarely set their own social agenda, and the Australian political Left is especially prone to importing and reverse engineering ideas from their English and American fellow travellers. On this occasion, enterprising restaurantuers had the timerity to open a restaurant in Brisbane with a British Empire theme, celebrating the marvellous fusion of otherwise bland British fare with the exotic flavors and textures of food traditions from the various outposts of British colonial expansion. 

At the mere mention of the hated British Empire the perpetually outraged raced to their laptops and shouted their disapproval across social media. That was predictable. So too was the fact that, at this point, the main-stream media (increasingly irrelevant and parasitic on social media) found it newsworthy (as if "leftist twitter outrage" is news!) The hapless restauranteurs, having invested large amounts of money and a wealth of creativity into the venture, found themselves at the centre of a confected "controversy" concerning whether or not their eatery is "racist". This follows a previous incident in which a Brisbane couple opened a Vietnamese-themed restaurant named 'Uncle Ho's' - a cheeky dig at revolutionary darling Ho Chi Min - that so appalled and unhinged the twitterati that the restauranteurs received death threats and had to abandon the project. Yes, we now live in a world where people make death threats if they don't like the name of a cafe!

Since this web journal came to the defence of the beseiged restauranteurs at Saffron Colonial (long may they prosper!), it is only appropriate that we do so for British Colonial in Brisbane as well. The owners have expressed genuine surprise at the twitter stir  their establishment has created, although they are probably thankful for the flood of free nationwide publicity. The fact is that the miserable do-gooders who vent their rage on twitter about the supposed evils of the British Empire are not really the type of clientele who would ordinarily frequent refined eateries like Saffron Colonial or British Colonial anyway. Both restaurants appear to have conducted their market research and have a good knowledge of the restaurant-going public. Nothing in their research told them that offending the post-colonial sensitivies of vegan lesbians with majors in Gender Studies was going to be bad for business. The owners of British Colonial presented a rationale for the decor and design of the restaurant on their Facebook page, as follows:

'The sun never sets on the British Empire' is the oft-repeated quotation used when trying to explain British colonial style. In a nutshell, the style is a result of English citizens travelling the world during the empire's heyday, bringing with them typically heavy wooden furnishings and adapting to hot local climates with lighter local fare. These travellers also bought back exotic pieces from the Caribbean, India, the Far East and African as a way to show off how far they'd travelled. They tried to travel relatively light; campaign furniture (light, foldable and portable) also became part of the look. The results can mean a wild mix of light bamboo or cane furniture, heavier pieces, plaids mixed with animal prints, dark floors next to white walls and paisleys mixed with chintzes.'

Regarding their appeal and menu they say:

We believe that our d├ęcor and menu has great synergy with Brisbane’s climate and the expansive palette of our clientele, who are looking for a melting pot of food and beverages to enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere.

They also said, in reference to the haters:

We are very proud of our brand, dining experience and the loyal clientele we have [already] established...

While they have said they are "saddened" by the twitter storm, and they had no intention of offending, there are no signs that they are ready to concede to the online bullies. Their website promises "A refined modern dining experience with the adventure of east meets west in a plantation style club setting." They clearly view the historical encounter of east and west and the consequent synergies that were the British Empire as a fact to be celebrated rather than a travesty to be lamented in self-loathing fits of guilt and ideologies of recrimination. 

Needless to say, this is in Australia - the British colony par excellence. Yet there is, in Australia today, an entire sub-class of Whigs who hate and despise the British foundations of their own country and, by extension, must hate and despise that part of themselves which is necessarily and irrevocably British-Australian. It is a sign of maturity that one comes to terms with the complex and often nuanced and contradictory realities of one's cultural inheritance. Maturity is not something of which the outraged twitterati, pathetic puritans of 'safe spaces', can be accused.

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It should be clear to readers that the present author has a generally enhanced appreciation of the historical legacy of the British Empire. This is an honest response to his many travels in India and Asia and elsewhere. He remembers a conversation he had in Indonesia recently where a Javanese gentleman inquired as to where the author had been prior to arriving in the East Indies. "Malaya," the author replied, and added innocently that Malaya was very nice. "They were lucky," said the Javanese. "They were colonized by the British." Similar attitudes are not difficult to find elsewhere in Asia too. Leaving aside the small but very loud minority of resentful intelligentsia who have been educated in post-colonial angst, the British and their extraordinary Empire - the greatest the world has ever seen - are generally well-regarded. At very least, the British Empire is seen as comparatively benign where it is not admitted that it was an agent for good. The British have no cause to be ashamed of their imperial past. And a modern, prosperous nation like Australia - which began as a penal colony - speaks well of the merits of the entire British colonial enterprise. 

More generally, readers of these pages might also note the author's great fondness for east/west synergies. It is for this reason that he counts himself a neo-orientalist, and does so without the slightest hint of post-colonial guilt. He has no qualms about the Western appropriation of things oriental, nor with the eastern acquisition of the ways and means of the West. No doubt there are episodes of east/west encounter that are regrettable, and some lamentable consequences sometimes, but the positive synergies and hybridizations far exceed the failures. This is true in all aspects of culture. This present blog often features instances of the art and literature that is a product of east/west encounters, especially in a British context. The same, though, might be said of food. Authenticity is over-rated. Often, the British or more widely European versions of the foods of the east are - let us not be shy of saying so! - better than the original. A British curry can be better than any supposedly authentic dish one can find in the seething unsanitary mess that is Madras. What the French do to Vietnamese flavors is often better than anything you can find in French Indo-China. Chinese food in British Hong Kong or Singapore, nurtured to colonial tastes, is certainly better than what you find in the People's Republic today. So why not a restaurant, or many restaurants, that celebrate this brilliant east/west cuisine? 

For fine dining the British Colonial is located at 274 Hawthorne Rd, Hawthorne, Brisbane. Their website is here.


Harper McAlpine Black

1 comment:

  1. British curry can be better than any authentic version? Are you having a laugh? The English do not know how to cook food. Bland, bland bland, disgusting food and the currys are basically lots of tomatos with garam masala thrown in

    Stick to jacket potatos and english breakfasts, the only thinhs worth having, everything else you cook, i would not even feed to my dog