How English Freedom Crushed Egypt | Ismael & Urabi | Avoiding the British Empire 16

This morning I was struck by another one of the reasons that the British Empire still has such a positive reputation (in some circles). When we focus on the British interaction with a group of people, we tend to focus on the end. It’s the struggle for independence that matters for the national stories of all the formerly subjugated countries. Of course, these stories are still in living memory for many, which also contributes to their popularity. But beyond that, nobody wants to look like a victim. Newly independent countries understandably want to focus on their victorious heroes rather than their defeated and brutalized ancestors from centuries past.

The British certainly committed many atrocities as their empire fell apart. Jallianwalla Bagh and the suppression of the Mau Mau are just two instances that leap to mind. But the more popular image is one of haplessness. The humiliation of Suez, the pretentious pointlessness of Mountbatten. The things that Britain is most blamed for at the end, like the Israel Palestine situation, and horrors of Indian partition, are stories about British neglect and poverty, not British greed and destruction. You can almost (not quite) find yourself pitying the British as their carefully crafted systems of control fall apart.

If you look at the other end of the Imperial story, there is nothing British to sympathize with. In country after country we see the people who live there struggle and fail, against differing degrees of brutality, as universally hypocritical Englishmen proclaim their civilizing values and cash their checks. Today’s video attempts to surface just one of those hundreds (thousands?) of stories, by telling the neglected tale of the British subjugation of Egypt.

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AwakenWithJP Believes Too Much Media | WHO | Bill Gates

My second Egypt video is taking longer than I thought, so for today’s video we’re going pure response. Late last week, and affable comedy channel entitled Awaken with JP dived deep into the Coronavirus Conspiracy waters with a video called: “What It’s Like to Believe Everything the Media Tells You“. It’s a very cleverly executed video, that never mentions the Coronavirus in it’s meta-data, and carefully approaches the topic in a comedic, sarcastic way, that’s really hard to pin down as misinformation.

When you watch it carefully though, it becomes clear that the underpinnings of the video are deeply conspiratorial. It indulges in, and furthers a range of strategies the Trump campaign is currently using to explain away the president’s responsibility for the crisis. JP has been rewarded for this well crafted piece of media. It’s been seen over 3 million times, instantly becoming the third most popular video on his over five year old channel. I’m a little jealous of course, but I think it’s also worth calling him to account. Which is what today’s video attempts to do.

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Why Isn’t Egypt As Rich As Germany? | Muhammad Ali | Avoiding the British Empire 15

History can seem predictable sometimes. We know how it turned out, so we assume that the countries that are powerful today had somewhat predictable paths to power. Sure, there were ups and downs, but the countries we’ve come to expect to have done well, did well. No surprises there. The story of Egypt’s 19th century provides a counterpoint to that complacency. There was a lot about its story that was quite similar to the stories of the Japanese and German world-beaters we are more familiar with. In the 1830s, an African country was, quite successfully, intervening in Europe. If a few things had gone differently, Egypt might have ended up as one of the world’s great powers.

It all went wrong of course. And the British had a lot to do with this. But too some extent, it was also just bad luck. There was nothing to guarantee that Japan or Germany would be successful countries. There wasn’t even anything guaranteeing that the United States would have been as successful an experiment as it has been. It’s all much more up in the air than we might think. This is a little terrifying, but also a little exciting. Today’s video on Egypt talks about what could have been.

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What PragerU Gets Right About The British Empire | Avoiding the British Empire 14

This one was kind of a journey. Attacking PragerU’s dumb mistakes, as I did in the last video, is not a difficult project. Many have done so already. What’s a lot more difficult, is reckoning with the valid points that Prager makes. The British Empire was tremendously influential, and it is responsible for the spread of representative institutions all over the world. Prager is absolutely right about that.
The larger problem is reconciling these two things we know about the British Empire:

A: It left the world some decent institutions and…

B: The British Empire inflicted massive suffering on the world, on a scale that dwarfs anything that came before, and Britain’s poorly managed reign ended with the multi-decade apocalypse we know as the two world wars.

The standard approach is to pick one narrative and run with it. The viewpoint you choose often coincides with the left or right political marketing segment you choose to fall into. What I try to do with today’s video is reconcile the two, which involves diving in and attempting to sort out my own feelings about freedom, history, and life in general. I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. Let me know how you think I did.

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